Giving that classy edge to gifting

Tanya Thomas | Updated on May 05, 2014

Kanika Subbiah of CherryTin. - BIJOY GHOSH

Online gifting store Cherry Tin offers products from fine teas to jewellery

Cherry Tin’s brightly-lit basement office in Chennai is lined with cupboards stacked with air-tight containers. A row of computers is arranged at one end and a meeting table for guests is just outside the door.

The office-and-storeroom appears to be the prescriptive ‘cool dry place’ that you imagine appears on some of the company’s popular products, fine teas and honey-roasted cashews.

Kanika Subbiah is the 43-year-old entrepreneur behind Cherry Tin, a premium and personalised online gifting store. Her team of 12 launched the website at the end of June last year, ahead of the Diwali season.

She says she started Cherry Tin (an allusion to the warmth of cherries and the sturdiness of tin) because she saw a vacuum in the gifting market. “The void is not just in accessibility but in the ease of finding good gifts. We want to simplify the gift buying process,” she says.

Product lines

The store started with five product lines that Subbiah believed were easiest to do. These included a stationery line that can be personalised for the recipient, mother-of-pearl home décor and a line of premium dining linen. Also available is a range of gifts in sterling silver, like jewellery, clocks, frames and cuff links and silver-plated bookmarks that can be engraved.

It recently launched a wedding souvenirs line that offers wedding invitations, hospitality and thank you gifts, in addition to having a design team that creates bespoke wedding gifts based on customer preferences.

Besides the retail customer, Subbiah wants Cherry Tin to be a gifting partner for corporates too. Despite trimmed budgets, she says, some corporates were willing to go the extra mile by personalising their Diwali gifts with names and logos. “They now tell us of clients who have called to thank them for the nice gifts. Some of their clients are now customers of ours.”

When it comes to gifting, what corporates usually do is wait till a week before the event to ask someone in admin or HR to pick out gifts for visitors or participants at a conference, she says. “We’re now putting their needs together and mapping out the occasions they are gifting for, the budgets involved, and who the recipients are. These can be clients, participants at a conference, official visitors, festival gifts or gifting on foreign visits to scope out expansion plans.” For the store, she says, the corporate customer adds predictability to its revenue stream.

She quotes the example of a client on a visit to Japan who gifted his hosts leather pad portfolios made with premium leather.

Another client on a visit to the UAE carried nuts from India in mother-of-pearl trays and bowls. For an upcoming conference, Cherry Tin is creating a line of regional paintings on thin marble sheets.

Categories of gifting

Another category that is in the works is the wedding customer. This includes invitation, hospitality and thank you gifts. Subbiah says all three categories of gifting – retail, corporate and wedding – flow seamlessly on their site because the products are all from the same library. “The differentiation is in the experience and interaction.” Cherry Tin wants to stay upmarket, a reason why its products are pricey. “You might get the impression that our products are expensive if you look at silver and jewellery (with jewellery weighing in the ₹60,000 range). But our entire gourmet category (fine teas, nuts, dried fruits) is under ₹2,000 and offers great value for money. There are baby gifts in the ₹2,000 price range. Personalised stationery is the least expensive, at ₹750. In terms of distribution, 80 per cent of our products are under ₹15,000.”

She also wants to add art in the under-₹20,000 category. This will feature oils, acrylics, and watercolours by emerging artists.

Subbiah is a chemical engineer by training with an MBA from the University of Chicago. In the US, she worked with consulting firm MicroStrategy and then with children’s clothing retailer Gymboree, launching its online store. She moved back to India in 2008 and started a tutoring centre for four-to-12-year-olds in Chennai.

The centre, Shine, she says, focussed on supplemental learning but shut down soon after because “we found it tough with a services model to break even.” Cherry Tin currently receives a few hundred unique visits to its website every day of which one per cent converts to retail orders, the average order size being ₹2,000. It has about 20 corporate clients and is in the process of adding more.

The store is working on raising traffic to the site and spreading the word among like-minded customers. It hopes to raise first round of funding shortly.

Published on May 05, 2014

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