The Power of Pink: How LGBTQ Community could add to our Economy
If you are among those who think there is nothing pink about the health of our economy, you have definitely not heard of the ‘Pink Economy’.
Globally, the market for products targeted at the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) is believed to be anywhere between $200 billion and $600 billion. In India, this segment might just be developing green shoots providing an opportunity for marketers, if a recent report by communications consultancy, MSL India, is anything to go by. Titled, “Out of the closet and into the marketplace: The Birth of India’s Pink Economy”, the report talks about the potential of tapping into the LGBT population to market products and services. India is estimated to have 26-30 million men who are gay, while the numbers for lesbians are not as easily available. Add transgenders and bisexuals, and various estimates suggest that the total LGBT population in India could go up to 130 million (including people who are still in the closet, as far as expressing their sexual preferences go). In value terms, even if India makes for only one per cent of the global pie, still the market for products and services targeting the LGBT segment could be as high as Rs 25,000 crore, says Ashraf Engineer, head-content at MSL India.
It’s not that this community comprises individuals with more than average incomes. But being single, they have more disposable income. Even those living with partners usually have no additional expenses like those involved in bringing up children. “They are good spenders especially on clothes, gadgets, travel, grooming, alcohol and entertainment,” says Nitin Karani, an equity research editor and gay rights advocate. Ashok Row Kavi, India’s best-known gay rights activist adds that they spend, but on themselves. “None of the world’s big philanthropists are gay,” he points out.
Kavi adds that many mainstream brands and categories owe their success to being adopted by the gay community who aligned themselves to adopt lifestyle products first. For instance, SUVs were first adopted by gays to portray the macho image. Brands like Absolut Vodka advertise extensively in gay magazines like Advocate, while in Los Angeles and San Francisco, most gay couples would swear by Ikea, as the furniture retailer offers them all the convenience, they need to do up their homes. Engineer adds that several financial services companies like Wells Fargo or UBS have customized services offered to the community in the US. Blackberry services like the messenger would have a lot of takers among the avid networking and sexually active set.
Travel is also a huge business opportunity. In terms of tourists, after the Israelis who are known to take the maximum vacations all over the world, it’s the lesbian couples who come next in line. In India, some services have taken note of the market needs.
It may be early days but there is no dearth of services from travel to retail targeted at LGBT population in the country. Arjun Sharma who founded travel services company, Le Passage to India, says gay tourism is a $3-billion industry worldwide and gay tourists, most of whom are wealthy, have expensive hobbies like arts and fashion. Then, there is the Delhi-based Indisa Pink or Purple Dragon who offer travel services for gay tourists in India.
Among the leading apparel and accessory stores there’s D’Kloset in Mumbai and Azaad Bazaar, that started first in Mumbai but has now relocated to Goa.
However, unlike the US, large brands or services find it difficult to exclusively target the affluent gay community in India. First, the community is diverse in its needs – so one size might not fit all—and then a marketer who sharply targets only this population could end up alienating the mainstream.