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The Birth of India's 'Pink Economy'
 

The Birth of India's 'Pink Economy'

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Insights on the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement in India, its evolution, and the community’s potential as a consumer segment. It also details the opportunities and challenges ...

Insights on the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement in India, its evolution, and the community’s potential as a consumer segment. It also details the opportunities and challenges before marketers, as well as the sectors that have tapped this market, and examines the lessons this holds for other businesses.

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    The Birth of India's 'Pink Economy' The Birth of India's 'Pink Economy' Document Transcript

    • Out Of The Closet And Into The Marketplace nomye’ ‘p ink eco icis Group ndia’sndia, a part of the Pu bl r th of I UP I The biA report by MSLGR O1
    • MSLGROUP India is the nation’s largest PR and multinational and Indian corporations since 1989 and social media network. Made up of three agencies, 40 senior counselors with 15 or more years of strategic MSL India, 20:20 MSL and 2020Social, MSLGROUP communications experience, clients, colleagues and India combined includes 15 offices, 565 staff and business partners benefit from MSLGROUP India’s an activation network reaching an additional 125 breadth and depth of experience and insights. Indian cities. With a proven track record of servicing For 23 years, MSLGROUP’s Asia team has counseled activation network of colleagues reaches an additional global, regional and local clients, helping them 125 Indian and 100 Chinese cities and a strong affiliate establish, protect and expand their businesses partner network adds another 23 Asian cities to our and brands across this fast-growing region. Today, reach. MSLGROUP Asia was awarded Campaign Asia MSLGROUP has the largest PR, social media and Pacific’s Network of the Year, 2011 and MSLGROUP events teams in Greater China (16 offices and 1,000 Asia’s teams have also been recognized as leaders colleagues) and India (15 offices and 575 colleagues) by multiple industry groups, including most recently and is actively working to lead the development The Holmes Report ‘China Consultancy of the Year of the industry with the regular publication of 2012’ – MSLGROUP Greater China; PRCAI ‘PR Agency whitepapers/reports and innovative Learning & of the Year 2011’ - MSL India; Forbes China ‘Innovative People Developmentprograms to nurture talent. The China SMEs 2011’ - Genedigi Group; Taiwan Advertiser MSLGROUP Asia team includes 38 owned offices and Associate ‘Agency of the Year 2011’ - ICL MSL; 1,675 colleagues in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Marketing ‘Silver Event Marketing Agency of the Year Chengdu, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul, 2012’ - Luminous, and won more than 50 awards in the Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, last two years. Learn more about us at: asia.mslgroup. Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. An com+ Twitter + Facebook MSLGROUP is Publicis Groupe’s strategic 100 offices worldwide, MSLGROUP is also the largest communications and engagement group, advisors PR network in fast-growing China and India. The group in all aspects of communication strategy: from offers strategic planning and counsel, insight-guided consumer PR to financial communications, from thinking and big, compelling ideas – followed by public affairs to reputation management and from thorough execution. Learn more about us at: crisis communications to experiential marketing and www.mslgroup.com + http://blog.mslgroup.com + events. With more than 3,500 people across close to Twitter+ YouTube. Publicis Groupe [Euronext Paris FR0000130577, Communications Group), Publicis Worldwide, Rosetta part of the CAC 40 index] is the third largest and Saatchi & Saatchi. VivaKi, the Groupe’s media and communications group in the world, offering the full digital accelerator, includes Digitas, Razorfish, Starcom range of services and skills: digital and traditional MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia. Present in 104 advertising, public affairs and events, media buying countries, the Groupe employs 53,000 professionals. and specialized communication. Its major networks are www.publicisgroupe.com| Twitter:@PublicisGroupe | Leo Burnett, MSLGROUP, PHCG (Publicis Healthcare Facebook: www.facebook.com/publicisgroupe2
    • CONTENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS Page 1. Executive summary 04 2. How a court ruling might unleash societal change 05 a. A struggle ends b. The times, they are a-changin’ 3. The gay revolution and the business opportunity 07 a. is a ‘pink’ business? What b. Understanding the market c. The gay factor in arts and culture d. Economics and the argument for a pink market e. How being gay-friendly benefits business 4. Tapping the ‘pink market’ 14 a. Know the market b. Things to remember c. Success stories 5. The path to profit, paved with conviction 18 6. The battle to legalise homosexuality in India 203
    • Executive summary gspot.com en from lollitop.bloPhoto takThe gay rights movement came into sharp focus in the hesitancy across product categories. Indian companies,1950s when there was a homophobic purge across he pointed out, are wary of the societal reaction tothe US State Department. Since then, the Lesbian advertisements and allied promotional activities focusedGay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community has specifically on the gay segment.travelled a long road – gay people can now serve in themilitary, several anti-gay laws have been struck down Jaideep Shergill, CEO of MSL India, felt that the biggestand President Barack Obama has come out in support of challenge is “the government itself”. “The court rulingsame-sex marriage. was the first step in a long journey. The government now needs to support the community by ensuringThe LGBT community is asserting itself politically discrimination recedes and its potential is unleashed. But,and socially. Obama’s statement and his volunteers remember, real change takes time,” he said.fanning out across gay pride parades in June 2012seeking votes are recognition of the LGBT community’s Kapoor nevertheless identified segments such as spas,electoral power. These were important milestones for a tourism and hotel packages targeted at gay clientele asmovement that has gone through a 60-year evolution in ones that have tasted success.the US, though the struggle is far from fruition. Indeed, agencies such as Reuters have reported thatIn India, meanwhile, the movement is only nascent India is emerging as a global hot spot (‘Conservative Indiabut got a boost in 2009 when the Delhi High Court unlikely hotspot on gay tourism map’, January 26, 2012).decriminalised homosexuality. Since then, the LGBT In addition, overseas marketing consultants andcommunity has been expressing itself in a social and multinational