Wooing vibrant India’s Wonder Woman

13 Mar,2012


By Ritu Midha


Indian women can by no stretch of the imagination be defined as a homogeneous market – it is heterogeneous. And the distinction cannot be made merely on the basis of their socio-economic status or the town class they belong to.


TNS – GEMS February 2012 issue has a very interesting observation about a BoP (Bottom of Pyramid) 19-year-old girl, who saves from her small lunch allowance so that she can buy a tube of Neutrogena moisturiser. Surprised? The Indian woman consumer indeed is changing behaviourally, and the marketers are trying their best to understand her.


Affirming the new shift being observed, Praveen Malhotra, EVP – Sales & Revenue, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited states, “There is a paradigm over here – women are making decisions and yet they are being dismissed. The evolution is significant not just because women are waking up to discover their identities, it is also because of the way the social order is changing in our country – the place of women is enlarging in our families. However it’s a dichotomous situation; it is happening and yet women are trapped in difficult life situations of being dominated.”


Truly, the Indian woman has evolved, and the traditional boundaries are breaking – she is taking charge of family shopping and expenditure across the board. However the pace of change is much faster in India A than India B.


Segmenting women by town class

Even today, the pace of life is quite different in a metro like Delhi and a smaller city like Agra. Does this mean that consumers in Delhi and Agra are very different as far as consumer patterns are concerned?


Punitha Arumugam, Group CEO, Madison Media disagrees. She says, “More than segmenting women basis geography, it is important to segment them by mindset or aspiration or representative clusters. For example, a homemaker in a small town in Karnataka and a homemaker in Mahim – Mumbai may be very similar. However, despite being based in Mumbai as a geographical unit, a homemaker in Nariman Point may be vastly different from the said homemaker in Mahim. This dilution of geographies and convergence of aspirations across borders has, to a large extent, been driven by mediums like television and mobiles.”


Women in smaller towns aspire to be like their metro counterparts – however, the traditions are still stronger in smaller towns, and the lifestyles differ as metros have more working women than smaller towns. Divya Gupta, CEO, Dentsu Media elaborates, “A distinction born out of the fact that a typical metro woman is more likely to work out of home, leading to greater confidence, empowerment and equality coupled with greater time pressures! These factors have a direct influence on her purchase decisions and behaviour. However, the aspiration to succeed is universal. And media is a great equaliser; today product and brand awareness is ubiquitous across towns big and small. The needs and style might vary.”


It is, nevertheless, important to understand, how different actually is the middle India woman (marketers’ new muse) from the metro woman.


Women in middle India

While the traditional role of male has not really changed much, that of the woman has seen a change of several generations in one decade – very similar to India’s economic growth story.


Anita Kotwani, Principal Partner – Client Leadership, Mindshare defines the middle India woman succinctly stating, “She is the loving wife, the doting mother, if working she balances her home and personal life. She is committed to the institution of marriage and family. She is conscious of the changing environment, is aware of brands and is social online and off-line as well. She realises the importance that technology is playing today and wants to ensure that her kids today are internet savvy and ready for the future.”


Very similar to the metro woman in many aspects, yet very different in many others. Anita Nayyar, CEO – India & South Asia, Havas Media, makes an attempt to demystify her. Says she, “Yes, the psychographics of a metro woman and a middle India woman are different. You will observe a lot of differences emerging, interestingly portrayed in the GEC channel soaps. Metro woman is modern and forward-looking, while middle India woman is not so modern but is becoming forward-looking.”


As for what lies beneath the change, and how it has impacted the women in middle India, Shubha George, Chief Operating Officer, South Asia, MEC reflects, “The woman living in middle India is certainly more evolved today as she has more access to information. They have greater access to telecommunication, retail, media including the Internet and this has begun to narrow the gap with metropolitan India, even if it is early stages yet. Apart from the more obvious consumption pattern changes, this information explosion has intrinsically made middle India women aspire for more – especially when it comes to their children and what opportunities they make available for their children.”


