As appeared on The Hindu by Meera Siva.
“As an alternative to cash, gift cards can be used to buy products of your choice.”
Often, we may want to gift a beloved one on an occasion, but find it difficult to zero-in on what would be most suitable. In such situations, there are benefits in handing out a gift card. The receiver can use it to purchase products or services of their choice.
Buying a card Gift cards can either be physical or electronic. Physical cards resemble a credit or debit card and have a number and pin. These cards can be preloaded with a desired amount of money and gifted to anyone. They can be swiped at any of the point-of-sale (POS) terminals or used for online purchases. An e-card can be used only for online purchases. The gift cards can be bought online or from banks or merchants. Bank cards are typically issued by credit card service providers such as VISA, MasterCard or RuPay and can be used at any merchant outlet. Merchant cards are restricted for purchases of that brand of product or service, at their establishments. Some cards may require activation by calling a toll-free number to register before use. The cards can be used multiple times till the amount is exhausted. Once used, they cannot be reloaded. The minimum and maximum amounts vary with the merchant and the bank. For example, Bank of India’s gift cards are available for a minimum of ₹500 and a maximum of ₹1 lakh, in multiples of ₹1. To buy a bank card, you need not be a customer of that bank. Cards from merchants are typically free while banks may charge a fee. For instance, KVB charges ₹50 plus taxes to non-customers on card purchases of over ₹5,000. You may also have some choices in personalising the look and feel as well as the message that goes with the card. There may be some restrictions on the number and value of gift cards. For example, Flipkart lets you purchase only 100 gift cards in 30 days and the aggregate value cannot exceed ₹1 lakh. The cards tend to be typically valid for one year. However, some bank cards, such as from Bank of India, are valid for three years. Cards from retailers may have shorter validity period.
Other features Most cards support balance enquiry by calling a toll-free number or by sending an SMS. For store cards, a balance enquiry can be made at the time of purchase. Banks allow you to check your balance at the ATMs and ask for statements. For example, you can request a mini-statement on your IDBI gift card with the details of the last 10 transactions. If the bank card expires before the amount is used, you will be able to claim the unused balance. Bank of Baroda, for example, gives a refund of unutilised amount of over ₹100. The claim must be made within three months from card expiry and there are charges for the refund. Stores do not typically allow refunds. There are various apps and online platforms that let you manage expiry and balance amounts on multiple cards. You can also resell the gift cards online by listing the card with a sale price (card value or at a discount). The platform verifies the saleability, validity and balance on the card. Some sites require you to hand over the physical card to them on listing. Others such as Woohoo.in make the old card void (if issued by them) and list a new card to ensure safety. Listing is free and a commission of 10 per cent is charged on sale. Sometimes, don’t many of us pool money to buy a gift? Portals such as Woohoo.in enable us to do this. It has a group-gifting feature to let multiple users contribute towards a card purchase.
Risks and Security Gift card users must be aware of basic security features. You can hot-list the card when it is lost — similar to a credit or debit card — by calling a toll-free number. “The balance amount in the card can be transferred to a new card and reissued”, says Pratap TP, CMO of Qwikcilver. However, many store cards do not require a pin or any authentication for use. While such open access is convenient, there is no recourse if you lose the card. Allowing a card to expire is another common issue. Pratap says that if the user’s case is genuine, stores often take permission from authorities to extend the validity of the card.
As appeared in by Business Standard Vinay Umarji.
