An April Fool’s Prank, Led Me To Start My Corporate Gifting Company

Srikanth Acharya
Founder, OffiNeeds
$750K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
100
Employees
OffiNeeds
from Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
started April 2005
$749,997
revenue/mo
2
Founders
100
Employees
312K
alexa rank
1.21K
followers
49
followers
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An April Fool’s Prank, Led Me To Start My Corporate Gifting Company

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Srikanth Acharya, CEO at OffiNeeds. OffiNeeds is a leading Corporate Gifting and Custom Merchandise company with offices in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai. We’ve been in business for 17+ years and have served 2000+ large corporate clients.

Over the last 3-4 years, we’ve started to use technology in every aspect of our business. This has helped us grow our business against the tide, despite the pandemic and economic slowdown. We’ve almost doubled our revenues year-on-year over the last 3-4 years and are inching towards the INR 100Cr revenue this year.

While we offer a very wide range of products, customized with their logos for corporate gifting, our customers love us for some key solutions we provide:

  • Official BrandStores - We set up and run white-labeled eCommerce stores for corporates, selling their company merchandise to their employees.

  • New Joinee Welcome Kits - We design, produce, and distribute, customized goodie packs for new and existing employees.

  • GiftKart - This is a model, where we build a microsite for a special occasion (like Diwali, Annual day, etc) and list 4-6 gift options for employees to choose from. Their choice is then shipped directly to employees’ homes.

  • Gift Voucher solutions - We have a platform where 100+ brands of Gift Cards are listed (including Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Shopperstop, Max, Swiggy, Fab India, Cleartrip, Domino’s, etc). By giving out points/gift cards on this platform, companies can let their employee choose Gift Cards from any of their favorite brands.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My entrepreneurial journey started due to an April Fool’s prank. I was working as a software developer at Infosys in 2005. I played a prank and I told everyone that I was going to quit and start a business. When they asked what business I was going to start, I just blurted out - Corporate Gifting.

Just a couple of weeks prior, I had gotten a T-shirt from Infosys, which I was wearing over the weekend when I had gone to meet a few friends. One of them was in the apparel business and he pointed out that the vendor who got the order for T-shirts from Infosys must have landed himself a big order. That’s when the term “Corporate Gifting” came up.

That was the only reason, I told everyone that I was going to start a corporate gifting company. People kept asking questions about how I would get clients, where I would source products, etc. I went on to answer those questions.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to know exactly who your customers are. If you are trying to serve everyone, you are serving no one.

At the end of the day, I told everyone that it was a prank. But, while answering all those questions, I had created a business plan for a corporate gifting business.

Within a few weeks, I actually resigned and started my corporate gifting business.

Entrepreneurship was very uncommon in those days. But, I was not a very good software developer anyway. I didn’t have any loans, so I figured I’ll give it a try. If it fails, I’ll find another job.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Although we are a 17-year-old17 year old business, we would like to look at it as a 2 part journey. For the first 12-13 years, we mostly functioned like a traditional brick and mortar business.

But since 2018 onwards, we started innovating using technology and started to grow rapidly from there. It would be appropriate to say, we started our second innings as a startup from 2018 onwards. And during these 4 years, we have seen a CAGR of 80%.

First, we launched a dynamic, AI enabled catalog management system. Using this, our customers can find products that are perfect for their requirement, from a curated collection of 4000+ products. They can even download their choice of products as a PDF presentation, to enable easy discussion with their teams.

Business is about solving problems. Find BIG problems to solve in a way that there is a large demographic of people, who are willing to pay for it.

Then, we launched white-labeled eCommerce stores for corporates, selling their custom merchandise to their employees, clients and dealers. We call these Official BrandStores. Here are a few examples - Lenovo, Tally, TAFE.