corporations are taking a long-term viewpolitical context – transgender candidates have begun on the Indian LGBT market.contesting, and winning, elections – and is looking tosatisfy its consumerist aspirations. Ian Johnson, CEO of London-based consultancy OutNowConsulting.com, told Facenfacts.com that itsAfter the court ruling, studies found, the LGBT sheer size makes India an attractive market. He pointedcommunity is finding its voice in society and is being to the growing purchasing power of the Indian LGBTdiscovered by marketers – in an urban framework community. His consultancy has been conductingfor the time being – as an attractive market. The surveys across the globe on the product and lifestyleeconomic power of a community thus far ostracised and choices of gay people and advises multinationals sucheconomically marginalised is being unleashed. as Lufthansa, IBM, Toyota, Citibank and Barclays onApparel stores and travel firms targeting gay people, catering to this category of consumers.as well as event organisers and bookstores, are setting The issue here, all observers are quick to caution, is notup shop. Even if the ultra-conservative estimate putting whether these businesses in India are profit-making orIndia’s gay population at 20 million is true, a sustainable that the LGBT economy is large, but the fact that suchmarket is waiting to be exploited. businesses are being established and the foundation forWhile in the West products and services are targeted a ‘pink economy’ is being laid.specifically at the gay population, in India this is beingdone only now. $500 billionJagdeep Kapoor, managing director of Samsika Global LGBT market, according to a Gba.org.Consultants, a marketing consultancy, said the progress uk study. A report on Business.com estimatedwould be understandably slow because of the strong it at $600 billion 4
    • Might How A Court Ruling ange Unleash Societal Ch ot.com inbowrays.blogsp en from raPhoto takJuly 2, 2009, may go down in history as the day Indian The first step towards eradicating the prejudice that hassociety reached a tipping point. A Delhi High Court existed in Indian society for more than a century againstruling that day read down Section 377 of the Indian the gay community had been taken.Penal Code, decriminalising same-sex behaviour among Homosexuality had been illegal since 1861, when theconsenting adults and unleashing celebrations among British introduced a law prohibiting “carnal intercoursethe LGBT community. against the order of nature with any man, woman orThe foundation the ruling laid for a change in attitudes animal”. The law, Section 377, has long been viewed,towards the gay community was also the groundwork depending on which side you’re on, as an archaicfor a more subtle, unseen revolution. As the LGBT colonial holdover or a necessary tool to “protect Indiancommunity revelled in its newfound legal acceptance, culture”.it began to look for ways to assimilate into society While Indian society has, by and large, adopted aand fulfill its economic potential. Gay entrepreneurs don’t-ask-don’t-tell attitude to sex, the more liberaland businesses pushed for a louder voice, as did gay mores unlocked by economic growth and the digitalconsumers – many of whom have substantial spending destruction of boundaries are changing outlooks.power. The liberals are quick to point out that there is sufficientThe mainstreaming of a marginalised community archaeological evidence of same-sex ties existing inbegan, and an environment for the unleashing of its ancient India – the homo-erotic carvings in the templesconsumerist aspirations was born. of Khajuraho, Konark and Puri are well known, while the Kamasutra mentions several homosexual positions.A struggle ends Nevertheless, society over the last century has beenThe public interest litigation (PIL) against Section 377 discriminatory towards the gay community; the frequenthad been filed by the Naz Foundation (India) Trust in absence of family support is a concern too. One of2001. It argued that the law violated the right to life and the consequences of this was the suppression of theliberty. community’s economic aspirations.Delivering the landmark ruling, the judges wrote in Homosexual conduct, the court recognised, was deeplytheir 105-page decision: “The inclusiveness that Indian personal, a way to achieve sexual happiness for a certainsociety traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect kind of individual. It follows, that an individual that is notof life, is manifest in recognising a role in society persecuted by the state is happier and contributes morefor everyone... Those perceived by the majority as to the economy and community than one who is the‘deviants’ or ‘different’ are not on that score excluded or target of agencies such as the police.ostracised.”Chief Justice AP Shah and Justice S Muralidhar The times, they are a-changin’declared: “Consensual sex amongst adults is legal, A September 2011 study by the Humsafar Trust – a non-which includes gay sex...” The old law, they said, violates profit that works with the LGBT community on mattersArticle 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees all related to rights, health and counselling – assessed thepeople “equality before the law”; Article 15, which changes perceived by the community and stakeholders.prohibits discrimination “on grounds of religion, race,caste, sex or place of birth”; and Article 21, which The study, ‘IPC Section 377: Aftermath of Readingguarantees “protection of life and personal liberty”. Down of Section 377’, which was supported by the India5
    • HIV/AIDS Alliance, found that LGBT people felt more University Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental said after thecomfortable about their sexuality after the court ruling court ruling: “The world has changed, and we will haveand that the persecution had decreased. to move along.”Both male and female respondents said that otherpeople are more open to discussing sexuality and sexualdifferences (44% and 58% respectively), and there were 44 and 58more positive LGBT portrayals in the media (58% and Percentage of male and female respondents40% respectively). Transgender participants (98%) said respectively in a Humsafar Trust study who said thatthat they perceived other community members as being other people were more open to discussing sexualitymore approachable. and sexual differences after the reading down of Section 377Many participants said that, after the judgment,their straight friends were more supportive (male37%, female 34%, transgender 71%) and more opento discussing sexuality (male 48%, female 37%, 58 and 40transgender 65%). Male participants felt that they Percentage of male and female respondentsperceived friends (42%), family (39%) and police (35%) respectively in a Humsafar Trust study who said thatas being less discriminatory. Female respondents, there were more positive LGBT portrayals in the mediahowever, only perceived less discrimination from friends after the decriminalisation of homosexuality(22%). Transgenders felt that the police (86%), sexualpartners/clients (56%) and friends (42%) were lessdiscriminatory after the judgment.The survey showed that the reading down of Section377 has already brought about a distinct, if moderate,positive change in the lives of the LGBT community.These influences were experienced at various levels – agreater sense of belonging, the ability to access andparticipate in activism and lesser discrimination at thehands of the police.The court ruling, it’s clear, is helping the communityassert its existence and experience a societalenvironment where dialogue around taboo topics suchas sexuality is easier. The change also means greatereconomic assertiveness and an ecosystem for thecreation of a new consumer class.One participant (name withheld) pointed out: “Moregay parties are being organised and gay men whowere hidden, and the new generation, are comingout.” Another unnamed participant said: “After thejudgement, transgender and [gay] people walk with theirheads held high.”In Pune, a respondent said that the police do notbust gay parties any more. Participants also reportedan improvement in environmental factors such asworkplace acceptance, a feeling of solidarity with otherLGBT groups, more networking with other organisations,better media coverage, and more courage in revealingtheir sexual orientation.Most such societal trends have a direct or obliqueeconomic impact, and the stage is set for a sub-economy that caters to the LGBT community. As Delhi Photo by nickjohnson on flickr6
    • And The Gay Revolution nity The Busin ess Opportu‘Now to be gay or lesbian is not simply a statement of an untapped market and will see a boom in the times tosexuality, but a statement of lifestyle: it defines what come,” Manish, who organises gay parties in Delhi, toldclothes you wear, what magazines you read, what ‘The Indian Express’ newspaper.furniture you have, or what vodka you drink.’ Among the leading party organisers are Gay Bombay, Peter Morgan, in the ‘International Socialist Journal’ Gossip and Bird Cage in Mumbai, and Pink Party in Kolkata. Their offerings range from parties in popularThe decriminalisation of homosexuality didn’t only night spots, to picnics and movie screenings. Richamean that the LGBT community could declare its Kaul Padte reported on the blog Ultraviolet.in that thesexuality without fear of persecution, it also marked the “growing demand for queer social spaces has also ledbeginning of a gay market, dubbed the ‘pink economy’. establishments such as Delhi-based Pegs n Pints andIndia is witnessing the establishment of fashion Mumbai’s Banana Bar to organise regular nights for theirlines, clothes stores, bookstores and travel services LGBTQ patrons”.specifically targeting the ‘pink rupee’. Among the leading apparel and accessories stores,The size of the market and its spending power is not there is D’Kloset in Mumbai and Azaad Bazaar thatlost on entrepreneurs. While the government claimed started in Mumbai but later shifted to Goa, while Indjain the Supreme Court that India has 2.5 million gay Pink and Le Passage to India offer travel services.people, other studies report between 2% and 13% of the Fiji-Indian Shobhna Kumar, who launched India’s firstpopulation being gay – that is, 20 million to 130 million. online gay literature store, www.queerink.com, toldThe perception is that many gay people have large ‘The Indian Express’: “[The store is] an attempt to createdisposable incomes, often based on the assumption a comfort zone for people who want to access queerthat they don’t have spouses or children to support. literature and find it difficult to pick up such books in aIn India, where the rights movement is only just normal bookstore. It’s about empowering and informing.becoming high profile, many feel that a pink economy The LGBT community wants to see their lives reflectedwill lead to greater visibility of the gay population and in fiction.”help in its assimilation into the mainstream. Kumar, who had worked for the rights of the LGBTFor the moment, these businesses exist only in urban communities in the US and Australia, felt Indianareas where they are likely to gather a critical mass of youngsters were more confident and open about theircustomers and where their marketing investments are preferences now.likely to generate greater returns. As Shergill, of MSL There has been a distinct impact of the court ruling onIndia, said: “In terms of the market, if you exclude the the arts and culture scene too. There was a spate ofbig cities, it is very difficult to establish a pink business.” films that featured gay characters, including some inParty services are doing well now that they are free popular cinema. Dharma Productions’ ‘Dostana’, forfrom the spectre of police harassment. While they instance, addressed LGBT issues but was also criticisedhave existed for years, they kept a low profile and their for caricaturing gays. ‘Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyun’ hadoperations were frequently disrupted by law enforcers. central gay characters, while film festivals showcasedAs a result, their growth was limited. gay films from around the world.“I organise five to 10 gay parties a month [now]. Morepeople are coming out and accepting their identity. It’s 7
    • “fondly remembered by members of Mumbai’s queer community as not simply a shopping destination, but an important refuge for gay or questioning individuals to come together and meet in a truly safe and welcoming space”. Tappy Tippy, a blogger, wrote: “...I’ve come in to find common friends, get advice… [Customers got] support from everyone as they came out to their families and dealt with the aftermath within [Azaad Bazaar’s] walls.” Sanjay Malhotra, proprietor of Indjapink, described how awareness among service providers is a challenge. “In every hotel we use... I’ve met the owners, spoken to their staff – their butlers, their receptionists, everyone – I’ve made them understand what it is to be gay... They are gay-friendly in the true sense of the word, because we’re not just selling an idea as gay-friendly – we speak to them, we make them understand… It’s very important in today’s times to change mindsets, because ignorance cannot be a reason for a poor or offensive service anymore,” he told Kaul Padte. It’s clear, then, that spending power is not enough – a business that depends on people and services outside the community will have to create an environment of sensitivity. Understanding the market Even if the government’s claim that India is home to 2.5 2.5 million million gay people – a conservative number, say most Number of gay people in India, according to activists – is to be believed, that’s enough of a consumer the National Aids Control Programme. This base for a small- to medium-sized market. number is disputed by activists, who say that As MSL India’s Shergill pointed out, “Any demographic between 2% and 13% of the population is gay – homemakers, single women, the LGBT community – that is, 20 million to 130 million – consumes various products and services.” The implication being that, if targeted well, any consumer‘Pink’ business, grey