Issuance of physical and digital gift cards up 150% to over 50 million
Physical and digital gift cards are emerging as a major source of footfalls and sales for retailers across categories. The number of digital or e-gift card transactions has risen three-fold in the last three years, while physical gift card transactions have grown by 41 per cent between 2014-15 and 2016-17. According to a study by Qwikcilver, an end-to-end service provider in the pre-paid gift card space, issuances of both physical and digital gift cards have risen by 150 per cent in 2016-17 to over 50 million, up from over 20 million in 2015-16. “The act of ‘gifting’ is at the crossroads of social and commerce, which arguably, are the two biggest key drivers of consumer consumption. The gifting category in India is also undergoing massive transformation. A continuously widening consumer base, combined with a wide array of gifting options ensures that the category will continue to grow. Qwikcilver is the pioneer in the gift card sector, having powered close to US$1.3 billion worth of gift cards across categories through our robust SaaS based platform,” said TP Pratap, Co-Founder & CMO, Qwikcilver. As per the study, retail consumers are found to be spending anywhere between 50 per cent to 400 per cent over and above the gift card value, with 54 per cent of them redeeming them every 30 days, followed by 26 per cent redeeming them every 60 days. In fact, players like Future Group and Shoppers Stop have altogether launched separate divisions to tackle the growing gifting business. For Future Group, gifting alone is anticipated to touch a revenue of Rs 1000 crore. “We believe that gifting is one of the biggest social interactions and social events in our society. At Future Group, we believe that gifting will be a very big business for us, which maybe touching Rs 1000 crore very soon. We have launched a separate division and a new organisation to manage this business – called Future Gifting. This will handle all the Gifting related business of the Future Group. In partnership with Qwikcilver, we have launched Gift Cards, e-Gift Cards and Gift Vouchers for all our formats to be sold and managed through Qwikcilver,” Kishore Biyani, Group CEO, Future Group stated recently at the Gift Card Conclave. According to Qwikcilver, the digital gift card is rapidly gaining growth, contributing almost 65-70 per cent to the overall sales mix in the category, even as the sales mix is expected to stabilise over time, at around 80 per cent digital and 20 per cent physical. From a 61:39 ratio between physical and digital gift cards in 2014-15, the mix has changed to 38:62 in 2016-17. In terms of average load value, which is the total sales value with respect to the total number of cards sold, the ALV has been observed to be higher for utility as well as premium brands. For instance, in 2016-17, the ALV stood highest for hospitality sector at Rs 9,750, followed by spa/saloon at Rs 3,067, online travel at Rs 2,848, electronics Rs 2,649, accessories at Rs 1,573 and apparel at Rs 1,571, respectively. What has helped retailers is in form of uplift, which is measured as the increase in bill value over the gift card value. Gift cards have, apparently, led to consumers spending anywhere between 50 per cent and 400 per cent over and above the gift card value, depending on category. Moreover, increasingly customers are also redeeming their gift cards often, resulting in higher sales for retailers. For the financial year 2016-17, the study found that about 54 per cent of customers redeemed at an average of within 30 days of gift card purchase or re-load. This was followed by 26 per cent redeeming it within 60 days, 13 per cent in 90 days and 8 per cent within 180 days. Meanwhile, according to Pratap, an integrated omni-channel retail experience across categories of retail, e-commerce, hospitality, travel, gift cards and e-gift cards are fast becoming the preferred gifting choice of the new-age consumer
As appeared on The Hindu by Peerzada Abrar.
Qwikcilver is the single largest service provider in the prepaid space. Bengaluru-based Qwikcilver aims to manage gift card transactions worth $4 billion in the next two years. The start-up has a 90% market share in the gift card segement, the firm’s co-founder Pratap T. P. said in an interview. “We are looking at $4 billion of throughput (for gift cards) being managed,” said Mr. Pratap, 47-year-old co-founder and director of Qwikcilver. “We are not saying that we have invented gifting. It is the oldest hobby in Indian mythology. But we are packaging gifting fundamentally to the new age Indian consumer.” The gifting industry in India is estimated to be worth about $40 billion and about 2% of it comprises the ‘gift card’ category. This is an opportunity that new-age firms may not have tapped so far.
Prepaid card A ‘gift card’ is a prepaid payment card issued by a retailer or a bank to be used as a substitute for cash for purchases in a specific store or affiliated businesses. Qwikcilver has become the single largest end-to-end service provider in the prepaid gift card space to the retail and services industries in India, South Asia and West Asia The company said that it powers nine out of every 10 gift cards and e-gift cards in India and West Asia.They are being used for occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and various festivals.
