I have been involved in a bizarre experiment for the last few days. I have bought myself a pair of 6 inch heels – stilettos as they are generally called and have taught myself to walk gracefully in them. I now have a stiletto score for all cities I have visited since I bought this pair. A ndIndian cities as I expected performed pretty low as the heels attracted everything from nasty potholes to catcalls. What, pray, is the purpose, you will ask me?
I have a hypothesis. A carefully thought through one which is supported by elementary data. That the development of a place can be measured by the ‘stiletto index’. That is the percentage of people who wear stilettos. Or the number of stiletto sales in a year. Or a permutation thereof. As the sensex tells you the economic health of the country, the stiletto index’ gives you a measure of lot more. Economic health. Yes. My survey of 20 shoe-shop owners across the metros have shown a link between economic growth and stiletto sales. As India grew economically, more and more women splurged on these luxuries. The demand is highly elastic with respect to factors such as GDP and per capitia income. Social index. Definitely. That distinct sound as you walk down the corridor in your stilettos. That power statement that the shoes make. The blatant sex appeal. You would not wear stilettos unless you are empowered and unapologetic about your power and sexuality. In other words, stiletto sales are an indicator of where women stand in your society and show the social development index of a country. I remember a Sherlock Holmes story where the master sleuth deduced the mystery on the basis of the shoes the female protagonist wore. Shoes are a clear indicator of a woman’s social status, opined he. And we agree. Stilettos are also an indicator of a country’s infrastructure development index. How many women are brave enough to wear stilettos to work when they know they have to brave over-crowded buses, pot-holed roads and other such oddities waiting to trip you up? Political index? One thing for sure you would not wear stilettos in turbulent political times. No matter how acrobatic you are, running in the 6 inch heels is still a challenge. Statistics tell me- and this one is from a friend who runs a shoe shop in London- is stiletto sales fell during and after the London riots. A corporate trying to break into a market can do a one-shot PESTL analysis by looking at the stiletto sales figures. A little trick that theiir consultants can use to reduce their months of market research. If there is a market for stilettos in the country, rest assured the country atleast scores high on the development index. And you would do well to target your promotions at the women there, because they are most likely making a lot of purchasing decisions.
Ofcourse like with any index there’s the counter-argument. Feminists argue stilettos actually constrain a woman, not liberate her. They are the western world’s equivalent of a burqa. They impose the stereotypical image of a woman’s beauty. There is possibly some truth in this. Still the correlation between the stiletto sale and the development index is too strong, to be ignored. Infact I recommend that economists get immediately down to creating the stiletto graph – the insights will be mindboggling. And can lead you to much more than the missing Cinderella.