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BW Businessworld

Employee Experience Is Ruling The Growth In Digital Gifting Space: Sodexo

"Digitization, hassle-free logistics movement is leading the growth in digital gifting solutions.", Suvodeep Das, VP-Marketing, Sodexo BRS

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Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services (BRS) India is a 100 percent digital employee benefits company and a leader in meal benefit solutions for the employees. Catering to a wide range of corporate clients in both the public and private sectors, Sodexo aims to improvise the employee experience in an organisation. 

Suvodeep Das, VP- Marketing of Sodexo BRS India talks to BW Businessworld on a variety of topics ranging from benefits industry, trends in gifting solutions, millennials to partnering with merchants.  

How is the benefits industry shaping up? What is leading the growth of digital gifting solutions space?

The benefits industry is growing overall because of digitization, and more companies can now offer these benefits since there is no administrative hassle now, unlike earlier when you had paper vouchers for any benefit. Large companies used to send these vouchers, which were then distributed and then carried by employees for usage.

Sodexo is a 100 percent digital company and we are by far the leader in this space. We have driven this growth and leadership in this space. You don’t need to carry your gift cards today. You can have the gift cards linked to your account and you can use it on the go.

Digitization has really helped the space to grow; it has not only helped the big clients and has been a big benefit for SMEs. We have clients who have only two employees, but they still opted for Sodexo. The reason being, earlier it was very cumbersome and they thought they couldn't afford it, but today once we give them the card, there is no logistic hassle. That is leading the growth in this industry.

Why would employers choose to give digital vouchers instead of cash or maybe some other gifts?

The environment is very competitive now in terms of what you are offering to the employees. What started as giving financial benefits, then came to employee benefits is now moving towards employee experience. Giving a salary is not good enough now. People are not much concerned about 5-10 percent change in salaries, but more concerned about the experience they get while working in a company.  

And what are the means of employee experience? One of them is the ease of eating meals. Food is a very fundamental benefit for everybody. So, along with the ease of eating food, it is about saving tax every time you eat. So a combination of these factors is what is driving the change towards digital gifting solutions.

What are the trends in how the benefits industry is shaping up?

One clear trend and a clear upsurge are in the mobile-based transactions. More and more people are using the phone to scan and pay instead of swiping because it has become a function of the nature of the workforce today. There are more and more millennials in the workforce and the proportion is increasing.

So, one of the first tasks for us was to give a great user interface on the phone for making a swift payment through mobile phones since the new generation is glued to it.

How are the needs of millennials different from other generations?

There are three clear needs, one of which is the freedom of choice. They don't want a restriction. Typically a lot of companies used to give free food in the cafeteria. Millennials have a different choice of food. So when you put that money on a meal card, you give them a choice to buy and consume food. Second, they are looking at ease and convenience, which is the ease and accountability of transactions through mobile.

The third is that millennials are very value conscious, they are value seekers and that is the value we bring them from our merchants every month. These are some of the trends in the needs of the millennials.

Sodexo has been partnering with a lot of merchants. Do you have any new plans or offerings for the merchant?

What we offer the merchants is guaranteed business worldwide and that is also the worldwide principle why merchants love us. When you are happy with a merchant, why would you go anywhere else? The merchant also knows that today if I didn't have Sodexo, I might have gone somewhere else. They know that Sodexo brings stickiness.

We have a merchant network of more than a hundred thousand across 1700 cities, and we also offer employees a choice. In fact, you have a grocery store or restaurant nearby which doesn’t accept Sodexo. You can go to Sodexo and request for registering them and we generally register them within three weeks.

At a time when companies are cutting costs and employee engagement losing its meaning, where do you see Sodexo fitting in?

That is exactly the biggest opportunity for us because this is not an additional cost for the company. This is taking money from the employees’ salary and putting it in the meal card, where the employees are benefitting without the company incurring any losses. This also helps in generating goodwill from the employees, bring them a good experience in the company.

From an employers’ perspective, suppose the company gives you an annual increment of Rs 50000, and you fall in the 30 percent tax bracket, you end up paying Rs 15,000 of that as the tax.

However, if the HR decides to put Rs 25,000 on the meal card and 25,000 in your salary, you end up paying only Rs 7,500 as tax, and you actually have Rs 42,500 effectively as compared to Rs 35,000 you would get in the previous scenario. Effectively, it is not anything for the company to lose, but an added benefit for the employee bringing in a good experience, thus better employee engagement.