Mumbai entrepreneurs set up online portal that lets people gift experiences and create wishlists.
Like to paraglide? Want to learn fire twirling? Now you can ask your friends to gift you these unique experiences, thanks to some four Mumbai entrepreneurs. It all started in mid-2008 when Anushka Shevde-Arellano, who was then in the US, realised the need for a creative gift website in India when she was unable to send a special gift to her mother in Mumbai for Mother's Day.
Meanwhile, Vishy Venugopalan, also in the US, experienced similar difficulties in sending wedding gifts to friends in India. They met by a lucky coincidence and decided to join forces. Isha Siraj-Kedia and Aparna Dalal joined them and Lamhe.com came into existence in December 2009. Lamhe is an online retail concept that enables Indians and NRIs to reliably give unique gifts to their loved ones. The team is made up of Mumbaikars but its services spread out across three cities: Mumbai, Los Angeles and Boston (US). "We offer gifts and experiences to suit all ages, tastes, occasions and budgets. Our catalogue includes creative and experiential gifts, in the categories of adventure, health and beauty, gourmet and self-discovery," says Venugopalan, co-founder.
What's on offer?
Gifts on offer include a romantic dinner aboard a yacht, spa experiences, fire-twirling classes, paragliding adventure trips, dance lessons and wine tasting trips. They also offer exotic flower arrangements, desserts and a wide range of personalised gifts. For kids, there aregifts with a twist, like creating dream libraries, and activity classes.
For the entrepreneurs, the initial days were very exciting. "We truly believed in the value this venture would offer. There were of course some growing pains, and living in different cities and countries meant we had to be creative in how we set ourselves up for success. But it was worth it," says Venugopalan. Apart from gifts, they also offer wishlists. While the concept of gift registries is quite common abroad, it isn't popular with Indian consumers. Lamhe is attempting to change this.To overcome this challenge, the venture lets brides, newlyweds and others designate someone to create and manage a wishlist on their behalf.
Also, the entrepreneurs realised that gift givers in India have different budgets for different occasions. So their wishlist service enables gift givers to chip in as much as their budget permits, even if it doesn't buy a full wishlist item. Gift givers also have the option of directly giving cash without contributing to a particular gift.
Future plans include expansion. "Our catalogue is currently focused on gifts in Mumbai, but we plan to roll out our gifts and services in other major Indian cities too," says Venugopalan.
How it works
Customers can buy gifts through the website or can call their 24-hour customer helpline.
If a customer doesn't see exactly what they want in the catalogue, they can contact the Lamhe concierge service to customise the gift.
Whether they are shopping from the catalogue or the concierge, customers can add flowers, chocolates, or cakes to any gifts to make them extra special.
They can also choose to have the gift notification hand-delivered in a hand-crafted wooden gift box.
For experience gifts such as adventures, spa experiences and classes, the gift recipient can contact the founders with the dates of their choice. The founders then coordinate with the vendors and partners to set up the delivery of this experience.
Some experiential gifts offered
A private seven-course cooking lesson with the renowned chef Asha Khatau (₹9,000)
Fire-twirling workshop (₹2,500)
Wine tasting for two (₹750)
VIP shopping experience with a personal stylist(₹5,000)
Various spa treatments (₹2,000 - ₹4,500)
They also offer a concierge service, where they work with customers to create memorable one-of-a-kind experience, be that handpicking something from existing gifts to creating a holistic experience or creating something customised.