When film star, brand ambassador and former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen was first seen flaunting a massive diamond on her finger, the grapevine was abuzz with guesswork on the high-profile admirer rumoured to have given her the ring. When it emerged that Sushmita had bought the rock-sized diamond herself, the rumours were replaced by a shocked silence—especially from men, who just couldn't stomach the idea of a woman buying a diamond ring for herself. But Sushmita's new acquisition reflects a growing trend among women not only to splurge on themselves, but to make the big spending, investing and savings decisions for themselves and their families. Be it buying the latest road-scorcher, getting a loan for a flat with a beautiful balcony, tracking the bulls on the Sensex or planning a week's holiday in the Maldives, women are displaying financial independence like never before.
Thirty-six-year-old Sangeeta Kuriakos loves to live life queen-size. She owns a splendid studio apartment in South Mumbai, shops for designer clothes, shoes and bags at Delhi's plush 1 MG Road, and loves collecting the works of unknown artists at Mumbai's Kalaghoda festival. She earns quite a packet as the CEO of Clea Public Relations, and hates to save. "I would rather blow up all my money on single malts," she says. Kuriakos represents the new spender on the block who is every marketer's dream. But there are thousands of other women whose shopping list has now grown to include home loans, stocks, mutual funds and SUVs. The market's awareness of this new spender and her potential is growing, as manufacturers and ad campaigns increasingly target her. Evidently, banks are queueing up to woo this new customer who not only has money, but also a reputation for being more reliable than men when it comes to repayment of loans and credit card bills.