area segment can deliver business results.As Kaul Padte pointed out, “it is difficult to estimate Some observers believe that sexual identity could bethe scale of the pink economy within the country, given used by marketers to create a lifestyle in the same waythat the scattered businesses and initiatives are yet that the post-feminism purchasing power of womento be collated into a comprehensive survey. However, provided the launchpad for fashion lines, phones (manyattempts to do so will have to first question what exactly telecom firms introduced devices targeted specifically atit is that makes a business ‘pink’”. women) and even sex aids.Indeed, the parameters for the definition of this market Kumar, of Queer Ink, felt that while the pink economyare grey. Is a ‘pink’ business one that caters only to gay has made a good beginning it is still largely untapped inpeople? Or is it one that does not discriminate within the the country. “It still targets [mainly] foreigners and willworkplace? Or one that offers the same level of service take time to get Indian customers,” she told ‘The Indianirrespective of sexual orientation? Express’.What is clear is that these businesses are a testimony She told Kaul Padte: “The whole queer movementto the persistence and resilience of the gay rights arose out of grassroots-level activists – who still go tomovement and the community’s burning desire to be the police to get permissions, are visible on the roadcounted as an economic force. marching… So they also make up a power base in terms of your everyday retail consumer. But we don’t seeMany of the owners feel close to the cause. Kaul them as a [pink] retail consumer, because they don’tPadte wrote that Azaad Bazaar, for instance, is buy books, because they don’t go on holiday. But they 8
    • For the pioneers of the pink economy, India’s largely conservative society presents a bigger barrier than legislation. “We might be legal by law, but we’re not yet legal in the mindset,” said Arjun Sharma, founder of Le Passage to India, a travel firm that offers gay tours. Aditya Bondyopadhay, a gay rights activist and lawyer, told Eturbonews.com: “Police harassment, though it has gone down drastically, is still prevalent.” How powerful India’s pink rupee becomes – and what shape the market takes – is difficult to predict. It is likely that, as the market grows, commercial considerations –Photo by lighttripper on flickr rather than its activist role – will guide its journey. Its ties to the movement that spawned it may well weaken.go to your kirana (grocery) store and buy rice and dal The gay factor in arts and cultureto support their families. So yes, the BPO-working, In 1982, pioneering Marathi filmmaker Jabbar PatelEnglish-speaking gay guy comes to my shop to buy made ‘Umbartha’ (Threshold) about lesbianism in ruralbooks, and is able to spend Rs 3,000 – so is that then India at a time when homosexuality was taboo even inthe qualification to be part of the pink rupee?” private conversations.The implication is clear: The pink economy is in danger There were, however, few that took the film’s lead, untilof leaving out large swathes of the gay community 1996, when Deepa Mehta released ‘Fire’. The film, aboutsimply because it does not cater to their needs or two women falling in love after finding themselves inbecause it exists only in affluent, urban enclaves. loveless marriages, raised a storm of controversy andNo wonder, then, that journalist Vikram Doctor, a well- protests, many of them violent.known gay voice, is worried that such businesses are notfulfilling the needs of India’s LGBT community. Simplyput, there is a danger that marketers mistakenly viewthe community as a uniform entity whereas in reality it isanything but uniform.“There are lots of gay men who are fairly openly out,and who’ve thought, ‘There must be lots of other gaymen like us who we can do things for.’ They see the gaycommunity through the prism of themselves, but in factthe queer community is much more diverse,” Doctor toldKaul Padte.While clothes, party and travel services may be themost visible, there is an even greater need for medicalservices that take into the account the community’sspecial needs.Most agree, however, that these are early days in theevolution of the market.“If all goes well,” said Shergill, “if there is governmentsupport, then maybe in five years the market willflourish. It all depends on how something like this ismanaged.”“Right now, it’s nice that there are some queerbusinesses out there who are participating in themovement, as compared to bigger corporatecompanies who will target money from queer peoplewithout thinking about the overall community. Thishas happened a lot abroad,” Soraya, a Mumbai-based Photo by twitter.comfeminist and queer activist, told Kaul Padte. Onir, director of ‘I Am’ 9
    • “The subject of homosexuality has been handled far uncensored screening of films. “That’s a big thing,”more maturely in regional cinema like Malayalam or Rajan Ramchandani, a gay former investment bankerMarathi rather than in popular cinema, merely because attending the festival, told AFP. “Five to seven years ago,these films placed the problem in a social, everyday people wouldn’t have been talking about homosexuality.milieu,” film critic CS Venkiteshwaran told Reuters. He It was taboo. But now, through the media and otherrecalled two Malayalam films, ‘Rendu Penkuttikal’ (Two forms of communication, it’s much easier for people toGirls) and ‘Desadanakkili Karayarilla’ (Migratory Birds accept.”Don’t Cry), which treated homosexuality in a matter-of- Among the films screened was ‘I Am’, which followsfact manner. the lives of four people, including a gay man who livesIndeed, gay themes and popular Hindi cinema, or in fear of blackmail. The film was directed by Onir, whoBollywood, kept their distance but that seems to be had earlier made the critically acclaimed ‘My Brother...changing. In 2003, the hit ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ featured a Nikhil’, about the stigma surrounding HIV and prejudicegay humour theme and in 2008 ‘Dostana’ portrayed two towards gays in India.men who pretend to be gay so they could rent a house Actor Rahul Bose, who starred in ‘I Am’, said the festivalwith a woman. was part of the “new history” of India. “It would haveMore importantly, in 2010 – less than a year after the been inconceivable for mainstream cinema to do thiscourt decriminalised homosexuality – India got its first five years ago,” he said.mainstream gay film. Organisers hailed it as a sign ofprogress after years of discrimination. Economics and the argument for a pink marketThe four-day ‘Kashish’ Mumbai International Queer Urban theorist Richard Florida provided an economicFilm Festival showcased 110 films from 25 countries dimension to the discussion on gay rights during anat a leading multiplex chain and the Alliance Francaise interview to Bigthink.com. Referring to social andcultural organisation. This was a big leap for the cultural characteristics of societies with regard toconservative Indian cultural scene, though such events diversity, he said: “[The] tolerance dimension – thiswere common in western countries. social and culture dimension – is not just something we do because it’s right and it’s ethical and it’s moral andThe festival organiser, Vivek Raj Anand, told AFP: “There it’s the right way to treat people. We’re going to findhave been gay film festivals before, but this is the first that these social and cultural factors really add a lot togay film festival in the mainstream.” economic growth...”The Information and Broadcasting Ministry did itsbit by giving its approval for the festival and the Photo by nickjohnson on flickr10
