Most banks and other firms have stopped gifting crackers to employees

For long, fire crackers were a prominent part of every Deepavali gift box. Not anymore.

Rising costs, delays in production and environmental concerns have resulted in many organisations shunning this practice to the dismay of vendors.

“Until a few years ago, every fire cracker retailer used to get at least Rs. 30 lakh worth of consignments. It has come down drastically. Now there are hardly 20 bulk orders,” said P. Natarajan, one of the 120 retailers at Island Grounds.

Prices of fire crackers have gone up by 30 per cent this year mainly because their production was temporarily halted in Sivakasi after a fire accident.

This is the time of the year when companies shop for crackers to be used during parties, farewell functions cricket matches and other programmes.

“But those ‘walas’ are not available this time because of the Sivakasi fire. Even some of the fancier rockets that some companies used to order are not in stock, because production was very limited this year,” said Rahmat Ullah, a retailer.

Many organisations also cancelled their orders owing to the attendant delay.

“We generally allocate Rs. 2, 000 per employee for gift packages. This includes sweets and some sparklers. But this time, we were told that not only would the sparklers be delayed, they would also cost us double our estimate. So, we thought we will have a cultural get-together and do away with the gifts,” said Anand Jayakumar, an HR personnel in a construction company here. 

Cost-cutting measures implemented by organisations have also affected retailers.

A recent report of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said that the Deepawali budgets of corporates would be rather sparse and many of them plan to cut their gift budgets by 40-50 per cent. Of the 150 companies surveyed in major cities, including Chennai, 30 said they have decided to do away with gifts.

An auto major in the outskirts of the city said they used to gift fire crackers to employees till four years ago, but now bonuses are given instead. Most banks too have ceased the practice of gifting crackers over the past three years. IT companies have never even had the tradition of presenting their employees with gifts.  

Environmental concerns are also gaining prominence. “It is no longer considered appropriate to gift crackers. In fact, we conduct workshops on how crackers harm the environment,” said Sharadha Kumar, development manager with a reputed IT firm here.

Most manufacturing firms now gift sweets and dry fruits. Some reputed outsourcing firms in the city presented their employees with electric kettles, rice cookers, wrist watches and photo frames this season.  

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