From gold coins to ‘gulabaroons’, Diwali is sparking a shift in Australia’s gift industry

  • Diwali, the Indian subcontinent’s festival of lights, takes place on October 24th
  • Local entrepreneurs are reinvigorating the contemporary Diwali gift market
  • Gold and silver coins, wicker chests and handmade lamps are among the coveted gifts
Diwali, Deepavali, Bandi Chhor Diwas and Tihar are the Indian subcontinent’s traditional festivals of lights that have become woven into Australia’s multicultural tapestries.
This year, the celebrations that roused people from their pandemic indolence promise an intriguing mix of the new and the old.
According to the 2021 Australian Census, Indian migrants are the country’s second largest group of foreign-born residents at over 721,000.
Big festivals like Diwali are an opportunity for the fast-growing diaspora to embrace traditions and open their cultural doors to the wider community.
As Diwali is about sharing and connecting with friends and family, gift sharing is a big part of the celebration.

This year’s celebrations see an unleashing of creativity.

Sweet surprises

Diwali is synonymous with food, especially sweets, which are usually bought by the kilo and exchanged as gifts.

For Sanjeev Arora and Shweta Tangri Arora, the couple behind Foodie Wok gift service, this Diwali is a chance to honor tradition while also playing with contemporary flavors and presentations.

Gulab jamun meets macaron to make “gulabaroon,” and traditional carrot halvah gets a little twist. Recognition: Supplied/Gourmet Wok

To mark the occasion, they have created a range of Indian-inspired pasture boxes, the contents of which don’t necessarily have to adhere to conventions.

Among the sweets on offer is the “Gulabaroon” which is combined gulab jamun (Indian dessert made from fried dough balls) with macarons while other goodies meld besan laddu and mithai (traditional Indian sweets) with truffles.

“It’s a passion project for us, we identified a gap in the Australian market from an Indian perspective and started with pasture boxes which have been well received,” says Ms. Tangri Arora, who is a fashion designer and retailer by trade.

We don’t weigh every candy in kilograms [as is tradition]we do without artificial sugar, preservatives, colorings, additives and use raw sugar to cook our sweets.

Shweta Tangri Arora

When the couple emigrated to Australia 20 years ago, they struggled to even find one diya (traditional clay lamp) to celebrate Diwali.

Today they are busy preparing hundreds of candy boxes and baskets for corporate clients to give to their employees as is Diwali tradition ‘back home’.

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Sanjeev Arora and Shweta Tangri Arora, the couple behind the “Gulabaroons”. Delivered by the Foodie Wok.

“I have orders from Australian employers who want to treat their Indian employees to Diwali gifts, and Indian company bosses who want to celebrate with their non-Indian teams. Demand has grown exponentially,” says Mr. Arora.

gold standard

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For many people celebrating Diwali, it is an auspicious time to buy gold, which is considered a symbol of wealth, hope and happiness.

Janie Simpson is Managing Director of ABC Bullion, Australia’s largest independent bullion dealer.
Before Diwali, it Limited edition gold and silver coins embossed with Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Ms Simpson says there has been strong demand for the coins, not only from the Indian diaspora but also from others who are buying them for collectible and investment purposes.

Noble jewelry pictures

ABC Bullion launched unique Diwali themed coins to commemorate the anniversary of India’s 75th independence and celebrate Diwali. Supplied by ABC Bullion. Recognition: Noble jewelry images

“I’ve worked with ABC Bullion for 27 years,” she tells SBS Hindi. “It was different 27 years ago when the community was much smaller, but since then the Indian community has grown, as the census figures show last year.”

Our Indian clientele is becoming increasingly sophisticated, they know what they want and are indeed a growing part of our customer base.

Janie Simpson, CEO of ABC Bullion

According to Ms Simpson, an initial allotment of 10,000 silver and 1,000 gold coins sold out to dealers immediately after a soft start, necessitating a reissue.
“This particular Lakshmi coin that we have produced this year is part of a series that we hope to produce annually and work with this diaspora to produce a coin each year so that we can commemorate the beautiful Diwali with the Indian community – Remember it and celebrate it,” says Ms. Simpson.
Neil Vance is General Manager of Embossed Products at the Perth Mint, which has been producing Diwali-themed lockets for the past five years.
“We used to see long lines from the Indian community a few days before Diwali, so we decided to release certain medallions that we sell locally and around the world,” explains Mr. Vance.
“The medallions have been very popular in recent years, [so] this year we have a unique silver medallion that is gold plated and shows Ganesh on one side and Lakshmi on the other.”

This year, Mr Vance expects the Sunday before Diwali to be particularly busy, which is why the Perth Mint is launching a click and collect option that will allow for a special bullion trading to cater to the community buying gold on the day would like.

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The Perth Mint has created Diwali medallions with culturally appropriate design and packaging. Recognition: Delivered/Perth Mint

According to Mr Vance, demand for gold increased during the pandemic. In each of the last years they have sold about 3,000 Diwali medallions.

Interestingly, since April 2020, the Perth Mint has seen an ongoing precious metals boom in both gold and silver, according to Mr Vance. It was driven by the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and other economic factors such as inflation, government debt and market trends.

He says the medallions are doing well in countries with a strong, large Indian community, with the Perth Mint also distributing them to the US, Germany and Singapore.

Small business successes and stumbling blocks

Large organizations are not the only ones to benefit from this increasingly lucrative festival.
Jyotsna Takle from artbyjyotsna was able to turn her hobby into a commercial success with the creation of Diwali Lanterns, also known as Diwali Lanterns candile.
Her paper lantern-making classes are popular with students, and she says more and more parents are showing an interest in helping their children stay connected to their culture.

A collage of Diwali lanterns created by Jyotsna Takle and her students. Recognition: delivered

While her original lamp design was made from bamboo, Ms Takle said sourcing the material in Australia increased costs, so she had to find a cheaper alternative.

Now she’s busy filling orders and teaching students how to make these colorful lanterns.
Your handmade acrylic Rangoli Designs are also in demand among people who want aesthetics without the mess of color powders.
Clay by Vai’s Vaishali Hingmire is also wary of the cost of making gifts in Australia rather than having them imported from India.
She has made Diwali lights, tealight holders and other ceramics in the past, but claims it’s difficult to keep costs down when the products are locally sourced.

The use of food safe products, high quality clay, glazes and other materials increases the overall cost and thus impacts demand, especially when the market is flooded with cheaper alternatives imported from India.

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Handmade items created by Vaishali Hingmire as part of her last year’s Diwali collection. Recognition: delivered

However, according to Ms. Hingmire, there is always demand from those who value good quality and appreciate the skill, time and effort that goes into handmade items.

The market, meanwhile, is flooded with everything that Diwali conjures up from lamps and magic puja (prayer) articles to sweets and gift baskets.
Murali Metlapalli, the CEO of Indya Foods Pty Ltd, says the range of products sourced from India has increased year by year.
“We have many new products in our retail stores this year and the Diwali range is doing very well in general. There is also a lot of ritual food prepared during this time and the preparation varies from region to region so we try to stock up on all the ingredients,” says Mr Metlapalli.

“People are becoming increasingly health conscious, so they’re looking for healthier alternatives, even when it comes to gifts, and they’re willing to spend money for good quality,” he adds.

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