Now that the most important date in a Hindu woman's yearly calendar has come and gone - I may be spared a few brickbats - I have to say this: I get why Karva Chauth is a such a big deal. I have been told many times that since I am a bitter divorcee, there is little reason for me to believe in Karva Chauth and they understand that I hardly ever paid any attention to it, what with no man or marriage to boast about.
Au contraire, I want to tell all my detractors that this is one Indian festival nay celebration that I see as a success story. In pure marketing terms, it is a steal and gives a new meaning to the phrase - know your audience' needs. It has nothing to do with belief but a wonderful case study in understanding your market. Peter Drucker, often called the father of the modern MBA, said the purpose of any business is to create value for its customers, and in Karva Chauth, sellers can do that without even lifting a seeker.
There is demand, supply, a defined market which only grows, the multiplicity of product application, customer competitiveness to acquire the best, et al:
Demand: Well, there is certainly a demand for women to demonstrate their loyalty, more than anyone in their family or among friends. The saree or the suit has to be the boldest red. I have now seen entire exhibitions devoted to this enterprise and since it falls bang in the middle of the festival season, just ahead of the weddings, the overflow has plenty of space to be absorbed. The key trick is that this "demand" is connected to emotional fulfilment, the holy grail of marketers which has so far proved elusive for products, except for maybe maverick Apple, which I am told now has a revenue that exceeds the GDP of a few countries.
So the more loving a husband is (or has to be seen as one) the more he will shell out for the outfit. It has to be embroidered in crystals with footwear and a spa day before that.
Of course, the henna has to be as designer as in any top-class wedding. More love has to be shown - to be showered on the mother-in-law who sends out a bespoke sweet/namkeen display - a bit like Karan Johar's thingamajig soppy scenes.
Supply: This is where it has been most innovative. My mom would take out her wedding saree every year and make a small array of Pooja things and go about her business in great silence. We would await the sighting of the moon, always erratic in the Himalayas and it was my myopic brother's job to spy some kind of "lit-up" clouds to shout: chand aa gaya, chand aa gaya for her to do a two-minute ritual, no sieve et al and then we would pounce on the goodies, forgetting it was she who hadn't eaten or had so much as a sip of water for the last 24 hours.
I still remember that she would start hunting for that clay "karva" months in advance as it was hard to find in the hills - and, in the end, make do with a brass "lota".
Now it begins with a super smart clay karva, all decked up like a simpering bride. The Rs 20 clay pot goes for anything from Rs 200. The henna, a speck of it, would cost upwards of Rs 100 - the kind which is popular across Delhi and its surrounding cities starts at Rs 1,000 a palm.
That day, the beauticians do a wondrous job to tell you how much you need to look your best - your skin is so tired, let me give a nice rose petal scrub, it is so tanned, another lathering of something that smells of sandalwood, a full laser cleanup is a must, red nail paint can only be applied after a special manicure with the tips of the fingers soaked in honey and milk.
The outfit would have not been stitched at the local neighbourhood tailor or God forbid, recycled from last year. The previous weeks would see a frantic search for the exclusive and latest design. Then there is the jewellery. These days, women wear more of it on the day of the fast than they did at their weddings. Nowadays, it is a craze to look like Devasena from Baahubali 2.
From head pieces and hair jewellery to that Pakeezah-style jhoomar to bangles with hangings in green and gold, to anklets which tinkle to the "aarsi" - a classic piece of romance, to see every detail reduced to a paltry Rs 2,500 accoutrement is a travesty.
But then who cares. So put together, an average middle class woman (I refuse to get into the affairs of the affluent crowd where diamond sets as special gifts are not uncommon) spending a lakh or so on Karva chauth no longer raises eyebrows.
Retention and acquisition
As any marketing maestro would tell you, it is easy to sell a product once if you have a buyer, but if you have a continuous new stream and also continue to service all those who have been there before, that is "heaven".
With karva chauth, there is no fear of losing the customer. Not only do you have the complete attention of a woman from the time she gets married till she doesn't need to keep the fast (I am thinking of hurting sensibilities here), but also a million young women are added to the adult age group every year, all of whom are desirous of a good marriage, with some even observing the fast before the wedding. There is little chance of this market dwindling.
In fact, the real challenge is to keep coming up with innovative ideas. I am waiting to hear about Karva Chauth special tours where everything is arranged in Chiang Mai or Venice, depending on your budget.
I am trying to visualise a ghaghra choli-clad woman with sindoor up her forehead, peering at her beloved man through the sieve and the clouds in St Mark's Square. But then stranger things have happened in the name of love.
Then there are the men, who will dress up like Shahrukh Khan and be the man of the house and are known to join their wives in observing the fast. This leads to a rather celestial question: If both are fasting for each other's long life, who is going to kick the bucket first?