    • How being gay-friendly benefits business While many corporations are far from being gay-friendly, they are changing fast. ‘The Economist’ reported that 86% of Fortune 500 firms now ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, up from 61% in 2002. Around 50% also ban discrimination against transsexuals, compared with 3% in 2002. Human Rights Campaign, a US-based non-profit agency, measured corporate policies towards sexual minorities. Of the 636 companies surveyed, 64% offered the same medical benefits for same-sex partners as for heterosexual spouses. About 30% scored 100% on the group’s ‘equality index’. Among the 100% club were banks, consultancies and industrial giants such as Alcoa, Dow Chemical and Ford. Lord Browne, head of BP who resigned after his sex life became public in 2007, said that he kept his sexuality a secret because “it was obvious to me that it was simply unacceptable to be gay in business”. Today, many corporations are coming out with imaginative gay-friendly policies. American Express has a ‘pride network’ with more than 1,000 employees as members, while Cisco gives gay workers a bonus to make up for an anomaly in the tax rules for insurance premiums. Microsoft and Nike have written to Congress to support gay marriage. This change, ‘The Economist’ pointed out, is “because changing attitudes in society... have reduced the cost of being gay-friendly, and raised the rewards. A generation ago in the West, creating a gay-friendly workplaceA still from ‘Dunno Y’... might have upset heterosexual staff. Now it probably won’t. But failing to treat gays equally is very likely toHe pointed out that what made America great was drive them to seek employment elsewhere. Since theyits acceptance of people from all over the world whocould build the lives they wanted and realise theirdreams irrespective of their diversity. Similarly, societiesthat accept diversity – whether it’s of race or sexualorientation – tend to be more vibrant and economicallystronger.“Places that are more open, places that value people,that are more meritocratic... They’re going to attractmore people with skill and ambition and entrepreneurialverve... The gay and lesbian factor is an approximatevariable for a place that’s very open-minded and self-expressive... So, places that allow you to [expressyourself], that allow you to mobilise resources, they’realso the places that are going to gain an upper edge inthe entrepreneurial and innovative realm,” said Florida.Besides, gay-friendly businesses attract gay customers.Take the case of Merrill Lynch. In 2001, it instituted aprivate banking team that focused exclusively on the gaymarket. Within five years, it had earned more than$1 billion. Smita Patil starred in ‘Umbartha’11
    • are perhaps 5%-10% of the global talent pool, bigotrymakes a firm less competitive”.Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Karen Sumberg of the Center for The UK experienceWork-Life Policy in the US tried to quantify the benefits A study on Gba.org.uk estimated that aroundof being gay-friendly. They found that 47% of gays who 1.5% of the British population is openly gay.went public with their sexuality said that they trusted Overall, the gay population is probably aroundtheir employers, compared with 21% who hadn’t gone the 6% mark. Even though it’s a relatively smallpublic. chunk of the market, it has incredible spendingIt’s clear that you’re unlikely to perform well if you have power – an estimated £6bn (nearly $10 billion) ato conceal what you are. year – said the study. The ‘pink pound’ reflects the financial clout of the LGBT communities. Despite the economic 86 troubles and a depressed job market, the group still earns 23% more than the nationalPercentage of Fortune 500 firms that now ban average, spending around a third of its incomediscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, up on entertainment and lifestyle products, said thefrom 61% in 2002, according to a study conducted by study.the Human Rights Campaign, a US-based non-profitagency The financial stability of this demographic is linked to freedom from traditional commitments, such as children, said analysts tracking the 50 segment. On a global scale, the study said, the LGBTPercentage of Fortune 500 firms that also ban market would be around the £350 billion (nearlydiscrimination against transsexuals, compared with 3% $500 billion) mark.in 2002 Financial planning for gay people in the US Financial information website NerdWallet has a tool that helps LGBT partners manage the financial, legal and tax complications implicit in their relationships. The ‘Same Sex Couples Planning Tool’ helps with documentation and with housing, insurance and retirement decisions. Gay couples spend $1,500 to $10,000 for the same legal and economic benefits that heterosexual couples automatically get when they pay $40 for a marriage license, according to NerdWallet. In the US, LGBT people are being offered financial planning options customised for their unique situations. Some services offer a network of financial advisors who are gay themselves. Major firms, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and UBS, have divisions focused solely on gay clients. Some of these institutions are sponsors of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.12
    • Google launches ‘Legalize Love’ campaign Google stepped up its gay rights activism issues in nations with anti-homosexuality laws in July 2012. “We want our employees who are gay or lesbian or transgender to have the same experience outside the office as they do in the office,” Google executive Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe said at the Global LGBT Workplace Summit in London. Google will focus on alliances with local companies and on supporting grassroots efforts. Citigroup and Ernst & Young have already signed on. “‘Legalize Love’ is a campaign to promote safer Gay + Groupon = conditions for gay and lesbian people inside and outside the office in countries with anti-gay laws,” Gaypon said a Google statement. Google is frequently upheld as an example by Gaypon, which launched in 2011 in Detroit, gay rights groups for its workplace policies, which operates much like Groupon, offering limited- include full benefits for same-sex partners. It also time deals on goods and services. But, it only made 2012’s ‘best places to work’ Human Rights sells coupons from entrepreneurs and firms Campaign list. known to be gay/lesbian-friendly. A Google spokesman said the campaign’s focus is From holiday deals to discounts on dips and on human rights and employment discrimination. mixes, Gaypon has it all. “We see this fundamentally as an issue of equality,” wrote Google co-founder Sergey Brin on the company’s blog.13
