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Erection Pills To Paytm: 6 Ads That Are Shamelessly Cashing In On Demonetisation

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Demonetisation has flooded newspapers and advertisements, since the night of November 8, when PM Modi announced it. While the government has launched a 10-crore advertisement drive to promote demonetisation, other companies have spotted the golden opportunity to strike it rich too. At a time when demonetisation has come down heavily on the common person and those without bank accounts (and there are far more than you think), certain brands and companies have run distasteful ads, completely ignoring the people’s inconvenience in the process.

1. When Paytm told us to “stop the drama” and just use its app to solve all our inconveniences:

Social media was quick to point out what was wrong with the ad and Paytm quickly replaced the ad with a different version, where they had changed exactly one line. But they seem to have completely missed the rather obvious elephant in the room, which is the insensitive messaging in the ad that seems to imply that the solution for everyone is super simple – stop cribbing and get a Paytm account. Because clearly everyone either has a smartphone or knows how to use one. Oh and, in India, only about 50% of the population has a bank account.

2. When an Ayurvedic “power capsule” that claims to help men with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, thought it was necessary to chime in:


Because we live in a patriarchal society like India’s, we have found a way to link something like demonetisation with virility and masculinity! And what better than ‘ayurvedic medicine’ claiming to ‘reinvigorate’ you as you perform sacrifices for your nation!

To quote this Facebook status: “Be male, be a virile male, or die. Hence proved that the “Idea of India” is patriarchal and oppressive and so is the idea of demonetisation.” The message is clear: If you are complaining about suffering under demonetisation, then you are weak and not ‘patriotic’ enough. Never mind that it’s nobody’s ‘duty’ to suffer anything for anyone.

3. When a mall in Jharkhand told us not to lose sight of our “style statements” in these times:

Rather than take into account the actual problems in having to deal with demonetisation (long queues, lack of ready cash and, lack of food being only the least of them), ads like this trivialise the many problems the common person face (not to mention the woeful wordplay!). Clearly important to protect your eyes from the sun when standing in those huge long lines at the ATM/bank, right?

4. When Schmitten Chocolates said, “Why to worry about currency ban when you have #Schmitten by your side”:

‘Tone-deaf’ seems to be the flavour of choice, but this is definitely winning some awards. It’s great that nobody needs ₹500 to buy the chocolate, but honestly, the people who can afford the chocolate, to begin with probably don’t need the notes anyway.

How does this help anyone who is currently undergoing an acute cash crisis? Forget the fact that millions in India don’t have the cash to ‘wrap themselves in luxury’. And while the brand’s target audience might be only those who aren’t going through a cash crisis, this was certainly a bad time to send out this message.

5. When a jewellery brand used demonetisation to remind us about how diamonds are a girl’s best friend:

Good ol’ sexism. Always there when you need it. Yes, if there’s anything this recent demonetization drive has proved, money isn’t forever, but that diamond ring totally is! And diamonds are every girl’s best friend, am I right? And who needs those pesky ₹1,000 notes anyway?

6. When ‘Book My Chotu’ didn’t realise it was promoting child labour in the name of “help”:

The cream of the crop awaits. Is demonetisation getting to you? Are lines too long for you? Is the heat just terrible for your skin? This company knows how you feel and have got just the right above-18 lads to go and get your money for you!

And while they have (several times) clarified that their helpers are over 18, the point of the name remains. ‘Chotu’ is a very common name used to refer to children and India has the largest number of child labourers in the world. This is just perpetuating and normalising the idea of child labour, an idea that too many people are okay with in the first place. Also, a label like ‘Chotu’ robs thousands of children of their identities and reduces them to just that – a label. And ‘Book My Chotu’ – really? This is a person, not a car.

The point is, at a time when everyday livelihoods are uncertain for so many people, advertisements saying either ‘fall in line’ or ‘indulge in luxuries’, is irresponsible. Ads like these reach thousands of people, and so does the messaging in them. While the goal is to promote a product, let’s also be mindful of how we do it.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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