Shreyas Kulkarni

Brands across the board try and delight with 'vaccine discounts': which segment has an advantage?

Segments like travel, hospitality, finance, grocery, apparel are in the fray. As discounts become common, will brands offer non-monetary benefits next?

Nothing can get Indians up and running like a healthy discount offer. These days, it is the goal of scoring a vaccine appointment that’s got us scurrying around.

We are checking the CoWIN app and website every now and then, feverishly digging through Telegram chats, and asking friends and even foes, “Tumne vaccine kahan se lagwaya?”

Someone somewhere decided to create an offering that is, perhaps, the closest we’ve come to a win-win situation in recent times: a vaccine discount.

Got the jab? Grab thy discount.

In the last month or so, many brands, offering vaccine-based discounts or freebies, have flooded the market, similar to how monsoon causes floods in Mumbai every year. And there seems to be no stopping this flood.

We first spotted this trend in the United States earlier this year. Various brands and establishments offered vaccinated folks free beer or Krispy Kreme Doughnuts or tickets to a baseball game or even marijuana, among other stuff.

Back in India, you will be surprised at the number of brands offering such discounts, and also the varied categories they represent.

Crave a tasty little snack during those late afternoons? Fast food giant McDonald’s India (North and East) is offering 20 per cent (up to Rs 250) off on a minimum order of Rs 500.

Or you can enjoy Rs 400 off for four orders, or till September 24, 2021, on the Domino’s app.

Coming to drinks, The Beer Cafe is giving its consumers a 10 per cent discount on their first jab, and a 20 per cent on the second one. And if chai is your poison, Chaayos says that if you have taken your first shot, then your first cup of chai is on the house.

Thinking of earning some extra buck? Mumbai-based UCO Bank has announced it will offer 0.30 per cent higher interest rates on fixed deposits of 999 days for people who’ve got at least one jab.

To encourage vaccination, Central Bank of India has launched the “Immune India Deposit Scheme” for 1,111 days “at an attractive extra interest rate of 25 basis points above the applicable card rate for citizens who got vaccinated.”

Reliance General Insurance has introduced a five per cent extra discount on its Health Infinity product to encourage COVID vaccinations.

There is also good news for those looking to travel during this time, before the third COVID wave hits and lockdowns are announced again. Leading airline IndiGo is offering a 10 per cent discount on the base rate for fliers who’ve received at least one COVID shot.

Online travel aggregator MakeMyTrip (MMT) is not far behind. It is giving vaccinated folks a 10 per cent discount on all domestic flights, along with special value offers and add-ons.

Grofers will let you enjoy a one-month free subscription to Grofers SBC (Smart Bachat Club), its premium loyalty program.

According to The Times of India, French clothing brand Celio has offered to add loyalty points to its customers if they get vaccinated.

Godrej Appliances has said that it will give a “six-month extended warranty offer exclusively for our customers who have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine shot.”

And recently, VOGO, a two-wheeler rental company said it was rewarding those uploading their vaccination certificates on their app with Vogo credits (you can use the credits to pay the fare instead of money). It roped in influencers like like Rahul Subramanian, Gowtham Shravan Kumar, Zaynab and Ashmitha to popularise this offering.

With so many categories playing the vaccine discount game, we wonder which one will emerge as the clear winner.

“It is opportunistic at a brand level, but in the overall scheme of things, it will encourage people to get vaccinated," says Amar Wadhwa, founder and executive director of CrystalEyes, a marketing service organisation.

Amar Wadhwa
Amar Wadhwa

For him, it is the travel and hospitality sector that will come out on top because “for them, it is important that people are vaccinated, as it is in severe resuscitation need.”

He went on to mention finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement on Monday (June 28, 2021) that once India begins to offers visas, the first five lakh tourist visas will be given free of cost. It is a much-needed boost to the category.

On the other hand, Vani Gupta Dandia, an independent business consultant with CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners, feels that people will not rush to get vaccinated simply because of the incentive of a Rs 100 discount coupon on the Domino's app, or cheaper flight tickets.

Vani Gupta Dandia
Vani Gupta Dandia

“People will get the jab only if they believe that they'll be protected, thanks to the jab.”

“It will be incorrect to say that the discount being offered by various brands is an impotent or redundant move… When brands announce freebies or discounts, they're cajoling people to go, get the jab,” she went on to add.

Are discounts only monetary?

When we hear discounts, images of reduced prices, or cashbacks pop in our minds. But does it have to be this way all the time? Can these discounts be service-oriented, like an early delivery slot from an online grocer if you have got the jab?

Dandia agrees that the discounts needn't be only monetary. “They could definitely be service-oriented, like same-day delivery, tie-ups with allied services, gift hampers. Even branded merchandise could be a good idea, like caps or umbrellas with 'I'm vaccinated, are you?' printed on them.”

Wadhwa, on the other hand, feels that while it can be extended to services, “nothing succeeds like a proper monetary discount.”