Marketing to women in middle India

Middle India woman, then has different sensitivities, though she might be very similar to metro women on several fronts. Do the marketers need a different marketing strategy to reach them or don’t they? States Anita Kotwani, “One does need to have differentiated marketing strategy for women in middle India. They are different in their values – what makes them tick might vary from the metro women. Their realities may be different however, their aspirations and expectations might be similar.”


So while the marketing strategy may need an element of differentiation, does the communication strategy too need to be different? Ambika Srivastava, Chairperson, ZenithOptimedia India and Chairperson, VivaKi Exchange believes that it would be foolhardy to formulate a rule here and apply it across brands and product categories. She says, “It depends on the positioning of the brand, and Insights the communication is based on. If the communication is about the universal truth – or a specific emotional need like safety, love, and need to nurture – it might work across the board.” However, she cautions, “Context may need to change, dependent on what the product or brand is. You have to be extremely relevant.”


A brand’s need to reach out to middle India women might vary in intensity based on the product category it belongs to. While an upmarket automobile brand might be happy targeting the metro women, in case of a new detergent variant, it might not be the case. Says Basabdutta Chaudhary, CEO, Platinum Media, “Especially for FMCG, we by and large target the middle India woman. Especially in television, GECs, celebrities, Bollywood are the major contributors to overall media spends.”


Sudha Natrajan, CEO, Lintas Media, believes that television, by far, is the best medium to reach the middle Indian woman. However, she makes an interesting and accurate observation about men being involved in the purchase decisions as well. She avers, “Out of home entertainment avenues being restricted, they can be reached almost completely through television. Also, where the evening primetime is concerned, soaps have dual viewership of the husband as well as the wife. It is important to reach the man of the house too, as he definitely has a say, or even ends up purchasing items of daily or frequent consumption in the house.”


Having said that, while the woman might not be the real buyer, she does influence the purchase decisions and is the most important influencer. Marketers would thus ignore her in their marketing plans at their own peril.


As per a study, about 85 per cent of the purchase decisions are taken by women in the United States of America. Our experts, however, are unanimous that the percentage of women taking purchase decisions in India is much lower. However, the numbers sure are increasing and across the categories. States Arumugam, “The era of looking at women as decision makers only for low-cost FMCG products is long over. Marketers across categories, be it finance, automobiles, telecom, durables etc have been targeting women as key influencers, if not the actual decision-maker on their brand, for quite some time.”


In semi-urban and rural areas the story is a wee bit different – as the male is still the actual buyer of products in most categories. Affirms Sudha Natrajan, “Percentage of women taking purchase decisions is definitely lower in India. In semi-urban and rural areas, even FMCGs and groceries are bought by the man of the house. But having said that there has definitely been a rise in the power and control that the woman – who used to be the housewife – is now having, as she is evolving into being a homemaker.”


Increase in the average income of working woman is indeed an important factor. In addition to it, there are several other socio-cultural factors that come into play, as explained by Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar Universal. “With the change in household patterns, the decision making process is changing too. Now we have far more nuclear families with no senior citizens; smaller family sizes – DINKs and single child trend. Also, what is observed os that women are staying away from home for education and career and there has also been an increase in the divorce rate and number of singles over the years. With smaller size families, the decision process is also becoming more inclusive. Hence the traditional demarcation or the edges are no longer sharp.”


What does this augur for marketers? Do they need to opt for gender specific marketing and advertising, or does it not really matter?


Gender-specific advertising

One can continue to put forward assumptions or theories on gender specific advertising but there will always be varied outcomes that will evolve. Divya Radhakrishnan, MD, Helios Media, for one stresses on the need for gender specific marketing, “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. The comprehension, rationalisation and attention getting capabilities for women are very different from men. Across age groups, there is a stark differentiation in behaviour and therefore it is critical to have gender specific marketing strategies. The differentiation begins right from Pink vs Blue to Barbie vs. Nerf guns.”


