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Fair deal

I started thinking of Eric Segal?s bitter sweet, cloying family drama at a supermarket in Noida ? Man, Woman & Child.

india Updated: May 31, 2006 01:49 IST

I started thinking of Eric Segal’s bitter sweet, cloying family drama at a supermarket in Noida — Man, Woman & Child. Standing in front of a shelf packed with all that’s deemed ‘necessary’ to keep one healthy and good-looking, one product rose very high above the clutter — a baby oil named ‘Healthy & Fair’. After the Fair and Lovely women, and the Fair and Handsome men, it was only fair that kids (okay, newborns to be fair, with no minds of their own) would want to adopt the colour code.

I did the touch and feel routine: culling it from the shop shelf and turning it around to see who’d manufactured it. Emami. I actually felt a frisson of regional pride at that: Emami, the FMCG major that comes out with tags like Naturally Fair and the ravishingly-male Fair & Handsome (F&H), is based out of my hometown, Kolkata.

My friend, who had dragged me to the supermarket because she wanted to purchase her weekly quota of household provisions, spluttered in disbelief when I told her about the new kid on the block: “What? I don’t believe this. Babies too?”

The next day I called up Emami’s director Aditya Agarwal, who is known to me. He told me that Healthy & Fair had created a new segment in the market — it was India’s first-ever ‘fairness oil’ for babies. “You know,” he said smugly, “these days, a typical middle-class family is more interested in knowing if the baby is gora  or gori or not, rather than whether it’s a boy or a girl.”

And how does he know this? Because his company is in the process of carrying out research — via personal interactions with consumers, doctors, would-be mothers and even ‘expectant’ family members outside the delivery room. To back the research, he quoted numbers: over the last six months (since its launch, that is), Healthy & Fair had, apparently, raked in more than Rs 4 crore in an extremely slow-moving category (the baby oil one).

I remembered the time when I was doubling up in laughter one evening sometime last year, when I first saw the ad for Fair & Handsome on television. But now it seems Emami is laughing all the way to the bank: over the last six months, F&H has made close to Rs 40 crore (but, of course, in a fast-moving segment — the fairness creams one).

And I also remembered how research had revealed that a significant number (35 per cent, if I remember correctly) of the Significant Others of the Fair and Lovelies in our country, used to try on girlie fairness potions — which was why F&H was launched.

Everything’s fair, I guess.