Paneer selling, paratha munching, lassi gulping, bhangra performing, romancing in sarso ke khet and  vrooming on tractors is a common picture that most of us derive of Punjab and Sikhs. Only while working on a Punjab related project did I stumble upon the fact that most of us living in the west, east or south of India have a very myopic vision about this sensitive state and its people. They sure do come across as a happy clan, who is fed well given their physique and can break into a folk song at a drop of their hat but the reality of their plight is deep rooted and is affected by layers of catastrophes that is hidden behind their cheerful yet gallant attitude to life.

It started with invasions of ancient empires of Persian, Greek and Afghan origin coupled with Alexander’s attempt to attack and the British Raj. This followed by the brutal division of the state during Partition, followed by yet another split of the state forming Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Then came upon the worse bloody tragedy- Operation Bluestar, attacking a faiths most holiest shrine, remains a topic of great controversy and bitterness in many parts of society.  Whilst history has not been kind to the people of Punjab this fertile state still remains home to some of the world’s richest civilizations

Today the Punjab we see and form an opinion of is influenced by the dream merchants of Yash Raj Studios and Adlabs. Munda, makhna, soni, rab, kudi, mauja, tussi, puttar, chak de every second Hindi film is peppered with Punjabi. It started with Raj and Simran flirting in mustard fields, dutifully applying mehendi, observing karva chauth and doing bhangra, this has led to a burst of Punjabification phenomena from Jab We Met, Veer Zara, Dil Bole Hadippa to Love Aaj Kal and Rocket Singh. Bollywood has become a site and carrier of celebration of shared Punjabi culture, with leading producers and directors having found something of a formula for success by including Punjabi cultural themes.The image of the mighty Sardar has been transformed in this new enterprise of Punjabi celebration: no longer presented a buffoon, the Singh is now a King, powerful, smart sexy and glamorous.

The stark paradox of the dark days in the life of Punjabi people and the Punjabi hybrid shown in movies today makes me me wonder what keeps this community in such high spirits and always ready for a ‘Khuth Ke Jhaphi’?

Priyanka Shah,
GM Strategy
DY Works


The ‘Un’targeted Luxury Consumer of India

Studies show that the Luxury market of India is a fast growing segment with an impressive 25% expected rate of growth. Obviously brands around the world are seeing a lot of rich people in India who have the money and inclination to buy expensive brands. People who would have the affordability and propensity to buy the Louis Vuittons, the Armanis and the Rolexs of the world.

So who are these people?

Rich industrialists, Wealthy Business families, Senior Executive(CEOs, CFOs etc) with high pay packages, living in the Metros. Basically, people living in South Mumbai and South Delhi. Wow, targeting a captive audience should never have been easier, just open a store in a prime location in South Mumbai/Delhi and you’re sorted.

But is that the complete picture? With numerous new brands coming into the country, can a niche consumer base drive high growth? Or are we missing something?

Research points towards the emergence of finer consumer segments as the potential luxury market. Luxury in India is seeing a new customer base in the increasingly wealthy upper middle-class of Tier 2/3 cities. It is the symbol of an increasingly dynamic and vibrant luxury market that transcends India’s ‘old money’. It is the rise of a confident consumer class, powered with new money, which is looking for identifiable social markers to impress upon their new status.

A new segment brings its own idiosyncrasies to the category. While the Metros remain the image leaders, theses consumer bases from middle India are inadvertently forming new codes of Luxury for themselves. Let’s look at a few

Bling it all the way!!

The Idea of an expensive gift for son-in-law is a gold rimmed watch. Opulent interiors mean chandeliers and brocaded upholstery. The notion of expensive Saree is not determined by its designer label as much as how ‘heavy’ it looks.    

While the big city consumers are moving towards subtlety, matted-metals and subdued colors, Bling still catches the imagination of middle India and they are not shy to show-it-off at all!

The bedazzling shine of gold and silver are their easiest way to say that ‘we are doing better than the others’.  The louder and overt the message, the better it works for the consumer.

The Fusion that always works

Corset Cholis, Halter Saree Blouses, Indian Chinese, Doughnut as mithai, Sushi for Ganpati celebrations.  Be it food, music, apparel or Lifestyle, the blend of Indian and Western is the most accepted among this class. It might not be ok to wear a bare shouldered gown but a backless blouse with a saree is absolutely cool. The Indianization of Western products is a way this consumer tries and accepts new things

The tendency points towards their inherent dilemma between the desire to try new/global/modern ideas while not letting go of the cultural, accepted, conventional ways.

Money for Value

The New Hyundai Verna is leading the category of Sedan class cars. And the prime reason articulated by consumers is its long list of luxury features.

No matter how wealthy the consumer becomes, the utilitarian middle class mindset compels to seek more value in everything. While brand names and their aura can lure them, but better functionality, more features, has and will always help in converting attention into product purchase. Especially true for all gadgets/technical products, where one more new and different feature can become its point of differentiation.

