This Diwali, companies turn to non-cash incentives

From coupons to leaves, even painting and lighting services, companies are trying to reduce cash expenses while building a personal connect with workers

M Saraswathy  |  Mumbai  November 7, 2015 Last Updated at 14:10 IST


This Diwali, private sector employees can look forward to more than plain vanilla bonuses and dry-fruit that companies in India typically hand out. The goodies basket this year, say human resources officials, includes a more personal touch, with coupons to extended leaves and even essential rations in small companies. In fact, some start-ups are going the extra mile and even offering to cleaning and lighting services for employees' homes this season!

  Sunil Goel, Director GlobalHunt said that the traditional Diwali bonuses have been restricted to support staff. "Corporates are looking at other incentives like celebratory leaves, coupons. It helps in building value and emotional connect," he said.
Company executives say the focus in on gifting something that creates an emotional value among the employees. While cash incentives may work for a section of the staff, others are expecting something more personal, according to the human resources manager at an auto major, who declined to be named for this article.
Until recently, Indian companies typically gave extra cash during Diwali since annual appraisals systems did not take this traditional bonus into account. Now, say senior HR officials, cash-based incentives and bonuses are part of the appraisal process and are handed out at the beginning of the financial year itself.
Further, a cash component also adds to the balance sheet, which not all company want to incur as expenses. The head of benefits at a large consulting firm explained that a lot of corporates are now considering replacing cash during festivals with other non-cash incentives is because the latter cost less and are also more preferred by employees.
The kind of rewards, though, differ across sectors. Those in the e-commerce sector, for instance,  are likely to get coupons to purchase items from their online platforms, while those that are part of grocery chains could get items from the brick-and-mortar store.
Rituparna Chakraborty, senior vice-president at staffing company TeamLease Services, said, "Increasingly, cash component is being substituted by non-cash incentives, though blue-collar workers still receive cash incentives. The perceived value for non-cash incentives is higher among employees."
Tajas Kadakia, co-founder of EasyRewardz, a social collaborative rewards marketplace, said that instead of giving bonuses, his firm helps companies offer points to employees with which they can buy what they like. "Instead of a set amount of cash, a lot of corporates are using innovative gifting solutions like loyalty points to help them get discounts on products that they like," he said.

Start-ups, too, don't believe in cash bonuses, not just because they are at the early stage of their business, but also because it helps create more connect with the employee base, which is close-knit.

In keeping with that spirit, some are going one step further by offer special benefits to employees this festive season, including cleaning and lighting services.

Varun Khaitan, Co-Founder, UrbanClap which helps people choose right service professionals for different activities, explained that they do not believe in the concept of giving bonuses for Diwali.

"We are making it easier for our employees to use services. Further, we are also helping employees decorate their homes for Diwali. This includes cleaning and lighting for the festive season," he said.

In such companies, the focus is on offering the same services that the company gives. For instance, Easyfix, a portal for home repairing and maintenance services, is offering these services to its employees for free.

Shaifali Holani, Founder, EasyFix said, "We are offering lighting services for this season. Further, they can also avail of other services like plumbing, carpentry and these will be a surprise for them."