Answer by Prosenjit Bhattacharya:
India's obsession with fair skin has led to the boom of the cosmetic industry which grows at the rate of 15-20% annually.
An array of leading Bollywood stars and cricket players endorse various skin whitening creams often with very regressive messages that end up promoting prejudice around skin colour and looks. Cultural preference to look "beautiful" and the burden of fairness predominantly falls on women,forcing millions into using skin lightening creams such as "Fair and Lovely," introduced in early 1970s.
In 2010, India's whitening-cream market was worth $432m, according to a report by market researchers ACNielsen, and was growing at 18% per year. In 2012, Indians reportedly consumed 233 tonnes of skin-whitening products, spending more money on them than on Coca-Cola. According to another report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India, the cosmetics industry is poised to double by 2014 to $3.6bn.
The cosmetics business has capitalized on peoples' insecurity. The industry has been running insensitive and irresponsible campaigns to allure new customers. "Look anywhere and everywhere, there are blatant subtle reinforcements that only fair is lovely. The men have also joined the race with equal number of fair products.Such pressure and so little public debate around it", opines actress Nandita Das, an active campaigner for ' Dark is Beautiful' campaign.
The cosmetic industry is the biggest scam of our times run by various FMCG companies. It feeds off our insecurity and makes us believe that only fair skin can bring about empowerment. It is obviously a lie. It is an unjust parameter to gauge a person's ability by their skin colour. "Stay unfair, stay beautiful"!