A great way of incentivizing employees, the HUL way

Employers looking to incentivize their employees need not only consider gifts and monetary rewards. There are so many other steps and ideas that they can initiate to strike a rapport with their workforce. 

A case in point is Hindustan Unilever’s recent health initiative for its 15,000 strong team. The program is reaping great rewards. Shyamal Majumdar in an interesting article entitled ‘What’s your vitality index?’ that appeared in The Business Standard gave an insight into the initiative.

Based on an interview with T Rajgopal, HUL vice-president (Medical and Occupational Health), the writer threw light on the employee-driven incentive program at arguably India’s largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company.

Rajgopal and his team have indeed been able to implement a ‘personal vitality’ initiative in a phased manner for the employees of HUL in India. The health plan is ahead of the curve and hence is getting a favorable response from the company employees.

Underlining the importance of the move, the article pointed out: “What employees are doing at lunch and also after work can greatly affect their employer. HUL can consider the rewards-ratio of many other global firms that have implemented well-thought-out health plans for their employees. The ratio for Johnson & Johnson is 3.8:1. The same for Pepsico, Motorola and Dupont is equally healthy.

“We are providing employees the encouragement and the necessary tools to change unhealthy lifestyles before these transform into chronic diseases. We do it in a fun way that also allows them to choose the path, which fits them best,” stated Rajgopal.

At the heart of the new HUL initiative is a vitality index – the measurement of the personal vitality of every individual employee. It is based on four parameters – blood pressure, blood cholesterol, the Body Mass Index (BMI), and blood sugar.

Mobile devices worth gifting

In one of our previous blogs, we have checked mobile devices worth gifting. In this post, we shall check more mobiles to gift.

Clamshell shaped Samsung E1310 will cost just about Rs 2,650. It has a battery that promises to lasts up to 7-9 hours on trot. Another strong point is its stereo FM. It includes a mobile tracker feature that is an added bonus and so is its impressive speakerphone.

This is another mobile device worth gifting for travelers with a blend of music, camera and abundant memory to stash away the user data. The 3.2” touchscreen-based Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is worth considering. It comes with a plastic casing, which ensures that the device will survive the occasional drops and jolts during travel.

A 3 megapixel autofocus camera comes with a dual-LED flash, along with music attributes, such as the 3.5mm headphone jack and 8GB memory to store songs and music pieces. The features make it a worthy travel companion for someone whom you gift. You can buy it for around Rs 20,000 so this will make a high-end gift. However, the battery tends to run down rather quickly if power-hungry features like GPS and Wi-Fi are used extensively.

The Sony Ericsson W705 Walkman is Nokia’s closest price match. It’s a slider phone, which retails at roughly Rs 18,000. However, a 2.4” display might seem inadequate for viewing pictures snapped on its 3.2 megapixels camera. The W705 also has more jazzy features, including shake control that will enable you to toggle music tracks as well as control volume with a simple flick of your wrist.

The music player almost matches what you expect of the Sony Ericsson Walkman series, inclusive of the packaged in-ear earphones, which produce a responsive sound with ample depth. Note that W705 does not carry GPS, or a touchscreen.

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Financial security is your best gift to someone you care:

As we are discussing gold ETFs, we just went through our archives and managed to dig out an interesting post, entitled A golden gift to secure your partner’s financial life.

It would be pertinent to reproduce this post we published on eve of the Valentine’s Day. The idea is just to reemphasize the importance of your gold ETFs in your financial planning.

“The painful slowdown may have curbed your gifting instincts and might have shelved Cupid’s arrow this Valentine’s, points out an Economic Times report.  In this season for roses, love notes and cards, your best gift to someone you really care would be to ensure the person’s financial security, it adds.

“You can gift your partner gold ETFs as well as gold deposit schemes that are floated by jewelry houses. For example, Gold Harvest Scheme accepts small deposits on monthly for a specified period that can later be used to purchase jewelry.
“Nikunj Kedia, director of PARK Financial Advisors, suggests that gold is among the best suited investment options for challenging occasions like these, as it will result in a successful marriage of consumption needs and investment objective.
“Sunil Raj, marketing manager of Tanishq’s pure gold division, has been quote as saying: “Customers who enroll for this scheme can pay in easy installments for 11 months. The company will bear costs for the 12th month. Effectively, depositors stand to get around 15% of return on their savings.”
“India Post, in association with Reliance Money and World Gold Council, is planning to come out with a gold accumulation plan that will facilitate buying small quantities during a particular month when investors have the money.
“The ET report quotes financial planner Kartik Jhaveri as saying: “A gold fund or ETF would be a better option compared to buying jewelry as a gift. The underlying asset is gold that has shown steady returns even during the uncertain times. Just to sum up, this is a gift that your partner will showcase with pride and its glitter will never fade away!” 

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Advantage of gifting gold in electronic form

As we checked in the previous blog post, gold ETFs are very much similar to a diversified mutual fund plan. Instead of investing the corpus in equity, the money is invested in gold. We learnt about gold ETF schemes on offer from UTI, Quantum, SBI mutual fund, Kotak and Reliance.

Just to elaborate and simplify the concept further, ETFs are essentially mutual funds that are listed on the stock exchange. Here, the underlying core asset is standard gold bullion. You can use this instrument to buy gold bullion on someone else’s behalf, and present a meaningful gift. Corporates can consider gifting them to their employees as well.

