Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Great Indian Sale - 1

No I’m talking about the annual sale of Big Bazaar and there ‘Sabsa Sasta Din’ and all. This is the sale which is always ongoing and the salesmen & women peddle their goods year around and sometime for years.

The goods are advertised everywhere, in newspapers, family gatherings, kitty parties, marriages especially and the now the new age tool – Internet. And everybody is busy to get the best deal. But the unique thing about this sale is that everyone who is selling something is also buying something, which someone is selling. Confused? Then read this –

“PQM invited for H’some IIT IIM boy wrkng in top US MNC 18 LPA N Mnglk seeking V B’ful fair slim homely decent girl from KKB family. Reply with BHP. M: 9988776655”

Maybe now you have an idea what I am talking. And don’t try to search the meanings of above abbreviations and acronyms in a dictionary, you won’t find them.

This my dear is the great Indian sale. Being Indians to the core we squeeze all the relevant information into as few words as possible to save on the newspaper matrimonial publishing cost. The relevant information in the case of Wanted Groom is his age, professional qualifications, current salary and employer. And maybe if these are not impressive enough then maybe something about his dad. All well earning and well qualified boys are handsome, fair, decent and from reputed family by default.

And in case of girls the relevant information is age, height, shape, complexion, working or non working and the most baffling concern of Indians - convent educated or not. Complexion in case of matrimonial ads for girls always lies in one of the three categories- wheatish, fair and very fair. Nobody is dark in India, at least a girl who is looking to get married. Where do the not so slim, or decent, or fair or non convent educated girls go to marry is no concern to anyone.

And before I forget, even if the boy is a PhD from MIT, working in NASA and they might be looking for “Modern, Convent Educated girl” but the horoscope has to be matched, and manglik and non manglik are matters of life and death, literally.

This takes care of the newspaper and Internet matrimonial ads. But the social marketing is most interesting, whether the sales pitch can go from subtle to hard sell in a minute. And the marketing could be teaser to price off limited time promotions.

From Moms of the girls inviting others to the kitty party to serve them ‘Gajar ka Halwa’ and “home made chocolates” which are made by ‘Sweety’ (when in actuality they are prepared by their maid and a factory in Switzerland respectively)

To Moms of boys dropping subtle hints like “Ye chocolates kha ke dekhiye, apna Rajeev London se leke aaya hai… Aajkal to wo UK aata jaata hee rehta hai na jab se Senior Vice President bana hai… Salary bhi badha ke 15 kar dee hai… Koi shauk nahi hai use bas Tennis khelne ka aur Chocolates khane ka”.

And the dads taking their sons/daughters fully decked to their far off cousin’s son’s marriage which they would have never bothered to attend if their sons/daughter’s weren’t of marriageable age.

India after probably having the largest number of engineers in the world is all set to become the country to have the largest no of MBAs, and why not? I think everybody is a Philip Kotler over here, not only do they know all marketing strategies and tactics like the back of their hand but can also see through them. In these sales everybody have their USPs, the boys are either well educated (a big deal in South India), or well earning (a big deal in whole of the world I guess), or from a well off business family, read rich (a big deal in Jains, Aggarwals etc) or from a reputed, socially well heeled families (a big deal in Rajputs). And the girls are either Very beautiful, Very fair, Slim and Smart, or Homely and Decent, or Topper in Post Graduation from Mathura University and if everything else fails then working in good company and at a good position.

Every matrimonial ads sounds like a RFP with points required in the quotation mentioned. While some points are negotiable but some points cannot be and non compliance in those can lead to rejection or worse ridicule and foul mouthing of the product and the organization (read the boy/girl and their family). So points like being non manglik, lesser height and age than the boy, educational background and previous relationship and marital status and income are sacrosanct points and undergo rigorous checks before a quotation is considered. But then every buyer is also a seller and they understand there is lot of latitude allowed in the words like beautiful, fair, handsome, top MNC, highly qualified etc. And some features like beauty and looks, weight and receding hairlines can be traded for fat pay cheques, big bank balances, living abroad, a huge dowry or the chance to join your father in law’s business. Some people are even one step ahead of the game and want their daughter in law to be to be a virgin and make it clear either subtly or explicitly, hell people even say that in newspaper ads. Having a known previous affair, broken engagement or divorce can seriously affect your brand equity.

And the best way to build brand equity is to be IIT + IIM graduate, work in an MNC, stay abroad and own a fancy roadster for guys. And for girls is to be very fair, ‘tv serial bahu’ looks, topper in your college but in useless courses like Home Science, interior design or fashion designing (you don’t wanna give your husband-to-be a complex), know how to cook, either don’t work or work in a job in which you are back by the time the kids are and lastly appear homely & domesticated and devoid of any ambition & personality.

All of the Indians know this and fine tune their product and marketing communications till the very end to achieve high brand equity and thus the highest price or the best product with their purchasing power. Everyone is shouting to attract the most buyers and sell their wares to the highest bidder. And what happens to the people who are peddled all over the market by their very own parents? I don’t know firsthand but when you have conversations like this when you go to someone’s house or any other meeting point to see someone I assume it can’t be good. –

Boy – Hi
(The girl looked so much fairer in the photograph, I bet it was photoshopped)

Girl – Hi
(This guy had more hair in the photograph; I bet it was 5 years old)

Boy – Ummm… I think your parents told you about me…
(What do I say to her as to not to sound a fool but then not totally tongue tied too?)

Girl – Yes, they did
(Yes you bloody fool, otherwise why would I be sitting here with you?)

Boy – Ok
(Quick think of something to say)

Girl – So you work in Citibank?

Boy – Yes, before that I was working in HDFC but then I didn’t like that job very much and my boss…
(Shit, why am I telling HER all this)

Girl – Oh okay…
(Why is he telling ME all this)

Boy – So you like Painting, uh?
(Ha, now the ball is in her court!)

Girl – Yes and also classical music.
(Wow, are you a psychic, how could you guess that? Let me think, because it’s written in my bio data you moron, why are you asking me what you already know?)

{Five minutes of uncomfortable silence when the boy tries to fight off the thought that how would she look without that Sari and the girl notices a microscopic stain in her Sari and curses everyone from the dry cleaner to their maid to the Gods in her head}

Girl – Would you like anything?
(Please god, was he looking at the stain? Please don’t tell me he saw it. Quick, try to distract him.)

Boy – No thanks. Would you?
(Damn, did she get to know what was I thinking, why is she giving me that look?)

Girl – No, I’m ok.

{Five more minutes of uncomfortable silence. Then the boy’s father calls him}

Boy – Yes dad? Coming. Uhh.. Ok bye. It was nice to meet you.
(Phew, saved by the bell. I think this girl is a retard. I think I should marry her only. At least she will keep her mouth shut)

Girl – Ya, bye. Same here.
(Phew, saved by the bell. I think this guy is a retard. I think I should marry him only. At least he will keep his mouth shut)

There are even MR agencies employed in this business. Ages before it was done by the Pandits and Naais (barbers) now it is done by nosy aunties and Matrimonial sites like which promise to get you the ‘best deal’. And surprise surprise, most Indian marriages work. Unlike in US where they marry for love and more often than not the marriages ends up in divorce, here in India we marry for everything but, but still our marriages are rock solid. I think the most apt statement that explains them is one made by Sahni Saab (Vinod Nagpal) in the movie ‘Khosla ka Ghosla’

“Ye puura desh hee pehancho compromise pe chal raha hai!”

P.S. - Part 2 coming soon....


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