Saturday, April 21, 2012

Is this fair advertising

Following article has been published by `Eves Touch` a monthly women`s magazine published from Chennai, in their April,2012 issue. Giving the valedictory address at the 10th Anniversary International Conference of Consumers Association of India, Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs; Mr. K V Thomas said that the Government was aware of advertisements that were not based on scientifically proven data, finding place in the media and warned of strong action against such publicity. In spite of the Consumer Protection Act 1986, Drug and Magic Remedies Act (Objectionable Advertisements Act) and the Cable Television Network Regulation Act to prevent misleading Advertisements; such ads are growing in number, taking the gullible consumers for a ride. ‘Reduce up to 10 Kg a week’, ‘get fair and glowing skin in ten days’, ‘have long and shiny hair in two weeks` or `become a chick-magnet in one spray’ – Claims such as these are what drives the sales of many health and beauty related products in the market. It is a well-known fact that as many dark men use fair & lovely cream as women, who are the primary targets – so much so that Emami has come up with a “Fair-Ever Cream” specially targeted at men. A young man lured by a television commercial showing a bevy of beautiful women falling over a young man because he was using a particular brand of deodorant spray bought a can to try his luck. Having sprayed himself with a generous portion of the liquid he stood outside the gate of a woman’s college only to find that not a single girl even glanced at him. He wrote a letter of protest to the company, accusing them of cheating him! For every such consumer who complains about a non-performing product, there are millions of consumers who continue to use a product hoping that it will help them in fulfilling their dreams and desires! The success of Fair & Lovely cream not only in India but also in African countries is a classic example of a product which exploits the weakness of human beings for fairer skin. If you visit the streets of some towns in Tamilnadu on a Friday morning, you will find many women with a distinct yellow layer on their hands and faces walking around – all of them have had an oil bath and have applied a generous dose of turmeric paste on their face and hands to make them look fairer! In their minds, yellow is better than black! Similarly men in South India are well known for applying generous portions of body talc powder on their faces after every bath to make themselves look fairer. It is this weakness of human beings to be what they are not that is exploited by manufacturers across the world. Resulting in misleading ads helping both the manufacturers and media, rake in huge profits. Who is to blame for this? The companies who produce such products or the media which disseminates information about the products, or the government which has failed to implement the Acts that are already in existence to protect consumers from such ads. More than anybody else I would blame the consumers themselves for falling for such ads. What else can you say for consumers, mainly middle class, who even today fall into the trap of companies or individuals promising higher returns for their investments, resulting in millions of people losing their hard earned money to fraudsters? Is there no remedy? Is there a forum to which genuinely affected consumers can take their grievances to? Thanks to the Consumer Protection Act 1986 and establishment of District Consumer Forums across the country, consumers can get speedy redressal for their complaints, provided they follow a certain procedure while buying any product – Always insist on a bill when buying any product and keep it safely for a length of time. Check the expiry date and MRP (Maximum retail price). In the event of a product not performing as per promises made, register a complaint through a letter or a mail and keep a file of the correspondence with the dealer or the company in the matter. It is in this context that organizations like Consumers Association of India (CAI for short) can help you. In the last 10 years of its existence CAI has handled nearly 10000 complaints from consumers, 98% of which got resolved without even going to any consumer forum. CAI now also has a system in place by which you can register your complaints through your mobiles (Visit CAI website for details Those conscientious citizens who feel agitated seeing blatantly misleading ads also can register their complaints with the Advertising Standards Council of India ( ASCI is a self-regulatory voluntary organization of the advertising industry formed by all its stakeholders; advertising agencies, media, advertisers and consumers. The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI examines the complaints received from the public and if found legitimate requests the concerned company to stop such misleading advertisements. It has been found that in almost 80% of the cases the companies do respond positively to the ASCI` request. Though there is a time lag between the complaint and action taken, at least consumers now have a body to which they can refer their complaints. As per latest information received, ASCI is instituting a system by which it will retain the services of voluntary agencies to go through the thousands of advertisements in Print and television media on a regular basis and revert to them with details of misleading ads so that they can initiate action faster than the earlier system of waiting for receiving complaints from Consumers. `Is the consumer really a King today?`was the theme for the just concluded 10th anniversary International Conference held by Consumers Association of India. The deliberations of the conference highlighted the fact that though there are enough Acts in the country to protect consumer`s interests, it is the consumer who is not exercising his rights and responsibilities because either he/she is unaware of the same or is lazy to take up cudgels with the authorities concerned. When will the Indian consumer wake up to legitimately claim the crown of a King or Queen? Feedback welcome on 9840392082 or email:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Instant Marriage Solutions