Let us check the various features of gold ETFs and how they are managed:
• As for denomination, one can buy even one gram at a time. With Quantum, you can purchase half-a-gram at one time.

• When one wants to sell back the gold in physical form, the making charges of jewelry are wasted as they cannot be recovered. In fact, the gold in physical form is mostly sold at a discount to its original price owing to depreciation. Coins and bars suffer from similar issues. On the other hand, units of gold ETFs can be sold by either with a few clicks in case you have an online trading account or by a call to your broker.

• Tax benefits is one major advantage of gifting gold in the electronic form. It’s free of wealth tax. It attracts just 10% long-term capital gains tax as against 20% in case of physical gold.

• Again, there is absolutely no doubt on the count of purity because impurity risk is non-existent with gold ETF. This can be an issue with the gold in physical form

• Security is of course taken care of by the fund, unlike in the case of jewelry or other forms of physical gold where the threat of theft always looms.

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Gift gold ETFs

The market has been in an uptrend since hitting a bottom in the month of March. However, when the stocks were beaten down, one asset class that had drawn huge attention was gold ETF. This particular fund was in spotlight because gold prices had zoomed. Since then they have lost their shine just a bit!

For savvy investors this offers a good opportunity to enter these schemes at a lower price level with their NAV (net asset value) having fallen. You can sure consider gifting someone gold ETFs.

ETFs are quite similar to a mutual fund scheme. Instead of investing the corpus in equity shares, the money collected is invested in gold. There are schemes on offer from Kotak, Reliance, UTI, Quantum and SBI mutual fund for buying gold ETFs. Unfortunately, investors are still unaware of buying and gifting gold in the electronic form. If you strike early, it will make a worthwhile present.

Buying gold in electronic form requires a shift in mindset, something which shouldn’t be difficult considering most of us already possess other valuable assets in a similar form. As tax consultant Sandeep Shanbhag mentions in a recent article, ‘Think of the money lying in a bank account. Whether Rs 10,000 or Rs 10 lakh or a crore, it’s your bank passbook that indicates the amount you own.

“Similarly, not too long ago, physical share certificates were required to be delivered and kept. Then we gradually shifted to electronic holding. An investor’s life thus became more convenient. Similarly, gold too can be owned in the dematerialized, electronic form. It is a safer and more efficient way to own it.”

As we have mentioned above, there are many good schemes on offer from reputed fund houses. If you can gift gold ETFs to someone dear to you, the glitter of gold will remain with the person forever and add to his or her wealth as well.

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Perfect handsets for basic users

Global slowdown has failed to damp the spirits of the ‘mobile’ spirits. However, the budgets have curtailed a bit, and one of the important decisions is how much to spend on a new handset apart from what features to look for. As you would know, more the features, higher the price tag of your phone.

If you are looking to give a handset as a gift, we suggest some good handsets for basic users. We can broadly club major half of the new-generation mobile phone users as basic types.

What a basic user really needs is ample phonebook memory for stashing away his or her contacts, an intuitive user interface for organizing SMS and phonebook, a solid service, with a steady SMS platform, and a good keypad.

When it comes to gifting a mobile phone to such a user, you have a wide array of choice, in terms of price and model. One such basic ‘emergency’ phone for talking and texting purpose is MotoYuva EM325 from Motorola. Available at a best-buy price of roughly Rs 5,000, this slider phone offers many practical functions, such as FM Radio and one-touch access to music library.

This entry-level handset does not leave you without a handy camera. The EM325 includes a 1.3 megapixel camera and a USB port for quick data transfer as well as back-ups, Bluetooth and a 1.8” color screen. Its battery time is just up to 7.5 hours.

If you want to give a more funky-looking model, nice Nokia sets are available at Rs 5,800. Seek Nokia 5130 XpressMusic. It’s considered a mass-market handset that caters to on-the-go music lovers.

A 2-inch TFT display plus a stereo, FM radio, a 3.5mm std. audio jack for earphones, a 2-megapixel camera and,  make this an efficient candybar phone. It has a 1GB internal memory expandable to 8GB via microSD slot that comes at an extra cost).

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Simple yet interesting gift ideas

If you are still unclear about what to really gift him or her to strengthen the bond of your relationship on any special occasion, here are some simple yet interesting gift ideas.

Generally speaking, giving your partner something he or she might have been thinking to get is a perfect way to show your love. It’s indicating that you care about the person’s tastes and understand what makes him or her truly happy.

Whatever the gift, make it a point to personalize it with some engraving. This will add a romantic touch to it. You can think of a gift like cuff links or a locket engraved with the person’s initials or a message. It’s not really about how much you can spend, but rather about the personal touch you add to it. A picture perfect photo frame will also work.

You may make a scrapbook of special photographs defining various milestone moments of your lovely relationship. Sift through old albums to collate those memorable moments on a romantic occasion This will indeed make a beautiful gift.

And just one passing thought; why do you have to wait for a special occasion to shower someone you love with gifts? Gifts are great, anytime…

If you are in the early stages of a relationship, but are serious about it, be more thoughtful and choose your gift with greater care so that he or she appreciates your gesture and accepts the apparent or subtle message regarding your desire for long term relationships.

If you are still confused, and cannot still make your mind, gift vouchers will do. They are available in variable denominations – from Rs 500 to Rs 10000, and you can pick them depending on your budget.

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