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REUTERS/CATHAL McNAUGHTON
The key to many freebies.
A SHOPAHOLIC'S DREAM

Indian businesses have made even the national election a promotional vehicle

By Niharika Sharma

Many restaurants, large corporations, and even local traders are taking it upon themselves to reinforce India’s democracy—in their own characteristic way.

While politicians across the country try to coax voters with booze, drugs, and gold in the ongoing general election, many popular brands are offering soft drinks on the house, free cab rides, and discounted services to those who can show the inked finger.

“Initially, I had no idea about any such offers but now with the voting mark still visible, I am looking forward to avail a few,” an excited Simran Bathla to Quartz. The 23-year-old voted on April 11, in the first round of India’s general election, from Uttar Pradesh’s Noida.

The popular American restaurant chain Subway is among the places that will reward voters. The brand is offering an 18% discount on food items to those who have exercised their franchise, and aims to target India’s 80 million first-time voters.

Another fast food chain, McDonald’s, is also doling out discounts on its popular McSpicy Chicken and McSpicy Paneer Burgers, besides giving a free coke in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Kerala, and in Pune and Mumbai cities.

The benefits are not restricted to eating out.

The world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, Hero MotoCorp, is offering to service vehicles at a discounted price of Rs199 (around $3), compared with the usual charge of Rs500-600. The scheme is valid across the country for two days after each phase of voting.

In the southern state of Karnataka, which voted in the second round on April 18, cab aggregator Ola made a unique bid to increase voter turnout. The company had partnered with the state Election Commission to provide free rides to persons with disabilities, to the polling booth. Karnataka’s election turnout stood at 64%.

Deal aggregator

To cajole young voters who prefer to binge watch rather than step out to vote, the website showtheink.com has aggregated over 100 deals from various brands, launched exclusively for those who’ve voted.

Set up by three Bengaluru-based millennials, Shezaan Bhojani, Amar K Murthy and Manas Kumar, showtheink.com began a campaign in the 2014 general elections to promote voting across the southern city. But with the great response it received, it expanded gradually to West Bengal and Tamil Nadu during the state assembly elections in 2016 and is now focusing pan India.

Offers mentioned on this website are valid from the voting day and can be redeemed up to 15 days later. The discounts range between 5% and 15% across clothing, gym subscription, medical care, jewellery, and food.

Doing their bit

Besides organised players, local traders have also turned election time into a discount season, which in turn is attracting more customers.

In the Hailakandi district of Assam, in India’s north east, local businesses announced discounts for voters on jewellery, food, and medicines, following the appeal of the district’s deputy commissioner Keerthi Jalli. “In sync with our motto of celebrating the election as a festival, this is a unique initiative,” Jalli told the news agency PTI.

Jewellery shops announced a 15% discount, while hotels offered 10-15%, and pharmacists announced 4% concession on medicines on the polling days of April 18 and April 19.

In south India, the Tamil Nadu Hotels Association (TNHA) also announced a 10% discount on bills to voters. The participating outlets include Hotel Sarvana Bhavan, Hotel Sangeetha, Hot Chips, and Vasantha Bhavan.

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.