We started seeing a rising demand for Gift Cards. So, we created a platform called Rewards by OffiNeeds, where we listed Gift Cards of close to 100 brands and did an API integration with them. So, instead of gifting an Amazon/Flipcart Gift Card, corporates can gift Rewards Gift Card to the beneficiaries, who can choose to redeem against any of the listed brands of their choice.

During the pandemic, remote working became the norm. During this time, we became pioneers at delivering gifts to homes of employees. We created another solution called GiftKart. We recommended that corporates create a microsite for gifting for important occasions like Diwali or Annual Day and allow their employees to choose from 4-6 gifts, instead of giving the same gift to everyone. This was a super hit. See some examples here:

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Describe the process of launching the business.

Before quitting, I connected my HR Manager at Infosys to my co-founder and ensured we get registered as a vendor. Then, I reached out to all my friends who were working in different companies and asked them to connect me to their HR/Admin managers.

That’s how we got our first set of customers.

We started with just 3-4 product categories and as the demand grew, expanded our range of products. Over time, we focussed on making things faster, and easier for our clients through technology.

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Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We believe great execution and customer service is our forte. This has been the biggest factor that has helped retain customers and attract new customers through word of mouth.

Besides that, we have a strong digital marketing strategy to acquire new customers using SEO, PPC and SMM.

Additionally, we create strong brand awareness and recall by participating in and sponsoring important HR and Admin events.

We have created two strong assets that help us with brand building and lead generation:

  • The Corporate Gift Show is a platform where we publish a video demo of a new and innovative corporate gifting idea every single day. We’re inching towards 500 episodes. This helps clients to stay updated about the latest trends and ideas in Corporate Gifting.
  • Employee Engagement Academy is a community-based platform where we provide resources for HR professionals to learn and improve their Employee Engagement skills and strategies. Here, we host webinars, interviews, blogs, courses, etc.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

FY 2022-23 has started on a very strong note. We have launched our 20,000 sq ft, state-of-the-art operations center. What makes this unique is that we have installed all customization units inhouse like UV Printing, DTF Apparel Printing, Sublimation Printing, Pad Printing, Laser Engraving and Embroidery. We are the only corporate gifting company in India to have all these facilities under one roof.

We’re currently, serving 2000+ medium to large businesses and are hoping to double it this year. In the coming 3-4 years, we aspire to expand operations to pan India and then expand globally.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to know exactly who your customers are. If you are trying to serve everyone, you are serving no one.

Once you’re clear about your TG, deep dive into their problems, challenges and aspirations. And focus on solving those problems, better than anyone else.

And then, design your branding, communication and marketing strategies around this niche.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

From a technical perspective, we leverage on open source tools like WordPress, magento. We love Zoho. We use several of their products for CRM, ERP, etc.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’m an avid reader and read a lot of business books. One of the books that truly influenced my thinking is Blue Ocean Strategy. It helped me how not to think like your competition, how to deliver value to your customers in a way that competition becomes irrelevant.

I love reading, watching videos and listening to podcasts about marketing and business strategies. I follow Raj Shamani, Rajiv Talreja, Siddharth Rajsekar, Russell Brunson and a few others.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Business is about solving problems. Find BIG problems to solve in a way that there is a large demographic of people, who are willing to pay for it. Then, solve it in a way that enriches the lives of your customers. Help your employees and customers succeed and you’ll automatically succeed.

If you are already running a business, the best way to find problems worth solving is by speaking to customers. Ask them about their challenges and aspirations - personal as well as professional. If your business/product can help overcome their challenges or help them achieve their goals, you’re in the right place.

Almost every service that we have launched has come from solving a particular problem for a particular client. Then, we turn that into a ready solution and offer it to many other clients.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are Currently Hiring for the below Positions:

  1. API Web Services Developer with 1+ years of Experience
  2. Content writer with 1+ years of Experience

We’re growing rapidly as an organization and have many open positions in technology, sales, etc. You can see them here.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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Srikanth Acharya, Founder of OffiNeeds
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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