Throwing surprises

Throwing surprises

Surprise!’ shout a room full of people as they rise from the dark. A plump bouquet and cake follow close behind. ‘Oh... Yay, I’m so surprised, thank you’ comes a reply, trying its best to conceal the predictable with multiple exclamations. Traditionally synonymous with poor execution and cliches, surprises are being redefined these days — the material is (slowly) being replaced by experiences. Instead of packaged gifts, people would rather spend their special day at a puppy shelter or fish out a message from a bottle.

Pradeep, the founder of ‘Happy Planner’, a venture that tries to redefine the words ‘surprise’ and ‘gifting’, says that these days, experiential gifts are valued higher than materialistic ones.

 “It’s a trend these days — people would rather make memories than give the usual gifts.” Him and his team plan unique surprises for their customers.

“We look at the customer’s requirement and decide on a plan. We interview them, take a basic idea and make it into a customised plan that differs from person to person. Although we have existing templates, 70 per cent of the ideas are customised,” he adds.

According to Pradeep, this makes a gift more meaningful. “Even if we are giving the recipient a coffee mug, we make sure it holds some meaning to them in some way. We don’t want gifts to become disposable, which is where experiences come in.”

‘Oye Happy’ is another experience selling venture. Founded by Harshvardhan Khemani and Varun Todi, it churns out ideas most people don’t think of. Shruthi Joshua, the marketing and communications head for ‘Oye Happy’, describes some of the surprises they have planned in the past.

“Once, we had a 15-feet banner at the airport as a ‘welcome back’ gift from a customer. And another time, we decorated a car trunk with photographs, specially created gifts, message scrolls, flowers and customised cards,” she says. They also gifted someone a basket full of balloons where the recipient had to pop them all to find special messages.

One of the more popular templates is, “You can just spend time playing with dogs and puppies at a shelter for an evening. Most of the proceeds go to the shelter and we only take a nominal charge,” explains Shruthi.

You are probably thinking ‘Why pay to come up with surprises, how hard can it be?’ but good ideas are hard to come by, especially when it comes to executing the idea. Rishi Agarwal, an entrepreneur, was a victim of one such surprise and now he uses such services to create special memories for his loved ones. “On the day of my wedding, I woke up to a surprise I wasn’t expecting. A friend, who couldn’t make it to the ceremony, sent me a rolled up scroll listing the ‘seven vows of friendship’ (instead of seven vows of marriage). I didn’t know people could be so creative when giving gifts. So, a while back, I worked with ‘Oye Happy’ to create a surprise for my wife, Sarika. They sent her a gift hamper filled with customised items and she loved it!” he says. Rishi also mentions that it works out cheaper, “Instead of me searching for ideas, gifts, the right material, and wasting time, I can take the help of a professional who will personalise it for me.”

Namratha Sastry, owner of ‘Smart Gardens’, calls herself an “experience addict”, saying, “Life can become monotonous so it’s nice to experience something new. Experiences stay with us forever but gifts get lost or are thrown away.” She makes it a point to plan a surprise for everyone she loves. “I always do something for my husband’s birthday but this year I wasn’t sure of what to do. So when I approached ‘Oye Happy’, they had an interesting idea in mind. My husband received calls throughout the day, where different people wished him. He was confused at first but he knew I was up to something. He enjoyed it very much,” she says.

She is already planning her next surprise with Pradeep. “My brother and sister-in-law are leaving for the US and it’s her birthday as well, so I thought we’d combine the two events and have a party for them.” But don’t be fooled, when Namratha says party, it’s going to be innovative.

 “‘Happy Planner’ is planning this for me, I’ve just given them a gist of what I want. We are going to have a time travel themed party where the two of them can revisit their last 10 years in India.” The house will be decorated with old photos and souvenirs.

It’s not just birthdays and anniversaries that are well planned. Pradeep mentions that last year, for Christmas, ‘Happy Planner’ had an online version of Secret Santa. ‘Oye Happy’ is also prepped for the festive season.

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