An alumnus of BITS Pilani, Mr. Pratap founded Qwikcilver in 2008 along with his batch mate Kumar Sudarsan. The firm has built a software-as-a-service platform and in-house technology that manages the entire gift card programme of retailers. This includes design, storage and transactions pertaining to it. Qwikcilver sells this technology to customers such as Amazon, Flipkart and Tata Group. The platform has been deployed in more than 10,000 brand stores across the country. Last year it managed 200 million transactions worth ₹3,000 crore. “Gift card actually drives footfalls for the retailers. Once you enter the store, you will end up spending more than the value of the gift card,” said Mr. Sudarsan, aged 48. Qwikcilver is backed by marquee investors such as Amazon, Accel, Helion and Sistema.
Choosing a gift for someone can be a complicated task, as a lot of thought is put into ensuring that you ultimately give them something that they appreciate.
This has led to many buyers opting to purchase a gift card as it minimises the hassle of searching for the perfect gift, and also leaves the choice of gift up to the receiver. The popularity of gift cards has only grown in recent years across the world, and provided players in the industry with a very valuable ecosystem. Qwikcilver, a technology product company pioneering end-to-end gift card and stored-value-card solutions for retail customers, has been riding the wave for many years now, both in India and most recently in the UAE. With its flexible SaaS platform and in house capabilities, Qwikcilver manages the entire gift card programmes of retailers including design, storage, and transactions pertaining to it.
Co-founder and chief marketing officer, Pratap TP, says the company has established and is leading 90 per cent of the gift card market in India. “Qwikcilver is the only provider of end to end solutions that address the technology, business, e-commerce, corporate distribution, and social commerce needs, as well as the omnichannel presence for brands and retailers. Qwikcilver has always tried to bridge their partnered brands and the consumers through technology.” Asked about how the idea for Qwikcilver came to be, Pratap said that the company had been mapping the consumer needs for gifting and the existing state of retail markets across key markets, later embarking on changing the way gifting is enabled across the retail environment. The company established itself by mapping the needs of the market at every stage, thereby, ensuring that the needs of the ecosystem are pro-actively pioneered across more than 20 consumption segments for gifting. The company was founded in Bangalore, India, in 2008, before making its foray into the UAE market in 2015, when it was selected as a gift card technology partner at the Middle East Retail Forum in Dubai. The company soon launched a gift card programme with Sharaf DG, Novo Cinemas, and Al Futtaim.
The biggest challenge that the company faced, Pratap says, was driving adoption at multiple levels – enterprise level, business unit level, cross functional level, and ultimately by the consumer. “The excitement for a startup is only triggered by the complexity of the game on hand. The pavement pounding over the years and the confidence reposed in our platform and by our customers through the years has driven our mission,” he said. The company has entered the GCC market with the intent of providing cutting edge technology for gift cards to brands and corporate groups across the region. “Our intent is also supported by the fact that we have recently set up office in Dubai. This will boost our scaling up strategic partnerships with the leading and most trusted conglomerates and brands. We are now working on scaling up this presence with a local presence and a dedicated team in GCC to support and expand this fast growing market for Qwikcilver. This would be our first overseas foray outside India. This office will service existing clients as well as work on growing the business in the GCC region,” Pratap disclosed. Qwikcilver’s unique approach has helped them attract investors, who are eager to see what the company has planned for the future. “The commitment and pioneering role of Qwikcilver in establishing its strong leadership of the prepaid and gift card industry has been truly unique. The strong credentials and passionate team has helped build and grow a robust SaaS product company based from India,” said Kirill Kozhevnikov, MD of Insitel/Sistema Asia Fund Advisory. Pratap noted that the company will continue to work closely with its investors, and had recently closed a fund raise that will ensure the company’s scaling initiatives over the next two years. The
Qwikcilver Technology Platform is currently deployed across the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Egypt across a number of companies and consumer brands in the fashion retail, electronics retail, hypermarkets/supermarkets, luxury retail, and entertainment spaces. The company is currently working to launch innovative gift card programs for leading hotels, fashion retailers, and e-commerce brands in Middle East in the coming months. “We would continue to work closely with our investors, who are reputed on the global markets,” Pratap said. “We are honoured to have their backing and confidence in the proposition for the long term. We have recently closed a fund raise that will ensure the scaling initiatives over the next two years. We are also constantly innovating to suit the consumer needs and also ensure that brands have all the means to reach their respective target audience.” Asked what advice he would like to pass on to the new start-ups of today, he said: “Stay passionate; build a sustainable long term vision and business; and stay humble, stay hungry, and stay strong.”
