Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Miss India 2009 Winners and the Business of Beauty in India

(This entry was originally published on April 2009 is on based on the event of that time.)

The grand finale of Femina Miss India 2009 just finished and the winners are:

Ekta Chowdhry: Miss India Universe 2009

Pooja Chopra: Miss India World 2009:

Shriya Kishore: Miss India Earth 2009

If you do not know about it then I would like you to direct to the entry of Wikipedia on Femina Miss India. If you read it then you will know that it is the main beauty pageant of India. The winners will represent India in premier beauty pageants. I am not going to focus on the beautiful girls who won or lost tonight. I am just going to talk some about the business of beauty in India.

First of all, I am not a big fan of beauty pageants. I feel that competitions like Miss Universe, Miss World or Miss India hardly do any good to the improvement of condition of women anywhere in the world. In fact, these kind of competitions are almost exclusively focused on physical appearance and have hardly to do anything with the smartness or intellect of women. So, naturally, in this kind of TV program, we can see some beautiful young girls parading in front of millions of TV viewers. There are some singing and some dancing and some jokes- but nothing serious. Anyway, that is another issue and I want to talk about the beauty industry of India in this blog entry of mine. Sorry for the digression.

First of all, just take a look at Femina Miss India 2009 competition. The program was broadcast live in Sony TV channel. It was an exclusive program for the channel and naturally during the break time, we saw many advertisements of some products. No doubt, that the companies had to pay some extra money for the commercials aired tonight in Sony channel. I noticed the companies and brands that broadcast commercials today: Frooti, Nivea (official beauty and skincare partner of Miss India 2009), BJP (election advertisement), Lux, LG Mobile, Hero India, Colgate, LMN, IPL cricket 2009 etc. There were many sponsors in different categories. I felt that there were some less grandeur this time perhaps because of economic recession. Still, I was impressed with the number of sponsors and TV commercials.

If we look at some of the past winners then we can notice that some past winners like Sushmita Sen (Winner Miss Universe 1994) and Aishwarya Rai (Winner Miss World 1994) could make it very big in Bollywood. This is perhaps the biggest attraction for most girls in India today. Many of them dream to follow the footsteps of Aishwarya Rai who has also earned international fame and is sometimes considered with Hollywood celebrities like Julia Roberts. Aishwarya Rai has earned a lot of money from acting and endorsing products for different companies. She is also the dream woman of millions of men in the world. It is not that everyone becomes a Aishwarya Rai but the dream is there for all the contestants to earn the same kind of money, fame and popularity like her. Even if you cannot become a leading actress so what. You can still be an extra artist in movies and people can see you in big screen and you can earn some money too. Not only that, there are regional film industries in regional languages.

Perhaps there is now more opportunities in the TV industry than Bollywood. Now, more than half of the population have direct or indirect access to TV programs. I could not find any accurate statistics about the number of channels that are aired for the Indian viewers but the number is surely several hundred channels. Thus, the market is indeed very big. For the TV industry, in the past, the role of women was mainly limited to acting. Now, it is more than that. News channels are very popular and there are many opportunities in reporting and news casting. Well, in theory, there should be no relationship between beauty and news reporting or news casting. However, it practice, most of the female reporters and news anchors in Indian channels look beautiful and glamorous.

Another business related to beauty that is thriving in India by leaps and bounds is advertising- both print and electronic. The TV channels, newspapers and magazines and even websites need advertisements revenue to survive. We all know that beautiful women are the main ingredient of advertisements anywhere in the world. India’s continuous high economic growth has helped this industry to flourish. Thus, there is a growing demand for new beautiful glamorous female faces with attractive body shape.

Just 2 decades ago, fashion and modeling were mainly limited to some rich families. Yes, there were some fashion events and some models but the number was very few. Things have changed radically in the last one decade. There are some even supermodels in the country. So, with the growing fashion industry, business of beauty in India is growing too.

To meet the demand of the growing business of beauty, the beauty industry in India is growing too. Now, you can find many advertisements round the clock about shampoo, face cream, fairness cream, lotion, hair cream, perfume etc. According to a report, “The beauty industry in India is worth Rs 12,600 crore today and is growing at an exponential rate of 30 per cent per annum.” With the growing number of women joining different companies and coming out of home to the offices, the demand for beauty products and beauty parlours and saloons have increased manifolds in the last one decade. Even, in some colleges, you can find beauty courses and a beauty consultant earns a good salary. You can also easily understand the sale of herbal beauty products has also increased sharply.

I have nothing against the beauty industry or I have no problem if all the women of India want to look more beautiful and glamorous. It is their personal idea and they are entitled to their freedom. What I find disturbing is that the movie industry and TV channels and even the newspapers are giving too much importance to physical appearance of women. The main problem is that in the movie, TV and in advertising industries, the girls are ultra slim, very tall and of fair complexion. Most Indian women are not like this. In fact, the women who are successful in their careers, in politics, in sports, in academic world are hardly getting any media attention in the country. Sania Mirza is a female tennis player and she got a lot of media coverage just because she is considered to be very pretty and sexy. Other female tennis players do not get any media attention just because they have ordinary face. If this trend continues then very soon even rural women will become beauty conscious and this can become a drain for the economy of the country.

This is a disturbing trend and it will do no good to most women in India. Now, many teenage girls have the dream to become the next Miss India winner instead of becoming a top professor or scientist. I do not want to downplay the role of actresses or models but I believe that a professor or a female dramatist can give much more to the society compared to an actress or a model. If India wants to develop itself as a real super power then India needs more women of substance rather than surface beauty.

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