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By Foreign models are flooding Indian catwalks and undercutting local ones. Manjula Sen and Shabina Akhtar find out if Indian models should be afraid
  • Published 5.10.08
Campaigns: Pepsico, Titan, Nokia, Donear Plywoods
Price: Rs 50,000 - Rs 70,000 for ramp walking
Campaigns: Only does ramp modelling
Price: Rs 18,000- Rs 20,000 for ramp walking

Foreign vs desi is a battle that has found a new turf: models strutting their stuff on the Indian marquee. From Brazil to Italy to Puerto Rico, leggy women with pale skin are scouting for work here. Several modelling agencies such as Inega, Matrix, Leaping Frog and ICE are representing foreign models. Even Elite, which promotes mainly Indian models, has now signed on a couple of overseas visitors.

Campaigns: Primarily into ramp modelling. Has campaigned for PETA
Price: Rs. 35,000 for ramp walking
Campaigns: Reebok, Lakmé, Allen Solly
Price: Rs 30,000- Rs 50,000 for ramp walking

This turn of events has triggered a storm in an A-cup. Hisses of undercutting are being reported, with allegations that the visitors’ fees are dropping lower and lower just so they can land some work.


Rubbish, says Sushma Puri, owner of Elite Model Management. It is true that Indian models get paid more but there are categories. Top ranking models like Diane Penty get between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh for a day’s work that does not require a contract. Other models, including foreign models, get between Rs 15,000-Rs 30,000. Newcomers could get as little as Rs 15,000. It depends on the client’s outlook and the model’s experience.


Currently models like Bruna Abdullah and Mariah are the top-billed foreign models, reportedly getting Rs 1 lakh for a photoshoot. Bruna was in the news for catching Salman Khan’s eye and is now slated to appear in a film with him.You can’t just substitute an Indian face with a foreign face. The demands are very different for an Indian look and a foreign look, says Puri. Besides, for the ramp, many of the newcomers are not trained models and can’t strut clothes professionally. Many of the foreign models are here for two-three months and are gone just as they are getting known. It usually takes a model between one and three years to establish herself. Elite has two foreign models, Leona from Prague and Tanya from Columbia, who have completely different looks.

Campaigns: P.C. Chandra Jewellers.Working in films like Rang Rasiya and Sadiyaan.
Price: Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 for ramp walking


Says Seemaa Khinchi of Leaping Frog which represents several foreign models, mostly from Brazil and other South American countries, “The international look is in. Besides, the foreign models’ rates are as competitive as anyone else’s.”


The undercutting is going on mainly among the foreign models, says a model coordinator. “Hey, come on, you have to be really poor to come looking for work in the Indian fashion industry,” snorts a fashion coordinator.

“Most of the visitors are happy to get paid at all,” she adds.


Campaigns: Gitanjali jewellery, Elle magazine, Lux.
Price: Rs 15,000 onwards for ramp walking

Campaigns: D’damas jewellery and Dabur.
Price: Rs 30,000 for ramp walking

According to Priya Agni, freelance stylist with a men’s magazine who regularly works with MW (formerly Man’s World), with its racy visuals, it is the approach of the foreign models that gives them an edge over the Indian models. They are professional, punctual and are not coy about the demands of the job.

“They have no pretentious morality issues about showing skin or cleavage. Some of the Indian girls will want to be in pin-ups but will have so many annoying nakhras. Very few Indian models have the professionalism and confidence of a Nina Manuel,” says Agni.