As appeared in Entrepreneur India by Sneha Banerjee.
The custom of gifting is infused in Indian culture and value system. Gifts have always played an important role in traditional occasions like religious festivals, anniversaries and weddings. They have assumed a significant role in modern age celebrations, involving millennials, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and a host of other such occasions. Though Indians are particular about issues like size of the gift, packaging and are always careful enough to remove the price tags, several factors have now emerged that are bound to motivate them to use e-gift cards and gift cards. A survey by Qwikcilver reveals e-gift card transaction has increased threefold in the past three years. Even the purchase of gift cards has risen exponentially, displaying a growth rate of 41 per cent in the 2016-17 financial year, compared to 2014-15. The industry is estimated to have the potential to touch $40 billion mark in the Indian market as per industry estimates. Panelists at the Future of Gifting Conclave, held in Bangalore earlier this week, spoke about factors which, they believe, will drive the use of gift cards in years to come
1. More Reasons To Make Merry The emergence of a number of widely marketed occasions has taken the art of gifting to a whole new level. Apart from the regular ones, people prefer to gift their near and dear ones on occasions like Valentine’s Day, Father’s/Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving among others. Gift cards are crafted to suit these functions and are tailor made to suit customers’ requirements.
2. Digital Drive The emergence of ‘Digital India’ happened much before the official campaign started by the government of India in the form of e-gift cards. India’s urge to make digital payments will force people to prefer e-cards and gift cards over the traditional practice of exchanging money inside closed envelopes.
3. Formal Occasions Gift cards can be a savior in formal occasions and parties, where one does not have a clue of what the host would prefer as gifts. Industry events and corporate parties are occasions where people want to give expensive gifts that will make the receiver truly happy. A well-packaged gift card with a nice brand name on it serves the purpose perfectly.
4. Democratization Of Gifts Gift items have also evolved over the years. Jewellery, cash and cookware are now considered mundane items. The general craze is for a whole new range of innovative, customized articles. Coupons for health spas and salons, movie tickets, sponsored honeymoon packages and healthcare visits are some of the other new options that are gradually gaining traction.
5. The Guilt Of Distance Today, most of us are forced to stay away from our loved ones because of educational or professional priorities. We love to send gifts to our family and friends on special occasions, for being away from them. E-gift cards come to the rescue of consumers who can ship their love in the form of tailor-made gift cards. This also helps those who are looking for instant gift solutions. It is also useful in group-gifting situations. According to Qwikcilver, gift cards are a ‘unicorn growth’ category in India and have developed at a significantly faster pace here than any other western country. Retailers and e-retailers, who were quick to adopt the gift card category, have now built a highly lucrative, additional revenue generation system.
Inbound investor interest, big pocket deals and increasing revenue have attracted a lot of traction and growth in the number of players operating in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry. While the success of larger players, including the likes of Salesforce and Microsoft led to startups such as Freshdesk, foraying into the horizontal SaaS landscape, industry growth is also being witnessed in the vertical SaaS domain. As opposed to horizontal SaaS that provides software technology that could be used across different industry domains, vertical SaaS caters to a specific vertical, like hospitality or retail. According to data from Tracxn, over 60 startups operating in the vertical SaaS domain received funding in 2016, comprising 50% of the overall SaaS funding during the year. “Vertical players in SaaS are opening up markets that were underserved earlier. As the SaaS industry evolves, we see scope for new market makers than just fast followers. While the potential for a market maker to scale in a horizontal space is more, vertical players are also attractive considering the scale of market they operate in. A clear example of this is Zenoti (a startup that provides software solutions to wellness centres),” says Sharad Sharma, cofounder of iSPIRT. SaaS applications that have traditionally addressed broad business functions such as customer relationship management (CRM)or enterprise resource planning (ERP) could be served by an industry agnostic large horizontal player.
