They are unique, quirky and wacky. Personalised online gifts bring on the smiles like never before. K. jeshi tracks the trend

A set of delightful gifts arrived — a ‘Diary' that has 80 pages of fun and oodles of attitude and reminds you to be yourself always — to smile, to shake hands firmly, to remember the lyrics of your favourite song, and to abuse only in your mother tongue; a cute pouch made from inch-tape to keep lipstick and mascara; and a beautiful visiting card trolley.

The pleasant surprise from a dear friend, who sent the gifts from www.happilyunmarried.com, made my day.

Putting a smile on the faces of your loved ones seems to be getting easier with online shopping. A range of wacky merchandise, best deals, plenty of discounts and the comfort of shopping from home or office is luring many to online gifting. “It's like ‘wherever I am, I still can be with you',” says A. Ravikiran, CEO of Studio Parts. “I may be in Bangalore, but I still can greet a person in Thiruvananthapuram on his birthday by ensuring that a unique gift is delivered to him that day.”

Surprise factor

Online shopping saves time, packs a surprise and offers a unique experience. For instance, www.fab.com draws customers with hand-made candles, customised table cloth and polished pebbles. Products with an Indian connect and loads of fun is the USP of www.happilyunmarried.com. There are ‘cha cups', a set of four cups with a funny note on sugar consumption; ‘Quit India', a mosquito repellent stand, and more. “The products should make you smile,” says Rahul Anand, co-founder and director of Happily Unmarried.

Besides an online store, it has 100 real-time stores the world over. He says that products available in the market lack design value. “We have more than 200 products — lamps in different colours, kitchen accessories, pouches, bags, key chains, bar accessories … every product is the outcome of a wacky idea. These days, there's a growing appreciation of the fun element.”

Added benefits

Safe payment via Visa-protected sites, cash on delivery and great deals are added perks. “A chunk of the IT crowd and people who use smart phones are more likely to get hooked to the trend of shopping on the go. What's more, you can even gift someone dinner. You can book the table online and have the coupons delivered at your friend's doorstep. Can it get any better than this?” asks Ravikiran.

Be it shopping for yourself or for gifting, going online is value for money too, say regular online shoppers. Sometimes, they get a double bonanza in the form of additional gifts. “My cosmetics came in a sturdy box with a free shampoo,” says journalist Lizy Jacob, based in Kochi. She bought eye shadow and eyelash curlers from Urban Touch (“the shadow was a bit damaged but they replaced it immediately after I sent them a photograph”), Lakme's Bronzer from Violet Bag, a shirt from FashionandYou (“the measurements they gave online were perfect”), and hordes of books from Flipkart.

Most of her colleagues shop online for books, clothes and cosmetics. Some prefer getting electronic gadgets online because of the delightful discounts. “I'd ordered a book for my friend in Chennai. When there was delay of two days in delivery he got an additional book,” says entrepreneur Vijayanand. He chooses gifts from www.koovs.com.

Sometimes, the anticipation can be killing as the average delivery time is about a week. For imported products, it takes two weeks.

As the ‘trust factor' in online shopping has grown, merchants are going all out to woo customers. “Buying and gifting products online is as easy as ordering pizza. Quality and on-time delivery are the driving factors.”

However, it can get addictive, warns Lizy. “Be it Myntra, Violet Bag, or Yebhi, most websites constantly alert you on offers and credits for shopping. You may end up with a lot of junk.”

Vivek Davos, CEO of CaroTechs, says online shopping allows you to compare prices and get the best deal. He visits www.playgoose.com, an online site that specialises in sports equipment. A high level of consumerism drives the trend, he says. “There is good demand for high-end products, be it Western clothes or electronic gadgets, and the best place to go to is online. Unlike in the U.S. where shopping in malls is itself a great experience, in India it becomes tedious because there is no parking space.”

Another interesting trend is that many from smaller cities are logging on too. “If you want a specific squash racket, you may not get it even after visiting four shops. When you go online, it takes only a few minutes to find the right product,” he adds.

Shopping made easy

www.jabong.com, www.myntra.com, www.bestbuy.com, www.fashionandyou.com, www.violetbag.com

# You save more when you buy in bulk (for products above Rs. 300, shipping is free)

# A 360-degree view of the product makes up for the ‘touch and feel' experience of real-time shopping

# Anyone can start an online store. Just Google, and follow the step-by-step process