    • Tapping the t’ ‘pink marke on flickr ghttripperPhoto by liShielding themselves from social stigma, India’s gay Jerry Johnson, a marketing professional and TEDxpeople lived double lives – one for the world and one speaker, said: “It is important for marketers toin which they were true to themselves – for the longest understand that the LGBT community is not just abouttime. Today, thanks to aggressive activism, growing sexual orientation. Our identities can also be identifiedawareness and an increasing number of LGBT people with our interests. For any campaign to appeal to us, itcoming out of the closet, a new world has opened up should stay away from stereotypes and clichés. It wouldfor them. They are now carving out their space as niche be best to keep it normal and inclusive. The Benettonconsumers, giving marketers a new target group. ‘Unhate’ campaign was a great one as it had a simple message and yet had a strong impact. It conveyed that itSmart marketers are taking note of this newly- is OK to be different. GAP too had a campaign that hadempowered community. A report on Business.com said two men wearing one shirt. These are big brands that arethat gays and lesbians spend more than $600 billion trying to be inclusive and we appreciate that.”every year across the world. They’re a business owner’sdream because they are: Marketers have also identified that the LGBT community as an opportunity for gadget makers. Marketers are» Affluent: The average annual income for a gay reaching out to them through social media, smart household is $61,000, 20.4% higher than a phones and other new media. Gay web portals are a heterosexual household’s, said the website great marketplace and have a captive audience.» Educated: About 83% of gays and lesbians have “Social media is the biggest tool; we are very active either attended or graduated from college online. There are several online groups, websites and» Loyal: Approximately 89% of gays and lesbians are social forums that attract huge traffic,” said Johnson. brand-affiliated and are highly likely to seek out “The internet gives customers the luxury of privacy. brands that advertise to them The best way to reach us is through our mediums.Know the marketThe LGBT market is different because it is manylayered and poorly researched. It is crucial, therefore,for companies to study the market and understandwhich cross-section to target. This will help in gettingmaximum return on investments.Surveys conducted by various agencies indicatethat gays and lesbians look at more magazines andnewspapers and watch more TV than heterosexualconsumers. They are also more driven by marketingcampaigns to make purchases.One of the biggest strengths of the community is itsresilience and its tendency to bond closely. When theycome together for events, festivals or concerts, theenergy is unparalleled. For marketers, this is a tailor- Oreo was among the brands that was openly pro-gaymade platform.14
    • We become very loyal to corporations that advertise realise that, at the end of the day, it is a businesson our mediums and we also become their advocacy transaction and that they need to give customers thecustomers.” best possible service,” said Johnson. Shergill added: “The only tip I would give marketers is to treat themApple, for instance, has several apps that help the like other consumers. The more differently they arecommunity connect with a wide network. Apple’s treated, the more the stigma is likely to remain.”DowneLink provides a space “for Downe (LGBT) peopleand their friends to exchange ideas, build friendships,and utilise local and nationwide services”. The app Success storiesoffers features such as social networking, blogs, While undoubtedly nascent, India’s pink economy hase-mails, bulletins, forums, video/audio chat and instant already tasted success. There is no market study, butmessaging. It also has ‘365gay News’, which provides a entrepreneurs and observers have said that sectors suchspace for LGBT people to stay abreast of current news as tourism and apparel are catching on.and happenings in the world. A journey of a thousand miles…The keys to success The pink rupee is finding its way into the bank accounts of travel companies catering to a gay clientele. Firms» Understand the segment: In Johnson’s estimate, like Indjapink, Le Passage to India and Bangkok-based there are 70 million gay people in India – many of them urban professionals with great purchasing power. “This is a huge segment and marketers are taking note of it. Mumbai, for instance, has three to four gay-related events every week. While they may not openly advertise them as so, community members spread the word and join the party,” he said.» Make business sustainable: In India, there are several challenges before pink businesses. The community is not very visible and, while there are many who are openly gay, there are millions still unwilling to come out in the open. For businesses, it is therefore best to cast the net wide than have explicit marketing campaigns. It isn’t wise to start an exclusive store as many still don’t like to be branded as gay and would shy away from visiting them.» Social media engagement and mobile marketing: Telecom and internet are two of the biggest Photo taken from lepassagetoindia.com opportunities in the LGBT space. Johnson explained that the gay people are eager to reach out and Purple Dragon are leading the race. The tours cover connect to others like them. “We spend a lot of time everything, from honeymoon packages and candle-lit on the internet, on long-distance phone calls and dinners to wildlife safaris and spiritual retreats. Some BlackBerry Messenger groups. Domestic travel is tour companies have even conducted weddings with another strong market. We love to travel and meet traditional rites for gay couples. other members of the community,” he said. Since The packages are mid-range to luxury and most of the many gay couples have no children to support, clientele comes from the US and Australia. Though their disposable income is high – something the most agencies cater to only men, there are indications automobile industry also recognises. Furnishings that lesbians in North America are interested in the and home décor are important segments too. country too.» Be sensitive and inclusive: Being flashy does not “India is high on the wish-list of many customers. The always grab eyeballs. It is the approach and attitude big attractions are history, culture, cuisine, shopping... of marketers that can make or break a business when We are happy about the Delhi High Court ruling and it comes to a niche market. “Gay-friendly businesses this might put some of our prospective India customers don’t need to spell that out. It is in the attitude. For at ease,” Douglas Thompson, MD, Purple Dragon, told instance, at hotels and restaurants, it is important ‘The Indian Express’. Purple Dragon sends 200 to 250 that the staff are trained and sensitised. They need to customers to India every year. treat customers with respect. Owners and managers15