While the above themes are just tip of the iceberg, a complete understandings of the ‘New India’ consumer can help Luxury brands create focused products and communication for this segment and increase their brand reach many folds. The question is are the LVs, Armanis, Guccis listening!

Runjhun Pacholi
AGM – Strategy
DY Works


The Gift of Love

As a people, we recycle everything, particularly gifts. We gift transactionally– marking the ‘importance’ and the social status of the recipients, keep track of what others give (indeed there are notebooks devoted to that) so that we can reciprocate appropriately and are only just learning to carry gifts with us at dinner parties. Traditionally, we have carried good wishes and not measured relationships with the value of gifts.

In our literature, popular culture or mythology, there are no stories of joyous gifting. There is ‘dakshina’ given to the guru or the mendicant, there is the boon that is granted to the devotee, the dowry that is brought by the bride or the ‘stree-dhan’ gifted by her parents, the gift from the brother for Rakhi, the new clothes bought and the ‘business gifting’ during Diwali – all are structured and proportioned by the occasion and the recipient.
Birthday gifts are an accepted norm now for perhaps one or two living generations and are a ‘learned’ phenomenon like the birthday party and the birthday cake. There is nothing in our culture that suggests spontaneous, joyous gifting that marks an outpouring of love.

Indeed, there is no Indian festival that celebrates ‘Love’. Not in the way Valentine’s Day does. As a society, we have been at odds with an overt expression of love and have sought to bury it in the transactional.The only Indian festival that comes close to this romantic notion of love is KarvaChauth, where a woman prays for her husband’s longevity. Love, here, is couched in the transactional. It is a prayer by the woman so that she may be cared for all her life. Her identity and well-being comes from the man in her life and on his death she could be destitute. Thus, the whispered blessings of “Akhand Soubhagyavat”i or “may you die before your husband” are what every bride receives.This is the Indian construct of love, submerged in carefully constructed societal boundaries.  Love traditionally, is measured, circumspect and if unleashed, met with Anarkali like consequences.

Deconstructing love, we see why it is such an addictive yet elusive emotion. Firstly, it truly blooms when it is given as it is received. (Unrequited love is a lonely and bitter place). Being loved makes a nobody into a somebody. Recognition, being singled out, being made to feel special and being accepted unconditionally (in the first throes of love at least) are gratifications that deeply resonate with the human psyche. Love is the ultimate celebration of the human condition and reportedly, the joy of the first flush is unparalleled in life. In every language in the world, people ‘fall’ or ‘slip’ in love, they become ‘mad’ and are ‘inflamed’. While this may be a transient state – it is what pushes people ‘headlong’ while throwing all ‘caution to the winds’. Love gives extraordinary courage to defy emperors or ‘Khaps’, overcome social norms and communal boundaries and transcend the ordinary, the banal. Love is the giving of oneself, of a total surrender of one’s wishes and desires to the other. It is entirely giving.

A gift is the perfect symbol of love. A true gift is giving joyously without the expectation of receiving.  When life settles into the humdrum – besieged by met and unmet expectations of lovers and the protagonists become ordinary people, a gift is symbolic of the depth of feeling that is not so overt anymore. The selflessness of love is perfectly epitomized by the joy of gifting. The success of Valentine’s Day is just that – a ritualistic marker to the affirmation of love.

In India, while the notion of love has changed and courtships and love marriages are increasingly common; we are only just learning to gift in love. In the US, 70% of jewellery sales are due to gifting by the man. In India, it is less than 15%. Overall, gifting accounts for 20-40% of retail sales in the US, depending on the category; and Valentine’s Day is a significant economic engine.

Valentine’s Day has enormous potential in India – as our definition of love changes, new rituals can be designed. The savvy marketers should leverage this opportunity to build brands based on gifting. Not just Valentine’s Day, we also need to understand the potential of KarvaChauth. The romanticization of the festival by the Johars and Chopras has made it pan-Indian, pan-gender (it is practiced by my Muslim friend and his half-Bengali, half-British wife) which allows for it to be leveraged as the Indian Valentine’s Day. The motifs of KarvaChauth are the crescent moon, a mesh, a reflection in water. What can be more romantic? This could be the day symbolically marked by exchanged gifts.

Given our Hinglish lives, with wedding sangeet and reception with cocktails or hors d’oeuvres that include chicken tikka, both festivals can become a part of our lives. As marketers, we can ‘brand’ these with symbols and rituals, myths and stories. Valentine’s Day has a clear visual language. The color red and the symbol of hearts are easily recognizable. What is the color of KarvaChauth? The symbols are not universal designs that are iconized in our consciousness. This needs to be done in a concerted manner by branding agencies, retailers and industry bodies such as CII.

Festivals are economic engines and both the western and the Indian Valentine’s Days are rife with growth potential.

AlpanaParida is President of DY Works , a leading brand strategy and design firm.