Last Updated: October 21, 2019 7:37PM
By Terena Bell
One of the world’s oldest civilizations is experiencing sweeping societal change: the rise of women in India as “karta”. The Hindi word for head of household, kartas are the final decision makers in Indian families and have legal and societal authority to manage assets, property, and other financial matters. This includes buying power, which means business that want to sell in the country have to start marketing to women just as much as they market to men.
Approximately 631 million women live in India today. By 2025, they and other Indian consumers will make up the world’s third-largest economy. For companies doing business there, the rise of the female karta represents a tremendous opportunity: Exporters to India can now be among the first to reach a target audience that historically has been left untapped. But with this opportunity comes a challenge: What’s the most effective way to approach this new and growing market?
Understand your audience by understanding its past: Indian women at a glance
Traditionally, one word used to describe women in Indian households has been “ardhangini”. Literally translated, this is the Sanskrit word for wife. More figuratively, it means one half of a man, the underlying implication being that women are incomplete and have no identity outside their husbands.
Such has been the nature of gender bias in India for centuries; however, recent legal changes are breaking with the past, transforming the economic status of women in India.
In addition to being able to become karta,
- The number of women with bank accounts has tripled over the last six years.
- Women’s higher education enrollment rate now nearly matches that of men.
- Their disposable income has increased 63% over five years.
Changes are still coming
As in the United States, women in India generally earn lower wages than men. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t making their mark as buyers of consumer goods:
- According to Indian e-commerce platform Flipkart, female shoppers buy more per customer on the site than men. As a result, the company has increased its fashion and home goods offerings.
- India’s largest retail chain, Future Group, also reports that women spend more — particularly on clothing and shoes. In many Western countries this particular purchasing pattern is a given. But in India, where men have long spent more than women on all merchandise, the changing role of women in Indian society is making retailers take notice.
What does this mean for translation?
To reach this growing market, you have to speak their language. Only 10% of Indians – male and female — speak fluent English. In terms of digital marketing, this means you must translate your site and other materials if you want to reach them. But women don’t just shop differently, they sociologically use language differently then men.
For example, did you know Indian women respond more expressively than men to color? When localizing digital marketing campaigns, companies will perform better if they use vibrant and varied colors, and – more importantly – when they use the precise words for that color in product descriptions: Think lavender, not purple; aquamarine instead of blue. Also be aware that different cultures see color differently (what Americans see as closer green, another culture might see as yellow) so make sure to include the actual product image when you request translation.
Women in India also use more tag questions, sentences that are a sort of hybrid between a declarative statements and yes/no questions, like “This car also comes in chartreuse, doesn’t it?” Syntax like this arose from women historically having a sense of “lower status” ingrained by local society. But for marketers, it can become a way to boldly make powerful advertising statements that directly confront buyer uncertainty, like “You can have this in any color you want, can’t you?”
Want to reach women in India? Learn more by contacting a Lionbridge sales representative today.