“From Kolam to Kattu Sadam; from the traditional Rangoli out side the wedding hall to the packed meals given to departing groom`s party, we will take care of everything” scream advertisements in many family magazines.

“You have the bride and groom ready? – come to us, we will take care of all wedding arrangements- you just sign the cheque!” says another advertisement.

“Your NRI son is coming and he has just three weeks to find a bride and take her back to USA? Don’t worry; we have a package deal under which we will take care of all your requirements”

Managing weddings is big business and many chief cooks turned marriage contractors have found this truth and are laughing all the way to their banks. The concept of labour contracts for weddings has become almost non existent. Fortunately when I conducted the mega wedding of my eldest daughter, eighteen years ago, I could find a good cook who agreed to such an arrangement and I saved a couple of lakhs in terms of expenses. I had, of course, a whole battery of relatives, friends and office staff to help me manage the event!

Times have changed. In this stressful world people who claim that they have no time for anything are constantly looking for instant solutions to their problems. A family wedding is one such situation; leading to proliferation of wedding specialists catering to a variety of pockets.

Like in any service business, there are well known contractors who don’t accept contracts which do not fulfill their minimum billing requirements. Most of the contractors charge the wedding parties based on the number of meals to be served to guests and extra support required. The rate for a typical vegetarian South Indian meal in Chennai varies from Rs 200 per plate to Rs 500 per plate depending on the menu and the reputation of the contractor!

Apart from chief cooks turned marriage contractors today there are a whole host of Event Managers who also specialize in managing big weddings on a turn key basis. From helping in designing fancy invitation cards, to providing theme based hall decorations. planning a 70 course multi-cuisine meal, managing the travel and stay arrangements of outstation guests, providing wholesome entertainment including special appearance of some Bollywood or Kollywood star(for a fee of course) and generally looking after every guest including a nice parting gift, the event manager takes care of everything. Depending on the depth of a client`s pockets, the event manager can help blow up the not-so-hard earned black money to massage people`s ever bloating egos!

Investing in Wedding Halls is a good business to be in- because boys and girls are forever getting married looking for a place to tie the knot in front of friends and relatives!

Good marriage halls are booked years in advance. In fact it is not unusual for a bride`s father to book a famous hall first and then looking for the bride-groom. I know of a friend who tried this approach only to find that his daughter had already found her life partner from another community, had a registered marriage and then announced the news to her family. Though my friend felt let down, the positive side of the story is that he saved on the huge amount he would have otherwise spent on a grand wedding!

Marriages are made in Heaven- is an old saying. Today most of the marriages are made in cyberspace! Brides and Grooms try to find their life partners through the Internet, try to understand each other through chats on the net , mobiles or through web cameras and Skypes before saying `Yes`. It is not unusual for the bride and groom to meet each other just a couple of days before the wedding! It is another matter that many such instant marriages fall apart within a couple of months because of physical incompatibility, something, a couple can find out only when they live together under the same roof!

Like everything instant – instant coffee, instant foods, instant medicare- providing Instant Marriage Solutions has come to stay as a huge business opportunity for the multi talented marriage contractors and the event managers. Cheers to them!

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