    • most gays in India at the time, I was basically invisible,” he told Reuters. Today, he said, “With Gay Pride events, film festivals and parties, gay visitors can have it all.” A survey conducted by Roth’s firm last year ranked India as the second most desired cultural or adventure destination, just behind Thailand. When clothes set you free ‘The most powerful politics is the politics of economics,’ read the sign on the door of Azaad Bazaar, a clothes store that catered to the gay community in the Mumbai suburb of Bandra. Set up in 2009 in a garage, AzBaz – as it was popularly known – was the brainchild of Simran and Sabina (they Photo taken from indiapink.com both go by their first names only), strong voices in Mumbai’s gay rights movement. Their commitment to the cause was reflected in the way the store wasDelhi-based Indjapink specialises in gay tourism. “We designed – it doubled up as a coffee shop, where gaycreate tours for the gay community, offering them people hung out, sipped tea and chatted. It was as muchoutstanding personalised service and make them a community house as a retail store.experience India in a discrimination-free atmosphere,”founder Sanjay Malhotra said. He felt that the reading “A lot of people came in with their parents, and theydown of Section 377 had liberated the community from usually come up to us with an awkward ‘hello’ but oftendiscrimination and abuse. end up in conversations ranging from the polite (‘So, how is the store doing?’) to the personal, about how theyMalhotra told Reuters that his firm started off with 20 felt when their child came out to them,” Sabina told thegay customers, but now has more than 100. ‘DNA’ newspaper.“They feel they can breathe easy, live the life they The store – which has now moved to Goa – alsowant to. After the court order, we started getting more hosted book readings, film screenings and communityinquiries from gay men, both in India and abroad,” he meetings. “When we were younger, the community wasadded. not so accessible,” Sabina added.Arjun Sharma, who founded Le Passage to India in Delhi,said: “It’s a $3 billion industry worldwide. Gay touristsare wealthy and have expensive hobbies like arts andfashion.”The Indian gay travel industry got a boost when theInternational Gay and Lesbian Travel Association listedthe country as a destination site for gay travellers,with 11 gay-friendly or exclusively gay travel agentsas partner businesses. “The gay community had somany apprehensions travelling to India,” Malhotra toldReuters. “Now, they look at the option of travelling toIndia without acting heterosexual.”India seems to be following the lead of Nepal, whichbecame the first South Asian country to decriminalisehomosexuality and legalise same-sex marriages threeyears ago and has since been actively courting the gaytourism market.American Thomas Roth, who runs an LGBT communitymarket research firm in San Francisco, is among thosehooked to India.Thirty years ago, when he first visited the country, hewould evade questions about his wife and children. “Like Photo taken from azaadbazaar.com16
    • Sabina and Simran started AzBaz by retailing theirown ‘Jailbird’ brand of T-shirts, which they marketedlargely by word of mouth. It was a humble beginning,so imagine their surprise when several local shoppersstarted to walk in. “Once we explained the concept ofthe store to them, we got a variety of reactions thatranged from the evolved (‘You mean there is only onestore like this in India?’) to the very excited (‘Oh, I have totell my gay best friend about this!’),” Sabina told ‘DNA’.“This is not just about retail — it’s about understandingthe concept of the store.”“The gay community is a targeted consumer andit’s growing now,” Simran told ‘The Indian Express’newspaper. Green Lantern turns pink In September 2011, DC Comics announced that one of its superhero characters would reveal his homosexuality. That superhero, it was revealed in June 2012, was the Green Lantern. Consumers with a voice Gay undertones have been attributed to iconic Oreo cookies posted an LGBT-friendly image on characters such as Batman and Wonder Woman its Facebook page on June 25, 2012, sparking off since at least the early 1950s. In 1954, for a debate on gay pride as a business strategy in instance, Dr Frederic Wertham blamed comics the US. Earlier, the One Million Moms family association anti-gay group squared off with JC Penney (ad above) over its use of lesbian spokeswoman Ellen DeGeneres as well as same-sex couples in its catalogues. One Million Moms called for a boycott of JC Penney. This, in turn, led to an outcry from the gay community and the boycott failed. While the LGBT community may be small, it and its backers are outspoken, staging rallies and campaigning for gay-friendly businesses. for homosexuality among the youth in his book ‘Seduction of the Innocent’. Wertham also suggested that Batman was “psychologically gay”. In the US, this led to the formation of the Comic Code Authority, which till 1989 prohibited depictions of homosexuality in the medium. DC decided to relaunch the character as gay, ostensibly to make the comics more attractive to the pink readership. The publicity surrounding the outing didn’t hurt either.17
    • ved The path to profit, pa ion with convict By Nitin Karani, equity research editor and gay rights advocate. Nitin also writes for ‘Bombay Dost’ magazine and blogs at queerindia. blogspot.comLGBT people will not buy a product or service solely spread of social media are starting to coalesce LGBTbecause of their sexual orientation or gender identity people into a group that often thinks and acts alike.(SOGI). However, there are potential benefits that come Note the popularity of Blackberry phones (becausewith promoting your brand as a queer-friendly one. It is of Blackberry Messenger), at least among the moreimportant to consider these while also setting realistic avid networking and sexually active set. This sense ofexpectations from this emerging niche market. confidence and community can only increase with the legal and social reform that is inevitable.It is safe to assume that LGBT people are no differentfrom society at large in terms of their dispersion on Leaders, not followers: Not every LGBT person ismetrics such as age, education, economic background, a style diva. However, the LGBT community createsincome, religion and so on. What sets them apart is trends rather than follows them. Many LGBT peoplenot just SOGI, but also their spending – and saving – are early adopters, be it technology, fashion or music.behaviour. That, and to some extent their ‘look West’ More importantly, they are excellent at networking andpolicy for attitudes (towards society and the individual’s influencing. This should make them a good audience toplace in it; relationships; human rights) and popular test new products and services.culture (TV shows, for