Indian, foreign firms eye growing Indian gay marketJuly 3rd, 2011 - 12:45 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) T-shirts and mugs with cheesy slogans, targeted marketing campaigns and even a specialised travel boutique… gays might still be taboo in much of India but not for companies innovating to tap the growing purchasing power of the queer community.
Two years after the Delhi High Court decriminalised homosexuality, the gay community has increasingly been asserting its right and firms have been quick to take the cue.
On July 2, 2009, the Delhi High Court struck down provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, stating that it violated the fundamental right of life and liberty and the right to equality as guaranteed in the constitution. It was a turning point in the lives of many gays, some reasserting their rights with greater authority and others taking the first steps out of the closet.
And this is the niche market that is sought to be explored.
“The size and rapid rate of development makes India an attractive target market to a wide range of brands selling diverse goods and services,” Ian Johnson, chief executive of global consultancy firm OutNowConsulting.com told IANS.
The London-based consultancy firm has been conducting surveys across the globe on the product and lifestyle choices of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and provides advice to international companies like Lufthansa, IBM, Toyota, Citibank and Barclays on catering to this category of consumers.
According to Johnson, the main reason behind the interest in the Indian market is due to the growing purchasing power of the Indian queer community, which is prompting entrepreneurs to introduce new products and services.
“Our research shows that in most populations, around six percent of the adult population is lesbian or gay. Applying that to India suggests that just under $200 billion (six percent of GDP) can be assumed to be earned income from India’s estimated 45 million gay and lesbian adults,” Johnson said.
Among the services that have cropped up exclusively for the LGBT community in the past few years are a dedicated travel agency, an e-book store and seven magazines.
And this will only grow, says documentary filmmaker Ranjit Monga, who believes that as society opens up, companies that have prior experience in targeting niche customers like single mothers or working couples would innovate and advertise about new products.
“We can see advertisements, marketing campaigns especially in the metros, where you have ads on readymade food for working couples and so on. Not only that, even mainstream soap operas are also featuring gay characters,” Monga said.
As acceptability grows, brands like Levi’s, Hajmola and Amul have also tried to target this segment in their advertisements. While Levi’s featured two female models cosying up to each other, the Amul butter ads showed the Amul mascot offering buttered slices of bread to two girls and with the caption: “Out of Closet, Out of Fridge!”
Segment-wise, event management companies like Salvation Star and Whitenights Fiesta organise LGBT parties on order.
In the travel segment, India’s first dedicated online gay travel boutique, Indjapink, was set up nearly three years ago. It has till date catered to around 600 high-end foreign and Indian tourists.
“We take care of every little detail in the tour. Like training the hotel staff, drivers and tour guides to know the special needs of our clients,”said Sanjay Malhotra, founder of IndjaPink.
According to the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), there are over five LGBT travel agencies and 10 general tour operators who provide specialised packages to the Indian and international tour agencies.
The merchandise segment too is cashing in with mugs and T-shirts sporting slogans like “Jalebii High”, “Pink Sheep of the Family” and “Haan Hoo! Toh?” (Yes I am! So?).
According to Sabina, whose firm Azaad Bazaar produces these products, the demand is rising for such items among not only the queer community but also others.
“Even the non-queer community has shown a lot of interest in our products and, out of the total sales, 40 percent come from this group,” she said.
The business is growing… but it has miles to go. This is still a big metro business and there is still some distance to travel before a gay person can buy a T-shirt with the defiant “Haan Hoo! Toh?” in a small town.
(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at email@example.com)
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