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Team of Industrial Engineers

INSIGHTS LIBRARY

Real Women. Real Beauty. Real Lives

This March 8th it’s important to remember that we need more than a celebratory day to bring ‘real change’ for women around us!  We had over a hundred extensive conversations with Urban women (NCCS A,B) in 2024 as part of our work as human behavior experts and insight miners supporting marketers.

Here are our 5 key observations:





1.     ‘Glow and lovely’ still rules


In most of our conversations with women, physical appearance remained key to her identity. However, the modern woman is pragmatic and savvy enough to appreciate that she could enhance or improve their natural skin tone rather than become ‘fair’.  So, the much talked about change by ‘Fair & Lovely’ is less about a fundamental shift in women’s desire for being fair and lovely but a delayed response to changing sensibilities of women.


‘Being fair, having a clear glass-like skin are the first things people notice about you.  What else your achievements, being beautiful always helps.’ 20year old, NCCA, student in Mumbai student, aspiring to become an airhostess.

 

I know I have dark skin, but I do hope to improve my complexion by removing the effect of tanning and pollution. It impacts both one’s own self-perception but also provides social confidence’ 33year old, homemaker from Vijayawada married to an IT professional; mother to an 8-yr-old son.




2.   ‘A complete woman’ is a norm vs an exception.

 

In a society which upholds traditional family values, single, divorced women are still subject to scrutiny by most women we met. Most women across income strata’s, defined a woman to be truly successful when she had a built a happy home, before anything else.  For example, women like ‘Malaika Arora’ were admired for their fitness but also perceived to be standing out for their bold life choices.

 

I admire Malaika for her fitness despite her age. She is bold and not afraid to make her choices and hence not liked by all’.  27year old, NCCS B homemaker from Nagpur who follows Maliaka Arora for her fitness videos.

 

‘I like Shilpa Shetty as she always looks so good. She shares healthy recipes, and yoga videos She is happily married and a mom and a star’. A 34 years old, NCCS A3, homemaker living in a joint family in Jaipur.


3.    Real beauty is not about celebrating imperfection.

 

A lot of talk around ‘real beauty’ is about being natural, which means accepting oneself as one is, including all “imperfections”. In our conversations, however, “natural” was seen in conjunction to “no make-up” and ‘real beauty’ expanded to include traditional values.


Alia Bhatt and Shilpa Shetty emerged as most popular role models cutting across states with their ‘authentic or natural’ beauty and they had a ‘family oriented’, ‘Indian’ persona in comparison to some of their more glamorous contemporaries.  




Alia looks good always. She looks good without makeup and with simple clothes as well’.  We heard it from young girls and women alike.


Most women looked up to ‘simpler & traditionally dressed’ women and these values were seen as manifestations of ’real beauty’.  However, there were a few mentions of personality and achievements as a mark of true beauty.

 

‘Apart from your looks, your smile, your friendly personality can make you attractive too.’  A 20 year old from Nashik, who is an engineering student living in a nuclear family.


‘I admire Manushi Chhillar because she came from humble roots and made a name for herself’. A 23 year old working as an IT executive in Nagpur, whose father is an auto driver.


4.   Forget the woman wearing pants, the man often wears the saree too.

 

In our work with the lower middle class or those earning 20-50 thousand a month as a household we found that the man was taking decisions even when it came to grocery purchase. While it came out of their need to run a very tight ship and manage the household budget, it did reflect on the ‘lower degrees of a financial freedom’ a woman had as one goes down the pop strata.  

 

‘I decide and order for the family while my wife tells me what is finished. Not everything may be required to be bought immediately. We see our budget and plan our shopping.’  A small shopkeeper of a spare parts shop in Lucknow. Wife is Anganwadi teacher.


Of course, the other end of the spectrum is women not taking their finances in their own hands, even when highly qualified and leading strong careers, as evident from the strong community that ‘Basis’ a fintech startup has managed to create. Managing money and taking charge of household income is seen to be ‘man’s work’ by women basis centuries of conditioning.


5.    Real life ‘Divas’ able to pursue a passion.

 

Last year we had done work with the elite top 5% of India and could see the shift in women role models in this section. A Diva was someone who looked a million bucks, ideally earned a million bucks while having an adorable family. Mamaearth’s Ghazal Alagh, Nykaa’s Falguni Nayyar were the emerging role models.


Amongst the mass Indian audience, we saw the shades of a ‘Diva’ in women finding avenues to express their individual identities, if only in a small way. These are women fortunate to get support from their eco system, especially if their efforts supplemented the family’s income.

 

Dolly Jain's journey from being a housewife to becoming a celebrity saree draper for top stars like Deepika Padukone is an example here but there are many such happy stories aided by platforms like Youtube and Instagram.  The startup Alippo saw huge growth during Covid with homemakers taking on their courses to learn skills like bakery, soap making etc.

 

Shark Tank 3 saw a D2C pickle brand Jhaji by two Darbhanga women, Kalpana Jha and Uma Jha, with the support of the son, who had a technology degree and helped them in marketing and distribution of their brand of traditional Bihari pickles.


So, what can we do?

 

We have a long way to making our society safe, changing deep-seated social norms, and providing equal opportunities to women.  It's imperative as individuals and responsible marketers to lead this agenda in a way that’s authentic to us and our brands. We must:

 

1. Lead by example: Be a role model for equality and empowerment in our own actions and decisions, demonstrating the value of women's contributions and capabilities in all aspects of life. Communities like Leap.club, and D&I initiatives across corporates can be used to make a difference by each one of us.


2. Challenge stereotypes: Speaking up against stereotypes and biases that perpetuate inequality as a marketing community. The recent Urban Company film highlighting dignity of labor via its "Chhota Kaam films" is a great example of a brand building its core equity, earning love of their service partners and consumers while speaking up against inherent social biases.


3. Amplify: As brands and marketers, we can take the lead in promoting a more inclusive and diverse representation of women.  The diverse array of brands coming forward to sponsor WPL 2024 and the viewership trends are testament to the power of brands to lead the way and amplify the India we want to create.




Let’s celebrate March 8th, 2024 with introspection and make a conscious effort to be the change we want to see around us, not just today but every day of the year!










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