example). (Instead of labelling Brand loyalty: Perceptions matter in the LGBTit ‘Westernisation’, it may be more apt to term it the community. If your brand is seen as ‘LGBT friendly’evolution of a global identity, a process that is clearly (for instance, supportive of equal opportunity at thenot limited to the LGBT community. However, that’s a workplace), then you are on the ‘gaydar’. How much lovedifferent debate.) A crude comparison for our purposes you receive depends on the friendliness ranking.may be the perceived Western outlook of the Parsicommunity. If you are perceived negatively, however, be ready to face the music. The community can lobby, and how.Money, money, money: One of the chief reasons Examples of this abound in the developed world butto be upbeat is, of course, money. It is not that this closer home, TV9 had to face the heat for a homophobic‘community’ comprises individuals with higher-than-average incomes, but more disposable income. And,they are good spenders – especially on clothes, gadgets,travel, grooming, alcohol, entertainment and so on.Growing numbers: No, homosexuality is not infectious.What is spreading is confidence. More people thanever are ‘out’ and choosing to lead a gay lifestyle – theyprefer to remain single rather than cave in to societalpressures to get married. They stay independent of theirparents and siblings, or possibly migrate to a metro andare bolder in their career and economic choices.This confidence comes from a mix of factors such asdecriminalisation of homosexuality, globalisation, thegrowth of the internet and social media and a youngerdemographic profile. This sense of confidence and the Photo by lighttripper on flickr18
    • story by its Hyderabad bureau. It had to cough up afine of Rs 1 lakh ($1,800) to the National Broadcasters’Association and run an apology for three days. Anotherexample: the makers of ‘Dostana’, a film that waspraised but mostly panned for its gay quotient haveclarified that the sequel will be more positive. They arebusy trying to push the stars of their new releases as‘gay icons’ – a term much abused in Indian journalism,incidentally.The stronger sense of allegiance probably comes fromthe stigma and marginalisation faced by the LGBT Photo by nickjohnson on flickrcommunity. So, generally speaking, if you are starting aqueer-run business, then you should receive at least an The question of the size of the LGBT market is the mostinitial wave of support to help you take off. contentious one. How many LGBT people are there,Having said that, look before you leap. Profit is a even the Supreme Court, which is hearing appealslegitimate pursuit if the means and the intent are against decriminalisation of homosexuality, wonderedlegitimate too. It is better to have no pretence of being recently (as if that should be a deciding factor, with allLGBT-friendly or venture into this market if you don’t due respect to the honourable judges).have the strength of your conviction. The hair-splitting over statistics is tied deeply to theThere is value judgement around issues of SOGI question of identity. Sexual behaviour and identity is notstill, and there always will be. It is difficult to imagine set in stone; sexual orientation at least is a continuum.a time when there will be a Utopian embracing of Some days you might be at one end of the scale andhuman diversity by 100% of the world’s population. on other days at the opposite end (the two ends beingEven countries that have made progress in bringing exclusive attraction to the same sex and exclusivelaws for equal treatment of every citizen see cases attraction to the opposite sex, with a range of bisexualityof homophobia, often violent. Human beings judge in between). If there are no neat boxes to put people in,each other – and brands – according to their personal how do you count them?understanding of morality. Some of that good and bad Then, some people dislike the various current terms,halo will be attached to your brand as well. Gutsy brands some dislike being labelled and many more are scaredwouldn’t care, not just because boldness expands the to identify with any label because of the stigma andmarket – and money has no colour – but because they discrimination. Any surprise then that there is no reliablebelieve they are doing the right thing. estimate of the LGBT population? What has emerged so far is that the percentage of exclusively gay men and women who are sexually active could be 2%-10%. However, the percentage of sexually active bisexuals is believed to be much higher at 35%- 45%. Also, while estimating the market size, you need to include the wider set that is not sexually active. How much these numbers translate into money is anyone’s guess but OutNow Consulting, which is not based in India, recently estimated it at $200 billion annually, based on 6% of the country’s GDP, assuming that percentage of the population are LGBT adults. This percentage probably represents the potential, an opportunity that can be exploited in the best conditions, not current ones. If there was already as huge a market, as OutNow estimates, then queer-run businesses targeting it mainly should have been able to ride out the poor conditions of rising rentals, inflation and high interest rates that are afflicting the economy in general. A $200 billion market will be up for grabs but only with greater legal reform, change in societal attitudes, further penetration of the Internet and the first moversPhoto by nickjohnson on flickr in the market.19
    • lise The b attle to lega ndia homos exuality in I on flickr ghttripperPhoto by li2001 Naz Foundation, an NGO fighting for gay rights, files public interest litigation (PIL) seeking legalisation of gay sex among consenting adultsSeptember 2, 2004 Delhi High Court dismisses PIL, activists file review petitionNovember 3, 2004 Court dismisses review pleaDecember 2004 Gay rights activists approach Supreme CourtApril 3, 2006 Supreme Court directs Delhi High Court to reconsider the matterOctober 4, 2006 Delhi High Court allows right-wing politician BP Singhal’s plea, opposing decriminalising gay sex, to be impleaded in the caseSeptember 18, 2008 Government seeks more time after the contradictory stands taken by the home and health ministries. Court refuses plea, final arguments beginSeptember 25, 2008 Activists say government cannot infringe upon fundamental right to equalitySeptember 26, 2008 Court pulls up government for speaking in two voices on the homosexuality lawSeptember 26, 2008 Centre says gay sex is immoral and the reflection of a perverse mind, and its decriminalisation would lead to moral degradation of societyOctober 15, 2008 High court pulls up the Centre for relying on religious texts to justify ban on gay sex, asks it to come up with scientific reportsNovember 2008 Government, in a written submission before the court, says judiciary should refrain from interfering in an issue that is for Parliament to decideNov 7, 2008 High court reserves verdictJuly 2, 2009 Court legalises gay sex among consenting adults20
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