The beginning of the year saw men's deodorant brand from Unilever, Axe, globally launch a fragrance - Anarchy - for women, surprising many. There is also a men's version. This is not an isolated initiative as many more conventionally male-targeted brands - Harley Davidson, Tag Heuer, Arrow, Revital, to name some - are targeting women consumers now.
"No longer are women sitting at home. They are out there buying cars, travel packages, smartphones, sensual and formal apparel, hard drinks and luxury products. They are earning and count financially," said Yamini Mandal, 35, an HR executive.
Still, you would hardly expect the macho Harley Davidson to target women, but that's exactly what it's planning in India. "Harley is still small in India, but women motorbike riders are growing. We will tweak Harley's communication and product strategy to lure women riders. Globally, women are a very important part of our ridership," said Anoop Prakash, managing director, Harley-Davidson India.
Tag Heuer, a unit of French luxury group LVMH, with its premium, sporty men's watches, plans to escalate sales of women's watches to 35% this year in India, up from the current 25%. "In a lifetime, if you can sell three luxury watches to a man, you can sell between five and 10 to a lady," said Frank Dardenne, general manager, LVMH Watch and Jewellery (India).
Most acclaimed wine makers are also out on a lady hunt. "Many wine brands are indulging women's preference for mild flavours, grape varietals, style and effervescence. These include Cavit - moscato and pinot noir - and Santa Margherita's Pinot Grigio. Francis Ford Copolla has a wine called Sofia - a Blanc de Blancs blend in stylish pink 187 ml cans - named after his daughter," said Aishwarya Nair, director, food and beverage, The Leela Palaces Hotels and Resorts.
J Suresh, managing director, Arvind Brands and Retail, said: "Lines demarcating the male and female consumer divide based on income, attitudes and expenditure are blurring, particularly in big cities. Women now have higher disposable incomes and are willing to spend more. This has motivated menswear brands to extend to women, like we did with Arrow Women and USPA Women."
Purnendu Kumar, senior vice president, Technopak, a retail consultancy, observed: "Consider this a bend, not shift, as most of the brands deny any plans to become complete female brands. The rejig is more popular in apparel."
Levi's launched its Curve ID denim range only for women. "We studied over 60,000 women. Each store carrying the line has trained experts to measure women, identify their ID and help them find the best fitting jeans by body type and style preference," said You Nguyen, senior vice president, women's merchandising and design, Levi's.
Colour, for women, is a huge attraction. Gadget makers such as Sony (Viao) and HP offer choices in orange, red, blue and yellow. "These colourful devices offer their owners a strong emotional appeal. Pink is very popular with women and since they are a large part of our users, we launched a special limited edition, the Pink N8 smartphone, preloaded with special Pink apps," said Viral Oza, director marketing, Nokia India.
"Colours in laptops are sizzling, bringing us more customers," said Ranjivit Singh, chief marketing officer, personal systems group, HP India. The company plans to refresh 50% of its colour range.
Products especially created for women will emerge across more product categories. A specifically-for-women tablet PC, launched recently by Milagrow, an India-based technology solutions company, is an example. The TabTop PC weighs only 275 gm and can fit into a woman's handbag.