The third largest Pink Economy in the world happens to be a highly conservative country, under a dictatorship with hardly anyone being openly gay. This paradox is exactly what makes the rise of the ‘Pink Economy’; a case study towards building a more Inclusive economy.

It is the basic need of any and every individual to be accepted by their society and later able to contribute to his or her society.

According to a recent article in Forbes titled “LGBTs In China Are Priming A Pink Economy That Will Overtake America’s”, China is the world’s third largest LGBT market after Europe and the United States and worth $300 billion.

The ‘pink economy’ is an example of inclusion, openness and the right of each homosexual individual to live a beautiful, safe and productive life. Similarly, an Inclusive Economy can help enable the 1 billion strong community of people with disabilities in the world.

What are the lessons we can learn today to build an economy that empowers & enables the voices?

1. Acceptance begins with changing paradigms:

The pink economy is the growing economic influence of the LGBT community in China. In other words, the previously marginalized / neglected community became an active consumer that some of the industry such as technology is looking at ways to include for further economic growth.

So how did a country with a massive population of 70 million LGBT in China became the third largest market for LGBTs after USA and Europe and what can India learn from this?

With the growing acceptance and tolerance, the LGBT community started to become comfortable with their identity and started to socialize which gave rise to platforms like the Chinese gay dating app BLUED that aided the gay community to socialize and find themselves a mate.

Blued which was last valued at $600 million (in 2016), raised $100 million in a Series D funding round led by Hong Kong-based asset fund manager CDH Investments to take the community platform global.

While we are taking small strides in creating avenues to socialize and build a community of and for people with disability in our own little ways, a lot more needs to be done to cater to the 195 million strong community of people with disabilities; the largest minority in the world residing in India.

2. Captivating mainstream conversations:

The inclusive approach adopted by the pink economy of marketing and advertising products specifically for the LGBT community has lessons for the Indian marketing and advertising industries to be able to capitalise by showcasing the large special need population in a positive light, by using their marketing tactics to sensitise the rest of the population.

The advertising agencies can improvise by featuring people with disability in advertisement. The bigger companies can  collaborate with startups to advertise the products that would appeal to the specific population and create a whole new customer segment appealing to their friends and family members as well. India can also learn the importance of communicating with the community about building the product/services catering to their needs especially in healthcare, technology, home services and hospitality space.

For India, such inclusion would bring not only economic growth but would change the narrative around the subject of disability. It would put the Indian companies and businesses in the good books of the world economy. It would show that Indian companies truly care for their customers.

The Chinese ‘pink economy’ has used the media to its full potential to showcase the LGBT community in a positive light and also to remind the general population that the needs of the LGBT community is in so many ways similar to that of their own. In a country where celebrity weddings ‘happen’ on Instagram, it can truly serve as a powerful platform to stir more positive representations.

3. Harnessing a community’s economic power:

The LGBT community has huge economic power but very little ways to harness it and collectively benefit from it.

The LGBT token is a peruse of equal rights of this community by the blockchain technology that connect these community to other business and services without revealing their identity.

Considering the prejudice and taboo people with disability in India face, a lesson on how to integrate similar technologies which provide the people with special needs in India equal rights and opportunity to avail the services that the masses don’t have to bat an eyelid about would be worth a thought.  Issuing such tokens would not only give them equal rights but also make them a contributor to economic growth and GDP in general. For this to happen, the government would have to make sure that such tokens are accepted by small retailers, coffee shop, nightclubs and almost anywhere and everywhere.

The idea is to utilize the power of technology to connect the community to the required services thereby increasing accessibility and minimising stigma.

To conclude, for India to benefit from the Chinese model of an Inclusive Economy, engagement from multiple stakeholders needs to be mapped and utilized to its maximum potential. The infrastructure to access these services has to be put in place along with the right to education to all students in a non-discriminatory manner.  Above all, the Indian government, corporates and all other stakeholders should be sensitized around the similarity of the basic needs of the differently-abled population for these lessons from the Chinese pink economy to bear its fruits.

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Kalyani Khona

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