And she has an emphatic endorser in Madhuri Sapru, W-I-C, Encyclomedia Networks. States Sapru, “There are numerous products being used by women that need to have a women centric marketing strategy. Whether it should be women sales ladies handling footwear sales to women (I have never seen a female shoe saleswoman) – do men even know what women are looking for in footwear other than to say the size is right, or even more strangely “aap pehen ke chaloge toh loose ho jayega, phir fit theek rahega!” – or even a script for a telemarketer: they seem to have standard scripts which always address a customer as “sir” – whatever happened to the purchasing power of women?”


Divya Gupta meanwhile opines that gender specific marketing strategy is a given for product categories specifically meant for ‘her’ – like makeup or skincare products, however, her involvement in purchase decisions now goes much beyond that. She elaborates, “Responsibilities and role-play between genders overlap; increasingly so today. Gender specific marketing and strategy is restricted today to only those categories meant exclusively for either gender. Our society is changing, more so in the metros/ larger towns, where increasing number of women work out of home. Given multiple responsibilities, pressure and paucity of time, decision-making, be it purchase decisions or related to the children’s education is now mutual and shared.”


The belief is that it needs to be a strategy of inclusion rather than exclusion of either gender for most product categories – and it holds true especially in the case of metros and larger towns. States Nandini Dias, “We have moved away from demographic targeting to segmentation and relevance. In smaller towns there will be certain instruments within the finance category, or computer peripherals or cements etc where the focus on women will be almost negligible. But in larger towns, right from durables to finance to education…women are expected to participate and hence are addressed.”


Internet on their radar

Since the last year-and-a-half, brands targeting women have acknowledged the power of the internet. From Whisper sanitary napkins and Johnson’s baby care to high-profile fashion designers, internet is becoming an unavoidable tool to each and every marketer today.


There is a dogged optimism that in the times to come, Internet consumption by Indian women would increase manifold, and there indeed is a need for marketers to gear up. Anamika Mehta opines, “The ratio of women:men users in 2001 was 10:90. From there on, today the ratio has risen to 35:65. Even in terms of time spent on internet, an average female user spends more time and consumes more pages than the male counterparts. With higher penetration of home PCs, their numbers are set to increase.”


Women are indeed the growth drivers of internet usage today. Though the user base is small at the moment, the percentage growth is quite substantial. States Shubha George, “The YoY growth among women is over 30 per cent whereas it is just 3 per cent among men. Working and non-working women between age group 15-34 years across metros and tier 2 cities are the primary reason for increase in internet consumption in India. Of course, students constitute a critical chunk as well.”


However, the efficiency of the internet in reaching a wide target female group is still questionable. Asserts Sudha Natarajan, “The penetration of the digital medium amongst women users still stands at about 30 per cent, that too in urban India. There are other mediums that give better ROI. This medium only reaches about 2-3 per cent of the total female Indian population as of now.”


Women and brands

Coming to the most important questions of them all, what the brands need to do for women to purchase their brands or influence their husband to do so? Explains Alpana Parida, President, DY Works, Mumbai “The first thing to keep in mind is to stop talking down to them. Brands see women as caricatures of themselves as the woman who waits for her husband’s smile or for children to say she is the best. No doubt these are important payoffs in a woman’s life – but brands tend to make simplistic associations. To truly earn their loyalty and advocacy – brands need to understand the women more deeply. Understand their layered dreams and unfulfilled desires, help her achieve than become her savior. For instance, Maggi allows her to add her own creativity and thus, nutrition to the basic noodles rather than wait for the beaming smiles of her kids.”


Adds Madhuri Sapru, “Other than for women’s personal products, marketers have barely started “marketing” (and I don’t mean just a media plan skewed towards day time audiences) to women. We do not have any media isolation opportunities created as yet, and hence it is difficult for marketers to communicate to them in isolation.”


Brands indeed acknowledge the value of engaging female consumers – increase in their purchasing and decision-making powers has not gone unnoticed. Last five years have seen a huge increase in product categories and brands (beyond FMCG) specifically targeting women – including computers, mobile phones and financial products.



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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