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General Brides and Grooms

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by singhbj, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. singhbj

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    Nov 4, 2007
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    Branding Brides and Grooms in India

    An analysis of matrimonial advertising in India 1967-1997

    Kapil Sethi
    Director of Planning
    McCann Erickson Malaysia
    E-mail: Kapil_Sethi@mccann.com

    Matrimonial ads are a uniquely South Asian if not Indian phenomenon, where they serve as a facilitating process for arranged marriages. They are essentially dialogues between families, using the medium of newspapers, where particulars of the individual to be married and the family are detailed, as well as the requirements from prospective partners and their families.

    Grooms Wanted: A comparison


    Suitable match for a pretty, domesticated, accomplished U.P. Kayastha Brahmin, 20 B.A, B.Ed, Teacheress from a respectable family. Decent marriage.


    Wanted: a professionally qualified boy for an extremely beautiful, fair Punjabi Khatri girl, 24/160, B.Com, C.A. (Group 1 passed) employed girl from a respectable family.

    The objective of this study, undertaken as a media ethnology project in McCann Erickson India under the supervision of Santosh Desai, Sr. VP Strategic Planning & Consumer Insights, was to try and map the changes which have occurred in Indian urban society, with regard to the self images of men and women in the marital search process.

    To this end, an analysis of matrimonial advertising in The Times of India and The Hindustan Times, Delhi editions from 1967 to 1997, was carried out using content analysis by attributes employed for this purpose, and raw scores for various attributes thus obtained were analysed. A total sample of 3200 matrimonial ads (1600 for each section of male and female attributes) was used, chosen on the basis of random sampling, forming snapshots separated by ten-yearly intervals, starting from 1967.

    A short word on terminology: Matrimonial ads are typically segregated under Grooms Wanted (for women) and Brides Wanted (for men) ads. Unless specified, all scores are a composite of grooms and brides wanted scores, for a given year.

    General findings:

    * Both men and women talk lots more about themselves than about what they want.

    * Matrimonial ads as a whole are getting verbose, pointing to the growth of an increasing specificity and range of requirements

    Desired Attributes of Females:

    * Physical Beauty:

    The beauty composite, which has been taken as the starting point for this analysis, shows the following trend :

    Beauty Composite Attributes - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997
    Beauty 52.... 49.... 55.... 63

    Here, beauty refers to an aggregate of the raw scores of beautiful, good looking, attractive, and pretty. All desired physical attributes with the exception of "pretty" and "virgin" have registered almost continuous increases over the decades.

    Beauty Attributes - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * Beautiful 34.... 37.... 40.... 46
    * Fair 1.... 15.... 22.... 33
    * Tall/Height 0.... 36.... 53.... 56
    * Age 46.... 48.... 54.... 54
    * Slim 1.... 15.... 27.... 26
    * Good Looking 6.... 4.... 8.... 9
    * Pretty 12.... 6.... 4.... 3
    * Sharp Featured 0.... 2.... 1.... 1
    * Weight 0.... 0.... 1.... 1
    * Bust Size 0.... 0.... 1.... 0
    * Virgin 5.... 2.... 1.... 0
    * Attractive 0.... 2.... 3.... 5

    Essentially, rising importance of physical beauty and the changing lexicon (pretty, virgin declining) of matrimonial ads are the key findings. Also, the emergence of height as a desirable attribute is a relatively recent phenomenon.

    Height Attributes - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I am a tall girl 0.... 60.... 90.... 93
    * I want a tall girl 1.... 12.... 16.... 20

    The demand for fairness is on the rise.

    Fairness Attributes - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I am a fair girl 2.... 20.... 35.... 44
    * I want a fair girl 1.... 11.... 9.... 22

    Increasing specificity and range of requirements mentioned nowadays is the explanation for this, as outlined earlier, whereas in the 60's fairness would possibly be subsumed under "beautiful".

    While fairness has been desirable always, the demand has become explicit only recently.

    Photographs - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * Photographs 0.... 1.... 5.... 28

    Societal Attributes - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * Caste 42.... 44.... 47.... 44
    * Family 31.... 23.... 36.... 33
    * Region 13.... 17.... 21.... 19

    Societal and community attributes have retained their importance over the time period of the study, with high and relatively static scores consistently.

    Education Attributes - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I am an educated girl 82.... 84.... 80.... 57
    * I want an educated girl 31.... 28.... 20.... 38
    * I am professionally qualified 8.... 11.... 12.... 41
    * I want a professionally qualified 12.... 16.... 14.... 28

    Shift from mere education to qualification signifying earning capacity, as well as in terms of?

    Employment Attributes - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I am a working girl 22.... 29.... 36.... 44
    * I want a working girl 7.... 17.... 15.... 15

    An interesting paradox is also visible in terms of the following table, where a combination of homemaking and earning qualifications is on the rise. Put together with the rise in demand for horoscopes, it points towards risk reduction in an increasingly uncertain world.

    Homemaking/Earning Attributes - Women

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * Homely + Educated 37.... 34.... 35.... 54
    * Working + Prof. Qual. 15.... 33.... 29.... 43
    * Horoscope Req. 0.... 1.... 3.... 19

    Overall decade wise snapshots

    In the 1960's, while caste and family were important, the girl's "merits" were the prime concern. Beauty was more in terms of talent (singer, accomplished), than physical attributes (only 2 GrW ads said that the girl was slim!). 'Decent marriages' were the norm, and with pride.

    In the 1970's, education and caste retained their importance. Convent education, a euphemism for English speaking, and "smart" were mentioned in a fairly big way. Specific physical requirements such as height, and fairness started getting mentioned in the ads in a big way. This decade also marked the emergence of the working woman.

