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The inside story of an Indian woman’s handbag

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The inside story of an Indian woman’s handbag

From time immemorial, a woman’s personality has found reflection in the accessories she carries. In fact, the one accessory that unfolds the interesting story of her world the best - her ‘handbag’. It is her mini-world that is reflective of her sense of style, her stature, her needs and her self-concept.

A recent Draftfcb+Ulka study maps the evolution of this woman, her identity beliefs, her role definitions and the key driving forces in her life by studying one of her most prized accessory – ‘her handbag’. Conducted across Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, the study reveals several startling facts about the current thinking pattern of today’s women, their iconic behaviour and their needs.

Meet the Purses
Women in different life stages have different preferences of the kind of handbags they choose depending on their personalities, prevailing trends and needs. While college going girls opt for curvier, cheerful and visibly impactful ones that complement their personalities, working women opt for bags that are ‘classy’, with more compartments. Young housewives on the other hand choose their handbags not just on the basis of functionality but also a bit of ‘bling’, conscious of looking good on all occasions.

Bag Scan- Uncovering some truths
The contents of the handbag reveal some compelling details about the emerging trends amongst these groups of women across the locations.
College Girls – Ms. No-Strings-Attached: Apart from the basic college essentials like college ID and notebooks, college girls restrict their contents to basic beauty and entertainment related items. Since mobile phones have now become a centre for all their entertainment needs including sneaking fun during class, they had no entertainment literature any more in their bags.

They prefer to look ‘naturally cool’ rather than opting for a glamorous, funky look and hence the contents of their bag have only the basic beauty essentials like kaajal and lip gloss. In their view lipsticks are passé and any form of visible face make-up is 'desperate attention-seeking’ behaviour.

Their manner of keeping things simple, basic and functional portrays a ‘no strings attached’ personality.

Young working professionals - Ms. Effective-in-any-situation: Working women’s bags with their multitude of contents reveal a number of fascinating trends. Along with the wallet that stores their financial independence, PAN card, utility bills and housekeys have made a place in the handbag for this group of women who want to be effective and in touch with home and work responsibilities at all times. With the digital revolution, pen-drives have become a common feature in their handbags, keeping their work data accessible at all time. They are always prepared for all exigencies arising out of being out of home for longer hours. Thus their bags often carry some snacks and also items such as hand sanitizers and painkillers.

Despite their challenging work-life, working professionals tend to follow an elaborate grooming routine. They prefer a well-defined and presentable yet natural appearance and hence carry a complete set of beauty essentials in their handbag that range from lip gloss, kaajal and comb to even a foundation.

Thus, while they are rapidly closing in on men on effectiveness, preparedness and competence, they increasingly carry their femininity to work. Even while doing their best at work, they never take their eyes off their homes.

Housewives and part-time working women- Mrs. Supermom: Today housewives feel the need to be seen as effective not only on the home front but also at tasks outside their home and their handbag contents clearly reflect this trend. Housewives always carry the responsibility of home with them and hence their handbags contain items such as homekeys, shopping bag, utility bills, note pad and a pen, filling snacks for family and sometimes even warranty cards of items purchased for home.

Despite being mostly at home, even this group has internalised the value of personal care and grooming-on-the-go. The grooming rituals of this group are more elaborate and conventional hence the products carried in the handbag typically include a sachet of bindi along with kaajal, eye liner, compact, lipstick and moisturizers.

In conclusion, these women convey they are well equipped to deal with domestic and family responsibilities at all times and the contents in their bag validate their image.

Over the years, handbag contents have undergone a metamorphosis
With the widespread digital revolution, women have shifted from the traditional diary to making to-do lists on phone and storing important data on pen-drives. Their favourite FM station is now just a click away on their cell phones. As the concept of grooming has evolved with times, so have the beauty and personal care items. Items like talcum powder, lipstick and eyeliner that were the beauty staples of every Indian woman some years ago have made way for new-age products like deodorants, lip-gloss, foundation and facewash. As opposed to some years ago, today packaged/branded snacks and new hygiene products like wet wipes/ tissues and hand sanitizers are seeing greater acceptance in their life on the go.

A look at some trends in grooming
We discovered some distinct grooming habits across the three groups on studying the beauty and personal care items in detail. Anecdotally, grooming trends appear to differ for all the locations keeping the age brackets constant. Women in Mumbai prefer to carry a ‘clean & natural’ look while the women in Delhi wear a ‘glamorous’ look and women in Bangalore opt for a ‘natural but muted’ look. The handbags of these women house items that are true to the grooming trends typical to these cities. Delhi women prefer to wear eye make-up and carry foundation, lip-gloss and eye make-up as their beauty essentials while women in Mumbai restrict themselves to kaajal, compact and lip gloss thus wearing the more softened look to suit the climate. Women in Bangalore are happy to carry kaajal and lip gloss stating they don’t prefer to experiment with their looks.

The mantra of grooming- on- the- go has caught on amongst women across age brackets indicating at the importance of taking care of oneself and looking good at all times. Across the age groups, the emerging beauty code of the day is to wear the ‘enhanced natural’ look. Thus lip-stick and eye liners were replaced by lip-gloss and kaajal respectively. Face wash was seen as very useful to carry, only if its packaging was transport worthy.

Interestingly, it also became apparent that despite being outgoing and individualistic, women in the different age groups continue to adhere to the norms of their respective social circles in their choices of handbags and the contents.

With women today living an equally fast-paced life as men, their way-of-life has also undergone a transformation. This gives us some interesting discoveries about the woman of today. Effectiveness and preparedness without giving up on their feminine traits is the key mantra and this is clearly reflected in their handbag content choices. On the other hand, the demands of an active lifestyle and the increased value of presentability and have led to an increase in ‘grooming-on-the-go’.

The inside story of a woman’s handbag has many informative leads for all marketers to sharpen their future product mix and keenly notice the emerging needs of the woman of today in the areas of beauty essentials, entertainment gadgets, emergency essentials and snack items. They also constantly feel the need for smaller and transit proof packs of various contents carried that are ‘travel friendly’. This need is currently unaddressed by most marketers. For e.g.: most women refrain from carrying a facewash due to fear of leakage as the cap breaks easily.


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