Managing Middle India’s Golden Lady

20 Mar,2012

By Geetanjali Bhattacharji


What do women want? It’s increasingly the question that millions of dollars ride on. After all, they directly purchase or influence buying behaviour of over 80% of the categories that we as marketers pitch every day.


> Cellular service providers have introduced special fares and marketing schemes for women.

> Consumer durables company Electrolux has ‘womanned’ stores-outlets that are owned, manned and operated by women.

> Banks, such as Standard Chartered with its Diva credit card and Citibank with its Woman’s Account, are trying to lure women with special products that have value-adds-like free financial advice or discounts at grocery stores-thrown in.

> Hero Honda Motor & TVS announced scooters in India-aimed specifically at women.


Where are marketers moving to? The gold rush today is evidently towards the 400 smaller towns with a population of 0.1-1million – middle India. Where the market for fast-moving consumer goods will surge from $5.7 billion now to $20 billion in 2018 and $80 billion by 2026.


Why Middle India? Because these towns-Bathinda in Punjab, Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, Nanded in Maharashtra, Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh-form a bridge between the big metropolitan centres and rural India. The 400 small towns are currently home to about 100 million people with a strong woman population. Let’s look at the potential in terms of value & growth in this region.   Strong value growth: recently Middle India is growing at 20% (up 3+ points from 2010) The woman in these regions is defining her own space. From a silent observer, to a silent influencer, the women in middle India today have come into their own.   Let’s examine the evolution & characteristics of middle India’s golden lady…


Non-vocal about the independence she desires

One prominent manifestation of this segment is seen in the daily soap operas on Indian television. While the characters may seem regressive at first glance, increasing viewership in middle India has proved that they have struck a chord – whether the woman is a homemaker or a professional. The serials depict a number of scenarios that a woman cannot openly communicate about within her family and in-laws and therefore the television becomes the messenger. This is a large opportunity for marketers to address this audience.


Conformist, yet individualist

There is another unique characteristic of this segment. She wants to break out from her traditional, sacrificing image, but does not want to go all the way. She wants to conform to the values she believes in and yet wants to do her own thing.   And in the midst of this soul-searching process, the marketer is bewildered. It is a challenge to identify the boundaries correctly and to touch the right chord with this new consumer.


Indulgent A measure of her growing independence is the changing profile of this woman’s out-of-home activities. Today women go out with each other, a trend that was not seen previously. They are also much more into indulgence and satisfying their emotional self. So, whether it is pampering herself at the salon, experimenting with cosmetic surgery or enrolling at the fitness centre, the need to look good has now become a priority. More in middle India with increasing income levels.


Secure There are two things happening – one is behavioural change in terms of the consumer and the second is structural change in terms of the retail outlets themselves. Therefore, women are feeling more and more secure that they can go into a store and actually get the product.


Challenges as marketers

Are marketers guilty of speaking to the gender divide and perpetuating stereotypical portrayal of half the population, in guise of reflecting society?

Or is there evidence of ‘brave marketing’ that has liberated itself from more of the same and made a meaningful connection with the woman consumer in middle India differently from the one in Urban & Rural India?   Brands still tend to box her into a simplistic classification of the bahu, beti, biwi, ma, seductress and recently the time challenged working woman.


It is always in one of her ‘doer’ avatars, seldom understanding or reflecting her dilemmas and emotions as an individual.


While the brand may offer a family relevant solution, the relationship can be far more powerful if its conversation is deeply personal. After all there is no Male Maslow or Woman’s Halyen’s   It’s interesting that when we investigate kids, tweens, teens or boomers, we tend to be more gender neutral and focus on understanding their underlying motivations as individuals or cohorts. However we tend to go back to the safety of a ‘role box’ when it comes to women. Yet spanning time, it is Mother India, Manthan, Lalitaji, Cadbury girl on the pitch, Diamond Bride, Dove, Rakhi ka Swayamvar, Gang of Girls and the gender equalising ability of reality shows like Bigg Boss and Roadies to name a few that are memorable and brave for their time. And they have touched a chord with women as individuals.


We are still a while away from shedding the seven second product window that serves as an elaborate ‘purchase justification’ especially for products that target women.


Can we make them cornerstones of brand-building?

By moving from one-way brand monologues to dialogues…..

Do we value her views, provide her a platform to express, showcase her creativity, and celebrate her talent? Different channels could be explored depending on her profile – digital, packaging for snacking recipes, television content for her suggestions on parenting, radio for volunteering time to teach. It’s time to recreate strategies to manage the Golden Lady in Middle India…here’s an illustration from a marketer’s page –


How Marketers are managing the gold rush in middle-India

Suparna Mitra, head of marketing for the watches division of Titan Industries, sheds light on her company’s Middle India experience: “Titan has been aware of and has been addressing this market for some time now. It was one of the first companies to set up exclusive stores in these towns and has an early-mover advantage. For Titan, 50% of watch sales come from the top 10 towns [including metros] and the 11th to 100th towns account for another 35%.


“At this point there are some differences in the products being sold in the metros and in the smaller towns. For instance, the average price in the top 10 towns is 10% higher than the products sold in Middle India. There are also different levels of acceptability in terms of styles and modernity, etc. But, given the exposure, increasing disposal incomes, and similar levels of aspirations, it is just a matter of time before this changes.


We are already seeing it happen. For instance, last year Titan had a high-priced collection called Raga Crystals as part of its sub-brand Raga, which is aimed at women. This collection, which was studded with Swarovski crystals, was priced at around $200 at the top end of the range.


We estimated a certain amount of sales, most of it from the metros. But when we actually introduced the product, we found that it was selling right down to smaller towns. While the realities of the Middle India consumer may be different from the urban or metro consumer, his expectations and aspirations are the same,” Mitra says. “A marketer has to aim at the aspirations and not at the realities.”


The writer is CEO, Spatial Access Solutions, India



Success mantras from media captains
All work and some play
Riding the creative crest
Holding up the managerial sky
Celebrating the difference
Managing Middle India’s Golden Lady
Wooing vibrant India’s Wonder Woman
Rural women – how strong is their ‘spending say’?
Is the serial woman tellying it like it is?


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