Ashee Sharma

Biba Attempts Progressive Take On Arranged Marriages

Biba's new digital ad #ChangeIsBeautiful challenges societal norms on arranged marriages by turning the tables on the boys. Find out how.

The ethnic apparel brand Biba has rolled out a digital ad #ChangeIsBeautiful to solve the biggest dilemma that girls of marriageable age have to face in Indian society -- that of choosing a life partner by treating prospective in-laws to tea and samosas! And, it is the girl's tea and samosa making skills that decide her fate when it comes to arranged marriages.

Biba Attempts Progressive Take On Arranged Marriages
Coming to the rescue of its target group (TG), Biba's new ad plays the change agent by asking boys to prove their worth to the girl and her family. The film depicts the regular scenario of an arranged marriage which ends on an unpredictable and amusing note when the girl's (played by South Indian actress Regina Cassandra) father turns the table on the boy by questioning his cooking skills. Surprisingly, instead of flaring up, the boy requests for a period of 10 days to master the art.
Biba Attempts Progressive Take On Arranged Marriages
If the virtual world was any measure of the real, the popularity that the video has gained shows how fast Indian society is changing. Siddharth Bindra, managing director, Biba, claims that the ad got close to 1.5 million views within 19 hours of its release, on December 29, 2015. He further informs that over 90 per cent of the campaign's reach is organic.

Suva Ghosh, founder and chief creative officer, Brandmovers, adds, "This film is a commentary on arranged marriages in India, where the onus is almost always on the woman to prove her merit. This is Biba's stand on changing ideologies towards a more progressive society".

Biba Attempts Progressive Take On Arranged Marriages
Biba Attempts Progressive Take On Arranged Marriages
With almost every brand taking a feminist stand to get the viewer's attention these days, there must certainly be more reason for Biba to carry out such an execution. "We are a women's apparel brand and it makes complete sense for us to speak out for our TG. This campaign is a personification of our brand foundation which makes Biba the face of today's modern woman. Change is the only constant thing, and it is indeed beautiful when it aims at the betterment of an individual or even society at large," says Bindra.

In fact, in order to represent the evolved customer, Biba had in March last year, unveiled a refreshed identity with a new logo. "The new logo reflects qualities of the new-age woman -- confidence, elegance, royalty, detail, and pride. While our sweet spot is 20-40 years, we cater to three generations in a family -- the daughter, the mother and the grandmother," shared Bindra in an earlier interaction with afaqs! during which we also learned that Biba is evaluating television as a medium for advertising.

Conversely, it turns out that the brand sees more potential in the digital medium, particularly because of the success of, launched in October 2014. According to Bindra, the response to the online portal has been "fabulous", and the company expects it to constitute at least five percent of the business this year, with e-commerce contributing a total of 12-15 per cent.

Biba, therefore, chooses to be more active in the digital space. Prior to this, it had released a digital video last year to describe the journey of a small town woman to a big city and showcase how the brand helped her in discovering her individuality. The campaign was also aimed at creating buzz about

Talking to us about the impact of online retail in fashion, Bindra shares that one of the most striking developments is that today customers are adopting new fashion/trends very fast. "Today, we have to be nimble with our response. We must constantly listen to our customer and engage with her to understand her changing perception of fashion. As a market leader I would look at this as a great opportunity. We have been trend-setters in the category, and have managed to launch innovative trends like the Palazzo pants, Anarkali style, and asymmetrical cuts over the last few years," he states.

While the brand is picking up on the e-commerce front, Bindra believes that it will co-exist with physical retail. In fact, Biba plans to expand its retail presence by adding up to 50 brick-and-mortar stores this year, and 200 over the next three years. The biggest challenge in executing this plan, he tells us, will be real-estate. "There is no good quality real-estate available and what's there is extremely expensive. The overall market has also been challenging. People are trying to beat the ever-increasing inflation which has led to lesser disposable incomes. We see the latter improving this year," says Bindra.


Hemant Shringy, executive creative director, BBDO India, feels that while the ad asks the right questions, is provocative, well-intended and emotionally appealing, the only thing missing is the product connect. "If being a traditional, yet progressive brand was the brief, it would have been beautiful to see the idea stem from the product itself. Off the top of my head, "Don't judge me as being regressive and old-fashioned just because I choose to wear Indian clothes" could have been a strong and empowering route," he says.

Biba Attempts Progressive Take On Arranged Marriages
Biba Attempts Progressive Take On Arranged Marriages
Commenting on the execution, Shringy states that although it's easy to say that there is currently an overload of the feminist stance in communication, the truth is that there are still many gaps in our social and cultural environment when it comes to issues related to women. "It's unfair to put a generic blanket of 'feminism' as the statements that are being made are addressing very specific issues. Having said that, only when the product, brand and category connect is strong does the message ring true," he adds.

Shringy also notes that even though the video is not advertising much, it will create a strong brand recall when it comes to chic, ethnic wear. "The consumer today is highly evolved. She doesn't need to be shown a catalogue for her to know that a particular brand has great designs. She is intuitive enough to realise that if a brand is taking a progressive stance, it will live up to the same progressive mindset even when it comes to its collection," he explains.

Vandana Katoch, founder, Clayground Communications, finds the ad well executed. She, however, thinks that the brand could have been more central to the plot. "I'm a Biba customer myself and quite like their designs. But in the ad, I miss the brand. It's not that every apparel ad needs to showcase the collection, but even if one garment is on display, it should be romanced beautifully," she notes.

Commenting on the oft-repeated formula of feminism she says, "Feminism won't go out of fashion anytime soon, given the focus placed on women's issues today and the gradual shift in mindsets. The difference lies only in how fresh your take is and how you weave your brand story around it. Havell's Appliances has done it well, and so has the ad, in which a woman sends a parcel of medicines to her ex-mom-in-law."

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