Why do people hate Soan Papdi
Small Diwali gifts from an overseas visitor to India during the holiday season?
You said in the chat that the colleagues you want to give gifts to will report to you as a senior.
I live in south india. I asked a Hindu friend about it. He lives in Bangalore, Karnataka and is retired. His career was in the financial sector in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The business culture is very similar between these cities.
He says it is very appropriate that you give gifts to your team.
He recommends you give them candy. You can go to a pastry shop and buy these neatly wrapped boxes of Indian sweets.
User @AnkitSharma, who lives in Bangalore, provided some details in the chat. He says many items contain milk, so hygiene and quality are important. He recommends that you go for a well-known business. Typically there are larger chain stores that are known for hygiene and quality. For example Sri Krishna candy, Anand candy and Kanti candy. As per @ AnkitSharma's suggestion, you should be careful with smaller vendors. In addition, cardboard boxes do not have to be produced on site. You can get factory-sealed branded boxes. Dried fruits, nuts, and chocolates are also good options.
Image mapping, fair use.
One of my friend's relatives suggested books. They're pretty cheap in India and more durable than candy. However, it depends on knowing what kind of books your colleagues might like.
He also said that business owners usually give their employees more expensive gifts (like smartphones, etc.) but that wouldn't apply to you since you're just a manager visiting temporarily and you aren't (correct me, if I'm wrong) also the owner of the business. So cheaper items seem like the way to go.
My attempt to find out if I should get something was rejected with something like "no no, you don't have to, you are from Europe and not a Hindu".
While it is true that you will likely be excused for doing something not given (on the basis that you are a foreigner) but it would still be quite appropriate for you to give. In India, it is very much appreciated when foreigners participate in local traditions.
However, the way it was said made me think it could be a "You don't have to, but you might want to, and we're too polite to explain what ...".
Precisely. Courtesy is a big thing here, especially to high-ranking people. This certainly sounds like they are just being very polite (as is normal here) and not wanting to risk sounding like they are asking for gifts.
My advice: Get nicely packaged sweets, nuts, dried fruits or chocolates for your team. A custom box for each person wouldn't be a bad idea. They don't have to be expensive, INR 200-300 each would be fine. Where I live (city in Tamil Nadu) you can get a decent box of candy for this price but it could be more expensive in Bangalore. Books and similar cheap items would also be appropriate.
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