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They pursued me everywhere: on my Instagram feed; in the morning newspaper; in television ads; even in my email inbox, the most sacred of spaces for self-important working adults. ‘Father’s Day’ wishes and reminders were having a field day turning love into guilt until my heart gave into the obligations of a consumerist culture and I resolved to buy my dad the best gift ever to celebrate his special day. Hopefully, that would make up for my terrible track record on the subject.

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Growing up, I struggled with ideas for giving presents to my dad. In the average middle class family, men in general and dads in particular were hard to buy for! Back then, the gifting industry, largely composed of aesthetic knick-knacks and self-care products, stood at odds with the mainstream conception of masculinity, which defined men as rugged and spartan. Not much could have changed since those days, I thought to myself now as I began looking for Father’s Day presents online. Boy was I wrong.

It seems in 2022 that the celebrations sector in India has exploded. A simple Google search led me to a number of gift items designed specifically for men across a heterogeneous price range: The Man Company’s A Man’s Daily Ritual Kit; FlowerAura’s Flower & Gift Combo; IGP’s Delish Treats for Dad; Beardo’s Man of the Moment Gift Kit, et al. With a more nuanced and inclusive understanding of masculinity, the market seems to have erupted with gift options from grooming to gourmet for men.

“Traditionally, gifting and celebrating occasions go hand in hand, and the only difference today is that Indians are gifting on occasions beyond just festivals and are turning online in search of better quality products with delivery within the same day or a few hours. The unique and personalised products with great packaging available online have motivated people to buy unique products, and gifts for Father’s day are no exception,” said Tarun Joshi, founder and CEO of Mumbai-based Join Ventures, a D2C house of brands for celebration.

“Over the last couple of years, men’s grooming and fashion items such as necktie sets, grooming kits, leather products, etc., have become a trend. Influencers and digital creators have been continuously making content on male grooming, due to which further awareness has spread. Currently, the market for Father’s Day is not yet numerically at par with that of Mother’s Day, but it is increasing year on year, and we expect it to keep increasing,” pointed out Joshi.

This increase owes a lot to the creativity of young startups and brands that are freeing men of an existence constrained within dichotomies, thereby revolutionising what it means to be a man in India: a delightful blend of strong and gentle, minimalist and debonair, athletic and dainty, earthy and refined, and everything else in between. As a result, even quotidian details of men’s lives have been imbued with scrumptious complexity.

“As a brand, we are known to bring an experiential dimension to shaving,” explained Shantanu Deshpande, who founded Bombay Shaving Company in 2016 and disrupted a utility-driven category which traditionally offered men limited options. “Our premium shaving regimens and customised precision safety razors continue to be the most preferred gifting option. We’re also observing increasing demand for trimming kits by a younger audience,” he added.

Does this increase amount to a significant spike in sales in the days leading up to Father’s Day each year? “Yes, every year, we expect to see a spike in the 3-4 days ahead of June 19. As of Thursday, we’ve already seen close to 50 per cent growth in Father’s Day gifting versus last year. We expect a threefold jump in daily sales over the next few days.”

These visionary entrepreneurs concede though that such a notable growth in sales is driven not just by their big ideas but also by their astute marketing skills. “Performance marketing and retention channels are the most important medium for us to target new and existing customers respectively,” said Joshi while Deshpande revealed, “We deploy a funnel approach across touch-points and channels: exciting and insightful video content on the top funnel to drive awareness with reminder communication across social media and CRM.”

“This time, the dynamic Rajat Kapoor has been the face of the campaign for us. He was able to deliver the key message ’19 June, Yaad Karlo’ for us in a very authentic and relatable way. Influencers have also been a big win in this campaign, helping us mobilize their communities to pick up a thoughtful Bombay Shaving Company gift for dad,” he added.

Overwhelmed with the multiplicity of options online in personalised office diaries, clip pens, tie sets and leather wallets, I now regretted not having started earlier my quest to find the most appropriate gift. In a bid to simplify the process, I decided to limit myself to one category: self-care. Inevitably, I failed. With numerous varieties, such as charcoal face-wash, herbal shampoo, coffee-based cleanser, malt perfume, the ironic truth of shopping struck me: more options lead to more confusion. Still, I admired all that I was discovering. In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the dubious Miss Blanche Ingram infamously declares, “as if a man had anything to do with beauty!” Recalling those words, I chuckled now. If only she were alive today and, you know, not fictional.

Joshi also mentioned, “Universally, it has been said that the father-daughter relationship is the most special one, and it’s true. Our young female customer base is the dominant one and it includes both mid- and high-income individuals.” The pressure on me was only increasing.

I decided that this was no occasion to cheap out. Shaving kits and face scrubs were not enough. I needed to make a bigger statement to show my love by spending more. Perhaps Marks & Spencer shirts or a three-piece suit by Raymond or Daniel Wellington sunglasses or a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo cufflinks or a bottle of Johnny Walker. Many items in this category offered special Father’s Day discounts too. So what if my dad was not a cufflinks-sporting, whiskey-downing Madison Avenue executive in 1960s America? Sure, these things were a bit egregious for his lifestyle, but this man deserved the world after all I had put him through: potty training, beetroot animosity, Taylor Swift radio, driving lessons, uncountable Mad Men re-runs…Heck even Sally adored her alcoholic, philandering father. “My dad is a saint who deserves…a five-lakh watch!!” I exclaimed as I chanced upon a two-day old GQ India article on the top five luxury watches to buy for Father’s Day.

In my delusion, I convinced myself that blowing several months’ salary on a watch was a completely reasonable prospect to entertain. Luckily, luxury items like these cannot be bought with the ease of a click that enables you to buy shaving kits online. To get more clarity about stores near me, I called up Swiss luxury watchmaker Omega’s boutique in Connaught Place, Delhi. “No, you would have to physically visit the store and buy our watches in these higher price ranges,” Vikas Kumar, boutique executive, told me. I asked him about the impact of Father’s Day on their sales. “Surely, it’s an important day that comes once a year and people do purchase more for gifting purposes, but the spike is not that significant.” And did they offer any special Father’s Day discount? “No, ma’am,” he said, suppressing a good-natured chuckle at my naiveté. Luxury and concessions were never bedfellows.

Nevertheless, the telephonic conversation knocked some sense into me. I wondered how the flight of my imagination could be so high that I could consider spending a fortune on a watch. Thinking of the possible consequences of such a rash decision, I began to feel a little light-headed. After all, such grave offences can get you exiled from home and, perhaps more regrettably, the family will.

With the question of my Father’s Day gift still remaining unresolved, I decided to give up the idea of buying anything and instead heeded William Hazlett’s fine insight: “Words are the only things that last forever.” The best present to give my old man would be the sincerest of wishes.

Happy Father’s Day, dear Papa! You’re amazing.

You’re also amazingly frugal. Like father, like daughter, I guess!

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