What Ticks for Indian Consumers/ Women -Harish Bijoor and Lynn de Souza

21 Aug,2014

Continuing with our extracts from the second edition of the MxMIndia Annual, we present contributions by Harish Bijoor and Lynn de Souza.



Death of gender ahead


By Harish Bijoor


Study the advertising of a nation, and you understand its people. I follow this diktat to the core when I study a nation, its culture, its peoples, and its brand and marketing formats. Advertising used by the marketers of a nation reveals more than hides. While the reality is that consumers must define advertising, advertising often defines consumers as well. However, on more occasions than most, advertising of a nation is a great barometer of its people and their resultant consumer behaviour patterns.


The current topic at hand is the changing consumer behaviour patterns we see and what we will witness in the coming years right up to 2020. The focus is women. As complex as it gets!


Consumer behaviour patterns among women in India have changed radically and continually over the last nine decades and more. The earliest decade of it all saw literally no participation by women in what they bought. In the early twenties, if you were to peek into the life of your grandmother or great grandmother for that matter, women just did not show themselves to be active buyers at all. The woman sat at home, and consumed just about anything that the man and men of the house brought in. There was indeed a time when it was taboo for a woman in early India to go to the corner grocer even. Women just did not expose themselves to the retailer at large. Never mind that the retailer at the corner was related to you in some way of the other. Women expressed their choice to their husbands and brothers and fathers and the men bought. At times bought tailoring everything to their own choice even.


Women came into their own in terms of expressing choice and articulating it all in purchase behaviour of every kind much, much later. In many ways, the way marriages were and are conducted in India says it all. The women had little choice in the men they chose to marry. More often than not, “purchase behaviour” here was dictated as well.



The dark ages of social media in India


By Lynn de Souza


Run a Google search for ‘Women in India’. It will throw up the following links: ‘the status of Indian women’; ‘safety of Indian women in cities’; ‘freedom from gender bias’; ‘harassment of Indian women’, ‘Women in India: Goddesses or sluts?’


All of these links will lead to contributions by men, sadly reflective of a malaise that is still very prevalent even in the rapidly growing and highly contemporary digital universe. Two facts are evident. One, that the Indian woman’s voice in popular media is still muffled, and two, when spoken about, the content pertains to her protection rather than her progress.


India has nearly 60 million women internet users. This is more than the entire populations of Spain or South Africa! Yet, women account only for 40 per cent of India’s internet users, a far lower ratio than seen in most other countries. A recent IAMAI study does show a healthy trend however – that housewives and college girls do account for the maximum growth in the digital universe in the past one year.


On an average, women speak 13,000 words more than men a day, says a research conducted by University of Maryland School of Medicine. By this statistic, the woman’s voice should be better heard on social media platforms. We are after all natural networkers, gatherers of information and builders of communities. Yet, our representation and influence in social media isn’t anything to speak of. A recent Pinstorm survey revealed that there are just four women among the top 20 social media influencers today, and all of them are from Bollywood. Women are more ‘seen’ than ‘heard’ on social media. To have social media influence therefore in India, a glamorous persona seems to be a prerequisite.



Today however, things are a bit different. Love marriages are in vogue, and a woman literally has the choice to marry anyone, just as long as they are of the opposite sex and are human. As this trend cascades, consumer behaviour among women gets more accentuated, articulated and driving in its motion. Marketers today study consumer behaviour patterns among women differently as opposed to that among men and children.

The years ahead in the tenure 2014-20 will see dramatic changes in the consumer behaviour patterns as articulated by women. Expect lots. Expect the woman to be getting more and more ‘I, me and myself ” centric than she is today. Today she is the benign mother, wife, daughter and daughter-in-law, overseeing everyone’s happiness. Expect this trend to shift more to the “I”. This will have women looking to buy products and services that are leveraged to their personal choices more than aggregated family choices.


Expect women to destroy and decimate the paradigm think of many a marketers. Expect the woman to stop thinking the same old pinks and bright-yellows in colour choices, whether it is clothes, auto, microwaves or fans. Expect women to exhibit consumer behaviour that is that much more “non-womanly”. Expect radical shifts here. Expect lots!


Expect the woman to be making many more decisions on her own as well. She will decide on which mini-skirt to buy, just as she will decide on how short or long it must be. She will decide as well on which car to buy, which Insurance product to latch onto and which bank to operate an account out of.


However, expect 2020 to erase much of this gender divide as well.


Man today is seen to be the calculative one, and women are seen to be the impulsive ones. Marketers and advertisers don’t want to break this imagery up, as it divides the sexes and their dominant appeals clearly. Any attempt to bring fuzziness here, will result in confusion. Marketers and advertisers are in many ways postponing the inevitable, one ad at a time! The death of the differentiator between the genders is going to happen, later than sooner. But till it exists, reap it to your advantage. And guess what, both the genders love it. As of now.




– The author is a brand expert & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. You can follow him on Twitter: @harishbijoor



One key reason for our inconspicuous social media presence could be that Indian women as a collective have traditionally been more socially reserved than their western counterparts. Modesty has been a desired quality. Women today are breaking out of this mould and adopting a different world view. We have entered every sphere of male dominance, and rightly seek a place in the forefront at par with men. This is especially true in urban India. But as all change, this too is facing resistance. As a result, unfortunately, there have been many jarring, disruptive aberrations in our society, with dire consequences.And, fittingly, our pitch is rising in social media, and must continue to. What better platform to reach out to millions and billions of people keen to watch our every move? Social media lends itself very well to activism.


In the wake of the recent brutal gang rapes both in New Delhi and Mumbai, a lot of opinion, action, and support were mobilized for women’s safety through social media platforms. One of the pioneering social media campaigns in India on violence against women, the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign, was started by a woman in 2009, which received an overwhelming response. It went viral and how! The Pink Breast Cancer movement is also one of the most successful pitches in social media.

There is yet another unexpected breed of social media users that easily escapes public attention. They, in fact, top the list of users. Women homemakers are using social media’s reach and power to make a mark as entrepreneurs, bloggers and tutors among other things. There are more Indian women using LinkedIn, than their global counterparts. While most of the internet users in India are under 35, among women the 35-44 years age group has indicated heavy usage points out digital analytics firm, comScore. This has always been an excellent target audience for advertisers, and there is no limit to how they can influence views if they raise their voice on social media. In general, research shows that Indians tend to spend their time online on Facebook games, apps and viewing photographs.


This can hamper meaningful social engagement online. It could well be because more than 70 per cent of internet users in India are under the age of 35, compared to just over half, worldwide. This gives even more credence to encourage the voice of the significant, yet overlooked women users. It would take one far, to pay attention to the women. In an era of social media and global connection, there is only more opportunity to have a voice and reach out to people with a global perspective and make a difference.


– With inputs from Deepa Krishnan.


Tomorrow (Aug 22): Geetanjali Bhattacharji and Ritu Gupta



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