    In the 1980's, there was increasing stridency of tone as well as increasing verbosity. Physical beauty clearly started becoming very important, to the detriment of "accomplishments". Working women were here to stay and income became a virtue to be flaunted.

    The 1990's were the era of the instant fix. It was the age of the professionally qualified, physically perfect working woman, who was certainly not "pretty". Though, as the desire for a "90's woman" grew, there was also a growing yearning for the homely bahu (bride), chosen through a matching of horoscopes.

    Male attribute findings:

    Just as beauty was the key attribute in the case of women, the ability of the man to provide for his wife is assumed to be key in men.

    Societal factors

    Traditional obsequiousness of the "girl's side" is very much alive when it comes to a question of marriage

    Requirements of...

    1967.... 1997

    * Men from women 231.... 419
    * Women from men 165.... 196

    Caste, region and family, have retained their importance over the time period of the study in this section too, with high and relatively static scores consistently.

    Societal Attributes - Men

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * Caste 48.... 47.... 48.... 52
    * Family 11.... 11.... 20.... 14
    * Region 11.... 11.... 18.... 23

    Educational Attributes - Men

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I want a man 8.... 5.... 9.... 4
    * I am a man 33.... 31.... 34.... 28

    Professional Qualifications - Men

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I want a man 4.... 3.... 8.... 12
    * I am a man 26.... 35.... 26.... 43

    More emphasis is being placed on professional degrees (preferably branded) rather than conventional education by both men and women today, than at any other previous time.

    Working Attribute - Men

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I want a man 18.... 26.... 35.... 40
    * I am a man 71.... 76.... 80.... 78

    Income Attribute - Men

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I want a man 2.... 1.... 1.... 0
    * I am a man 61.... 53.... 51.... 39

    Women are getting increasingly specific about the kind of work their man should be doing But it has become rather crass to state exactly what amount of money is made.

    "Only Son" Attribute - Men

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I am an only son 0.... 0.... 2.... 6

    In today's urban context, the fact that the family inheritance is sure to accrue to one's husband is a definite positive.

    Physical Attributes - Men

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * Handsome 15.... 18.... 23.... 18
    * Fair 0.... 2.... 4.... 6
    * Tall/Height 0.... 24.... 44.... 47
    * Age 49.... 50.... 52.... 50
    * Slim 0.... 1.... 3.... 1
    * Smart 0.... 3.... 6.... 7
    * Photograph 0.... 1.... 0.... 7
    * Weight 0.... 0.... 1.... 3
    * Teetotaller 0.... 1.... 0.... 7

    Physical attributes in the case of men have acquired an importance in the marital scheme of things quite recently, but an importance which is fairly large scale.

    Height Attributes Compared

    1967.... 1977.... 1987.... 1997

    * I am a tall women 0.... 60.... 90.... 93
    * I want a tall woman 1.... 12.... 16.... 20
    * I want a tall man 0.... 2.... 4.... 2
    * I am a tall man 1.... 48.... 85.... 93

    But it is more important for women to be tall, as it seems.

    Overall decade wise snapshots

    In the 1960's, age and caste were predominant attributes. Occupation and income were important, but a lot of the men who were still studying, but with "bright futures" were also in the marriage market, which is why "education" and "foreign trained" were often mentioned. Decent marriages were the norm, and being an income tax assessee was a mark of distinction

    In the 1970's employment, income and caste retained their importance. Height suddenly became a desired attribute, and other physical attributes started getting mentioned. Emergence of the trend of NRI's (Non Resident Indians)/would be NRI's putting ads, specific to the place where the spouse would have to live after marriage.

    In the 1980's there was a sense of increasing stridency and verbosity of tone. Men started laying a lot of stress on their background and family in the 1980's, as well as the part of the world they came from, and wanted to settle in.

    In the 1990's, professional qualifications were in, education was out. Job profiles were in, income statements were out. Geographical considerations were key, decent marriages certainly were not. Individual characteristics which define the desired persona were here to stay. Men were/needed to be anything from "teetotalers" to "broad minded".


    India's social fabric has retained most of its characteristics in the face of the so-called winds of liberalisation sweeping society in the last decade. Caste and family are still paramount in the marital search process and change in these important social considerations is still negligible.

    Physical elements are gaining in importance all the time as parameters of success in the marriage market. Increasing specificity of requirements in the face of the decline of the joint family system and this specificity is out in the open.

    Pure personality attributes of both men and women have been consistently low, though there is some increase in recent years because mainstream matrimonial advertising has essentially been an exchange of correspondence between parents. No serious defiance of existent social norms has emerged, and it is the parents who exercise the first level of choice.

    Romance is seen as secondary to marriage, which is a rational life choice. The change is in the fact of accommodation of some of the needs of the individuals concerned (bride and groom) in the terminology of the ad. The format of the "matrimonial ad" has proved flexible enough to accommodate this change.

    The movement

    An alliance between families (past)


    Some element of individual choice, under the ambit of the family (today)


    An alliance between individuals (future)

    Most Importantly...

    * Resilient and dynamic social structure
    * Social change in India not a discontinuous process
    * Pace of change nowhere as fast or radical as commonly believed and predicted, and unlikely to be so in the near future

    Communication Implications

    * Grooming Vs. Sexuality/Romance
    * How aspirational to be
    * Individual led advertising-Cognitive Dissonance for the majority-not for me?
    * The DDLJ story-What does the huge success of soppy joint family situated happy family sagas in Hindi cinema point to?
    * More us and less me?
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