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Guest Column

Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
K.K.Srivastava Guest Column
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Over the years, there has been a sea-change in how the fairer sex in india behaved and reacted. Today, they are also a very different lot of consumers. So, what’s in it for the marketers?
Issue Date - 01/12/2011
‘Slut Walk’ or ‘Pink Chadhi’ may or may not be the movements she wants to be associated with. But dandy and candy, cutesy and polished are certainly the adjectives the lady would like to reserve for the Omega man, not for herself. O.K. So men donning orange jackets or pink waistcoats may still not be found in India; yet the Über woman certainly thinks that the new age man must loosen up so that he can whip up an Espresso while she enjoys a post coital fag. Mythologically, Sita (Lord Ram’s wife) was an ideal woman – a chaste, uncomplaining, self-sacrificing shadow of her husband. But this year, The Ramayana at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra and at Akshara Theatre caricatured her as the modern Indian woman. At Kala Kendra, she is an empowered woman with an identity of her own, while at Akshara, Ram and Sita were presented as two independent individuals and equals. Sita was no more presented as a victim or a meek character; rather, she is a strong woman who makes her own decisions and choices. And in the end, it is not Sita alone who descends into the earth – as in the original version; instead, both husband and wife merge to become a single entity. In the Bollywood flick Break Ke Baad, Deepika Padukone is a wild child knocking down drinks, puffing away, and refusing to be tied down in a conventional relationship. In Kartik Calling Kartik she makes the first move on Farhan Akhtar. A drunken Katrina Kaif is a beedi-smoking-hellraiser, yet she is a ‘wild-but-nice’ girl in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. A decade ago, such women would be portrayed as one with suspect morals. Today, such roles are supposed to reflect the boldness of the fairer sex and the gender equality in society.

Le Meriedian hosts an exclusive women’s whisky (not wine) club with a membership of sixty corporate honchos, entrepreneurs, artists, diplomats et al. The spirits companies are now reaching out to women who are charismatic, stylish, confident, assertive and independent. Welcome to the constellation where Mars and Venus are exchanging places, a world of Über Women, Omega Men.

In this, admittedly niche, world gender equations are melting, merging, and are being rewritten. Though a predominantly urban (SEC A1) trend, now there exists an Über woman, assertive, tougher, and worldly wise. She is neither emotionally vulnerable, nor is she submissive. Rather, she is self-driven, self-centred, domineering, knows her mind – be it in food, fashion, or fantasies of sex. More importantly, she has both money and motive to fill the coffers of the attentive marketers.

So Debenhams, the men centric department store has now transformed itself into a women-focussed one by skewing the merchandise in their favour. At Shopper’s Stop, while the same store sales are growing at 9% overall, the women’s category is growing at 25%. Three years ago, in total, the chain had three counters each of Estee Lauder, Mac, and Clinique. Today, the count has swelled to 30 for each brand.

Even malls are moving along the same path. One of New Delhi’s most-known and upmarket malls – Select City Walk Mall (Saket, New Delhi) consciously decided to target lady shoppers. To that effect, the mall’s promoters courted ethnic stores like Zardozi, Kalpana and Fab India, even as they signed-up global brands like Espirit, Mango and French Connection, among others. Today, almost 75% of the mall’s merchandise is women centric and 60% of Select Citywalk’s footfalls is accounted for by women. And why not? Today, there are about 10 million urban women in the age group 20 to 40 years, holding managerial jobs. And this number is expected to balloon to 50 million by 2020! These women spend 35% more on themselves than traditional home makers. Though not all, a significant proportion of this cluster would be those ‘who wear the pants in their household’ – those who dominate over the Omega Man. These are the women who make their own choices, are anything but subservient, are not constricted by their biological clocks, and unashamed of their libido. This lady is not afraid to be useless in the kitchen and retains the freedom to even reject motherhood. She is not a rebel; it is only that she makes her own choices

The beginning of this trend can possibly be traced back to a redefinition of her priorities and financial independence. Morning-after pill on one hand and platinum credit card on the other have liberated her. She has become indulgent, and doesn’t mind splurging on herself. She pays by a credit card and buys from speciality retailers. She spends heavily on healthcare (supplements, stress, relievers, fertility control products), personal care (skincare products, beauty enhancers), eating-out (Risoto, Sushi and falafal), accessories (Clark shoes, Da Milano bags, and Longines watches), jewellery (diamond studded platinum pieces), financial products (fixed deposits, mutual funds), travel (all women trips), or whatever money can buy. Purchases have to be both branded and premium even if not luxe. She is qualified with a professional degree – in management, fashion, interiors, or even finance – under her belt. The household she belongs to is possibly DINK or DISK, since she decides about motherhood/parenthood. In any case, kids are no more mamma’s responsibility alone; the man of the house must find time for children too.

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