Until not so long ago the traditional roles of men and women were regarded as essential pillars of Indian culture and society. But the generation born after 1975 is showing signs of a different approach to life and the opposite sex.
Economic growth has lead to better educational opportunities for both boys and girls. Women are claiming ever larger shares of professional and public life. In that process they are not only emancipating themselves but also the young men around them.
The influence of foreign cultures (mostly Western) is becoming stronger due to better education, more contact with the world outside India and the overall general drive of the country to move forwards.
The industry most at the forefront of these changes is the fashion retail which includes clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry and beautyware.
Especially beautyware is enjoying a strongly increased interest from both women and men. Although still a small segment of the total retail industry consumer behaviour in this segment clearly shows the changes in attitude of young men and women towards each other.
As women are becoming better educated and have better jobs with higher incomes they are also becoming more demanding of future partners. Parents still search partners for their children but the right of refusal is strongly embedded with (upper) middle class families. In the past a proposed groom could be older, overweight and unattractive as long as he held a steady position and was able to provide for his future family.
With their increased financial independence young women of marrying age nowadays have many more requests. Their future husbands must not only have a good job with enough prospects for advancement he must also take care of himself physically. He must dress fashionably, have a fit body and a well kempt face.
As young men find themselves increasingly in competition with other men for a bride as well as with more and more women professionally they are learning the value of a well kempt outer appearance. The trend among young men these days is for lean and fit bodies. Being overweight is no longer a sign of prosperity. Grooming and facial beautycare are becoming more and more important in order to be able to create good first impressions. With prospective brides as well as potential employers.
This is one of the fastest growing segments in the cosmetics industry in India as the young generation of men is not shy about admitting the regular use of beautycare products.
It is one of the signs that young Indian men understand the changing role of women in their society and they are changing with it. Although still very much an urban (upper) middle class development it will contribute to a further advancement of the influence of women in a traditionally paternalistic society.