We moved from a retail operations in the name of Craft Corner to a corporate gifting house in the name of The Giving Tree a decade ago. As a corporate gifting house we were the first in the industry to create a gift hamper. Up until then the norm was to do individual products as gifts.
Today when I look back it feels nostalgic to recall our particular experience with Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL). After multiple meetings and a lot of back and forth, we won an order to create innovative and sustainable corporate gift hampers for their Diwali gifting. Being the first in an industry to create a new product or concept can be a significant accomplishment, and it’s wonderful that your gift hamper has become so popular in the corporate gifting world.
But, we had our own challenges. Though we had the concept and the product ideas in place, the building of the hamper with compartments was not something we were familiar with. Slowly we put our act together and with a great enthusiastic team we started the production. It surely was a big order way back in 2008. The work was really slow and we were warned about BIAL’s strict delivery policies. Just 3 days for the D day, and we had completed just about 30% of the process.
We pressed the panic button with our support teams, our family and friends, and our suppliers. The outcome of this was simply magical. That evening our office had multiple skilled and unskilled helpers and we were very close to the goal. We worked for 40 hours non-stop and managed to deliver 80% of the consignment on the delivery date and to our shock the balance 20% was rejected by BIAL.
What followed was a week of stress, sadness and sleeplessness. Diwali was still 2 days away, and all we needed were 20 hours to deliver the balance. We even agreed to door deliver it to their clients all over Bangalore. But, they had their policies in place and did not want to dilute that for us.
We gracefully accepted the rejection and started to dissect the entire order experience to understand where we had gone wrong.
Here are a few of my key lessons:
Plan – Creating innovative and unique corporate gift items can set a company apart and help establish it as a leader in the industry. But it’s important to figure out your entire production process and operations in advance – when you are creating a new product.
Ask for help – When things got tough, we reached out to friends, family and even our suppliers. I can never forget that feeling of being so supported at this crucial time, especially during Diwali.
Client support – Sharath from BIAL actually visited our office and was blown away by the work that was getting done and cheered for us, and showed immense confidence in our team. Unfortunately, his seniors did not see this enthusiasm and hard work, and simply played by their rule book.
Stay in grace – The most important lesson for me was to hold myself in grace and accept the loss. Keep the spirit of the team in a good space, knowing that these things happen, no matter how hard we work sometimes.
Learn the lesson – We sat down as a team and dissected to the minutest level to find all the glitches and red flags in our prototype and idea. And we fixed it.
Appreciate – No matter what we lost in the order, what we gained was a sense of pride for who we became as a result of working on this order. We learnt that we had all the support in the world – that is such a big blessing!
Mistakes are great – but make sure you don’t commit the same mistake twice. That one order serves as a lesson even to date. We have learnt to say no to unreasonable asks from customers in terms of design, delivery time and prototyping. We play to our strengths based on what we know works for us.
When I look back from where I stand today, I feel very proud of myself and my team for having taken this journey, integrating the lessons and continuing to create gifts that touch many hearts.
The Giving Tree