The post- independence period in India saw a lot of focus on the topic of women in India. We have seen a multifold of change from a social and economic point of view towards the Indian women. The below article gives a glimpse of the changing avatar of the 'woman' in India

The stereotyped Indian woman 

The typical Indian woman was stereotyped to be traditional, caring, putting family before herself, very active (read “on her toes morning to evening” with unending supply of energy). She was expected to be talented in cooking and art and be the know-all about her house and the family. She would sleep after everyone in the house and wakeup before everyone (even before sunrise).

It was every woman’s endeavor to be the ideal housewife, ideal daughter-in-law and an ideal mother. She wouldn’t think twice before sacrificing her choice, wish, dream, ambition, passion for her family.

The breaking of the stereotype

While the change in her attitude is gradual, the Indian woman has started opening up. Her priorities are changing from being available at home at all times to being social.

In an urban setup, we see this change in attitude taking place rapidly; where we see that the woman is willing to juggle between work and life, herself and her family. She is now willing to explore opportunities and experiences outside of her home, with her group of friends or colleagues, or even in social circles of mums with kids of similar age as hers.

This change, however, is gradual in a rural or semi urban setup. In smaller towns, we see smaller groups of women gathering every month - they call it Mahila Mandals. She actively participates in such social gatherings in her neighborhood. She is now finding her slices of freedom at such meetings, exploring new interests or participating in various programs run by companies in her locality, for instance being Shakti Ammas (of HUL Shakti initiative) etc – needless to say, at no compromises with family.

The Indian woman is thus seen to be aspiring to make an impression in the society she belongs to and to even fulfill her own dreams.

Today’s mother has also become very progressive. She has come a long way from being just a caretaker and protector of her child. She now challenges and pushes her child to explore newer activities, challenges in life. The ongoing Bournvita ad – Tayaari Jeet ki – elicits this changing trend in Indian moms.

She understands today’s competition and wants her child to be prepared at every step in life. Her endeavor to expose them to various activities, arts, sports, music, literature etc and every form of knowledge and training there is. More parents are sending their kids to global schools for better exposure and a career - this is evident from the number of students willing to fly abroad for studies and thus the hike in the education loans business.

Factors leading this change

Various social and economic factors have enabled this change in the Indian woman.

Literacy is one of the biggest factors and an important indicator of economic development. Literacy in India has improved by almost 9% (as per Population Census of India 2011) in the last 10 years, with female literacy rate being 65.46%. Education is accessible to more and more families now.

It has helped in evolution of various social and cultural behaviors towards girls. What was very difficult to be accepted in the Indian society is now becoming more acceptable – be it the late marriages/ remarriages of girls or acceptance of women in both white collar or blue collar jobs and even seeing them as business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Other social stigmas for woman around marriage, children and work are evolving which too has helped bring the change in social behavior towards women. This is reinforced in a recent ad by the jewellery brand Tanishq which features the wedding of a young mother -

Economics has helped bring alive this change as well since the Indian woman is getting more financial independence too.  She is no more dependent on her family or spouse for financial support and thus, does not fear to take decisions or at least voice her opinion for herself as well as her family.

Technology has also enabled woman from a connectivity point of view - Mobile usage for easy access with family and work helps her in her endeavor to multitask and take up opportunities away from home

Media –the change influencer

This story of woman empowerment is supported and influenced by popular media and cinema too. Be it through television serials namely Diya aur Baati Hum (story of a daughter in law from a conservative family background chasing her dream of becoming an IPS officer) or Balika Vadhu (about child marriage and remarriage of your daughter in law in a rural society) or even through Bollywood flicks like Kahaani (revenge by a wife for her husband’s death in a male dominated setup), English Vinglish (on a housewife learning English speaking skills to stop her family mocking her and gaining respect for self) and the likes.


The branding perspective

From a branding perspective, brands with a new outlook and an evolving take on her would resonate more with this aspiring woman – be it the Nirma women or Surf Excel mom or the Lacto Calamine lady.

Brand Nirma beautifully captures the breaking of  an archetypal woman. The ad showcases the brevity of 4 inspiring women who come forth to help an ambulance stuck in a pothole, putting all the men watching them in shame


The fearless, ever encouraging Surf Excel mom who empowers her child to have fun and be outwardly helpful by liberating him of all the possible setbacks

Lacto Calamine - This ad showcases a simple yet bold lady who forces the running crowded bus to halt and move back to the bus stop so that the old couple
can get in. It reinforces that the erstwhile gullible, fragile and protected lady is now tough, assertive and stands up to protect the needy

Though the values of the Indian women have not changed, there is a dramatic shift in her attitude, even leading to role reversals with men in many cases. She is redefining her desires and is not shying away to voice them in light of the changing and ever evolving world around her. Brands that can relate to this changing avatar of the Indian woman would be the clear winners, for being best able to connect with the new HER!

Snehal Agrawal,
Sr Marketing Manager,
Unilever Team,
DY Works

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