Shaadi.com’s Anti-Dowry Initiative Uses Sarcasm To Remind Men They Are #NotForSale

Matrimonial portal Shaadi.com takes forward ShaadiCares with a hard-hitting video series suggesting Indian men are not for sale in the marriage market

Shaadicares #Notforsale

Shaadi.com’s social initiative, ShaadiCares made a dramatic debut on social media last year, with the launch of its online ‘Dowry Calculator’ tool. Men were invited to calculate how much dowry they were worth of. Furious men and women berated the online matrimonial site for encouraging a social evil like ‘Dowry’. The clever ones, however, clicked on the tool to know the story.

One needed to enter his age, profession, monthly salary, education, country living in, whether he owns a house/a car or not, and the tool would throw up a figure after due calculations. Ironically, the figure reflected the number of dowry deaths reported in 2011 -12, and not your dowry worth. This was followed with the message to make our country a dowry free society. The campaign was widely appreciated and once again put the spotlight on dowry, the ancient practice in India, and few other nations.

The tradition of dowry has been handed down from generations. Called the ‘streedhan’, it was given to the girl so she could be financially independent while at her in-laws. Later this became the birthright of grooms leading to bride harassment, suicide and even murder. Despite, the courts making the evil practice illegal in 1961, instances of reported dowry deaths only keep growing in number.

For ShaadiCares, the brand has partnered with NGOs who are working to change this social behaviour so rampant in the country. Taking its campaign message forward is the new film #NotForSale aimed to stir discomfort in men who are of the opinion that it’s fine, it’s a tradition, it’s my birthright, it’s my family’s right, etc. etc.

The 40-second spot stars a 25-year-old Dinesh from Mumbai talking directly to the camera, to the viewer. He says he has to travel 30 kms to reach office, and that it’s like this since the last five years in train. He then shares some practical advantages of ‘dowry’ in his life: if I get a flat in dowry, my travelling time would reduce considerably, and I could spend more time with my wife.

So when the bride’s parents offered him a flat, you would expect him to accept it, but our man, our hero here, says he refused the flat flatly. This was said obviously after a dramatic pause. He continues that he won’t sell himself for dowry, and leaves the viewer with a poignant question, “I am not for sale. Are you?”

A white text message flashes on a black screen: “End of dowry begins with you,” along with the campaign hashtag #NotForSale.

24-year-old Pankaj from Lucknow manages to convince the viewer about the benefits of dowry and how all the stuff like AC, fridge, almirah will enable the bride to live her married life in comfort. So, when his would be in-laws offered to give all this in the wedding, you would expect him to take it. But, like Dinesh, he too refuses it, he is not for sale.

26-year-old Karan from Delhi talks about his wish to own a car, but being bogged down by household expenses and home EMI, there isn’t any scope to buy a car. When he comes to know that the girl’s side are ready to gift him a car of INR 4 lakh, taking it was the logical thing to do. But, Karan refuses the car as dowry, remember he is not for sale.

The Facebook page of ShaadiCares and the Twitter page of Shaadi.com have been building conversations by getting fans to participate with their views. The videos are being shared along with assertive visuals that reflect what a guy asking for dowry is pitting himself against.

ShaadiCares is undoubtedly a necessity; until the message isn’t drilled inside with its ugly truth and the horrifying multiplier effect adding to female death statistics, India will forever be trapped by the evil clutches of dowry. While the ‘dowry calculator’ was a splendid effort by the brand to catch the attention of the social-savvy generation,  although some found it gimmicky, it was also backed by the association with relevant NGO’s.

As to how many social-savvy, young urban consumers are still caught in the dowry trap – despite enormous public awareness campaigns being run over the years – and would undergo a change in mindset is questionable, but for a matrimonial portal it’s a brand win – both in brand perception as well as brand conscience.

Good concept but can do more

#NotForSale is a good extension of the dowry calculator, it drives home the point with the protagonists directly meeting eyes with the viewer, and catalyzing a ‘change in mindset’ by asking him if he is for sale. Further, the visuals on social media make the guy feel even inferior by comparing his worth to a car, a fridge, a scooter, and so on. Even if one single guy, say that IIM graduate working abroad who’s dowry price is in crores, is convinced with this message, and says no to dowry, the sarcasm in #NotForSale is totally worth it. Shaadi.com has anyways won the game, when it comes to standing out amongst the bunch of online matrimonial sites.

One thing ShaadiCares has missed out on is the female audience. Although the video and the visuals are addressed to men, I see more women participants in the conversations. Females form Shaadi.com’s larger base and are naturally against dowry, hence the brand can also introduce another video series featuring female protagonists, she refuses a marriage proposal because she does not want to ‘buy’ her husband. Dowry giving and receiving, both are illegal.

Besides, the brand can ask fans to share their ‘no to dowry’ stories. It’s refreshing to see there’s no pledge-taking as yet, where Shaadi can boast how many men said they are #NotForSale. They can indeed create ‘badges’ shouting ‘I’m not for sale’ and get men to share these on their social media profiles.

One more thing is the similarity in idea for the visuals shared on social media. The ‘I am not a bike’ is eerily similar to Havells’ 2014 ‘Respect for women’ campaign that rolled out a series of films, where the central theme was ‘women are not kitchen appliances’. The ads featuring common kitchen  appliances like coffee maker, mixer, etc had the girl say, ‘I am not a kitchen appliance’ to the visually embarrassed boy’s side during the marriage meeting.