However, for specific and critical business needs, of say a large retail player, a vertical player that specialises in retail solutions stands out as an obvious choice. This has led to the success of players like Capillary Technologies and Rategain that specialise in retail and travel sectors, respectively. Also, a SaaS tool that can be hosted on cloud and accessed across locations, gives more flexibility and uniformity to traditionally offline vertical players. For Qwikcilver, a startup that specialises in gift card solutions for retailers, having a centrally hosted gift-card solution helped manage inventory and records for retail players and gave more flexibility to consumers, thus increasing the convenience of gift-cards. “The gift-card ecosystem is huge given the complexities of the Indian market. Being a vertical SaaS player, we understand the market well and by providing a SaaS platform that manages a centrally hosted transaction via our platform also enables easy scaling up of a programme,” says Pratap TP, director of Qwikcilver. Serial entrepreneur Sudheer Koneru’s Zenoti, a vertical SaaS startup that addresses the needs of wellness industry also raised $15 million in August in a round led by Norwest Venture Partners. Horizontal customisation While vertical players in SaaS are finding solutions for precise industry requirements, large business serving horizontal players are providing customisation of products to suit varied business needs of enterprise customers. Delhi-based Wingify that provides web-optimisation tools for online business, uses mass-customisation of products. “While most of our products do not entertain personalised customisation, we rely on configurable environments to make specific feature enhancements or changes,” says Sparsh Gupta, CTO, Wingify.
Digital gift cards, digital meal passes, digital medical and travel vouchers have replaced traditional options with both individuals and corporates taking to these new-age choices with gusto this Deepavali. According to observers, the city stands fourth in the country when it comes to digital gifting, after Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, and the sector is moving ahead at a fast pace.Speaking about the most availed gifting options, experts for Hyderabadis clothing is top priority, followed by personal accessories and electronics. In other major cities, clothing is third or fourth on the list. “While the average cost of a gift is around Rs 2,000 at the individual level, for companies the average hovers around Rs 5,000,” said Ramki Gaddipati, co-founder, Zeta, a business-to-business-only company that has sold nearly 15,000 gift cards this season. “All major players in the market are doing very well, like Sodexo, Udio, Zeta and us. All these vouchers have their own USPs, it is more of a matter of personal choice, which an employee or an employer prefers,” said Ankush Gupta co-founder of Cinqo, a digital payments solution company.
In the twin cities there are more than 500 exclusive brand outlets with at least 150 of them making gift cards available. “The figure is higher when compared to Delhi or Mumbai and is at par with Bangalore,” said Pratap T P, co-founder and CMO, Qwikcilver, an end-to-end gift card and stored-value-card solutions company. While there are gifting options available in categories like sportswear, hospitality, home furnishing, apparel, health and beauty, travel, electronics and baby products, there are also cards which are not brand exclusive and can be used without restrictions. “Currently there are more than 100 companies in Hyderabad which have been availing these facilities from across players.The figure is expected to grow,” said Smeet Modi, co-founder of Cinqo.
Pratap T P said one of the key reasons for digital gifting catching on at such a quick pace in the city is the influx of NRI professionals who have been exposed to the concept of gift cards. “They bring back the concept and hence Hyderabad is adapting at a faster pace than other cities,” he said. Individuals who are opting for the digital vouchers meanwhile say its a comfortable solution. “I wanted to gift something to a fellow colleague as a token of thanks but wasn’t sure what he would prefer. An apparel brand gift card seemed like a perfect option. Its easy to gift and accept,” said P Vaibhav, a pharma company executive.
You received a gift card worth Rs 5,000 for Diwali last year, but could spend only Rs 4,500 because the brand was not to your liking. The card is no longer valid. While you did not lose money, inability to use the gift amount can rankle. Now, you can trade or sell gift cards that you have no use for, provided they are still valid. “On an average, there is a breakage (the unused amount) of three-four per cent on prepaid cards like gift cards because these cannot be reloaded. This happens because sometimes the article you want to buy may fall short of the card limit. In some cases, the retailer may be unwilling to swipe the card below a certain amount. In such a case, too, you cannot use the card,” says Ramki Gaddipati, Co-founder of Zeta, a company that offers online employee benefit solutions. Due to this problem with closed-end gift cards, a number of merchants are now doing co-branded prepaid/gift cards with other merchants, so the closed loop card can be used at more outlets, says Deepak Chandnani, chief executive officer of Worldline South Asia and Middle East, a payments processing firm.
Sell partly used or unused cards Earlier, if you received a gift card you didn’t want to use, you would pass it on as a gift or sell it to someone else at a discount. While this was informal, there is now an online platform to do it. Qwickcilver, a gift card technology and end-to-end prepaid solutions company has launched Woohoo a gift card secondary market exchange, the only one so far. This allows consumers to convert their unused or partially-used gift cards to cash by listing these at a price of their choice on the Woohoo gifting app. How it works: You list your card and mention the price you want. Once verified, you need to give your bank account number and IFSC code. The money is transferred into your account once the card is sold. Usually, it takes two-three working days. There is no rule on the discount you must list the card. Usually sellers list their cards at 5-10 per cent of the discount. There is no fee for listing, but once the card is sold Qwickcilver gets 10 per cent of the amount as fee. “One reason customers may want to sell their card is if that particular brand is not to their liking. For instance, I have a gift card for Rs 5,000 from a jewellery brand and I don’t want to buy jewellery. I can sell my card before the validity expires and make some money. Or I get a travel card worth Rs 10,000 as wedding gift and I use Rs 6,000 for buying tickets. If I have no use for the remaining Rs 4,000, I can sell it . The person buying it can use it and get a discount on hotel or ticket bookings,” explains Pratap T P, co-founder, Qwikcilver.
While the seller can list physical cards, the buyer gets only the digital format of the card. So, there is no need to physically send the card. The security is the code on the card, sent to the mobile number and email ID of the buyer. Only gift cards for brands that are managed by Qwickcilver can be listed but this is about 90 per cent of the gift cards issued, Pratap adds. Choose your card Zeta offers a digital product that allows receivers to select a gift card, of their choice. The receiver gets an email and a PIN, which show the value of the card and the several brands available. So, if the value is Rs 5,000, you can use Rs 3,000 on Amazon and the rest on another website or even at an offline store. To use digital cards at stores you have to first generate a voucher and share that code at the store’s point-of-sales. “The giver can also select a list of stores that you want to offer the card for, say, only book stores or only apparel stores,” says Gaddipati of Zeta. Open-ended vs closed-end For ItzCash, a leader in prepaid cards, 20-25 per cent of the entire year’s volumes comes in the 45 days during Diwali, says Bhavik Vasa its chief growth officer. “This year digital cards are the flavour. While we offer gift cards of individual retail houses, we find the open-ended gift cards powered by Visa are more popular,” he says. ItzCash’s digital cards can be used only online but there is no restriction on the kind of transaction they can be used for. They can be used for booking tickets or making purchases. The Visa-powered gift card can be used in any store and both offline and online. However, they cannot be used at an ATM or be reloaded, as the purpose is gifting. The maximum amount that can be loaded is 50,000, which is the limit permitted for pre-paid instruments by the Reserve Bank of India. “While we do offer gift cards for specific brands, we are seeing the shift towards the open-ended cards,” says Vasa.
Merchants also issue their own gift cards, which are closed-loop and can be used only at their own stores. But they run loyalty programmes through these and it is easier to do a chargeback by putting the refunded amount into the prepaid card, says Chandnani. “Since these are not PIN-based prepaid instruments, ensure that the card does not fall into the wrong hands,” he adds. A lot of the closed-end cards are similar to gift vouchers and hence cannot be used after the expiry date. Some of these also specify the products can be that bought or not on the particular voucher, says Vinay Bhatia, head – analytics & loyalty, Future Group. “Most retailers in India do not give the option of redeeming the card/voucher in parts,” he adds. GIFT CARDS ARE POPULAR BECAUSE…
- They are easy and convenient
- They can be loaded in denominations ranging from as low as Rs 100 to as much as Rs 50,000
- Receiver is free to buy anything of his choice
- Open-ended cards are universally accepted
- They can be used for online transactions too