Attitudinal Shifts - the Indian Consumer

In the consumer economy taste is not the criterion in the marketing of expensive soft drinks; usability is not the primary criterion in the marketing of home and office appliances.We are surrounded with objects of desire, not objects of use.

Words well said by Donald Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things and Professor Emeritus at the University of California at San Diego. And completely pertinent for today’s India!

The Indian ice cream industry generated USD 1.5 billion last year and expects to double within 4 years. Today we boast of about 6 national brands, some 8,000 ice cream manufacturers and of course MNC brands. Today, 1.25 billion people in the country drink 5.9 billion litres of soft drinks in a year. Our per capita consumption is just 1/20th that of the USA. From 200ml glass bottles then, today SKUs straddle from 200 ml to 2 litres across glass, PET and cans across every village in the country.

Four decades ago India rode on Bajaj scooters after an extended waiting period. And it flashed Premier and Ambassador Cars as status symbols. Flights meant Indian Airlines and phones meant oversized black landline contraptions. Colour television just about made its entry. And yet, all of this was privy to a select lot of the Indian diaspora.

India was then represented by the metros - Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. Anything from a ‘brand or aspiration’ perspective was fairly confined to these 4 cities. And every small town boy wanted to spend the rest of his adult life here.

Cricket is a major religion in India. We are a cricket crazy nation ever since it’s advent into the country by the British. The game caught on like wildfire and sooner than later, we became a nation of cricket fans. But it took decades for us to achieve numero uno status across multiple formats of the game. We were champions on home soil but abroad, our tales did not really have a happy ending. Or with Pakistan for that matter! Year 1983 was an exception.

July 13, 2002 could rank as India's greatest cricket moments. The Men in Blue under Sourav Ganguly defeated England in the NatWest final. Set 326 to win, we lost a good start before Yuvraj and Kaif added 121 for the 6th wicket to bring them back into the match for an ultimate win. While players and supporters pranced with pride, Sourav Ganguly did the unthinkable. He knocked off his jersey and waved it over his head! Indian fans have not forgotten that eventful day. It was major turning point in the game for the nation. It taught India that winning abroad was not impossible and no team was unbeatable. The Indian cricketer today is aggressive and resilient. He knows that the battle for victory commences in the mind and in the dressing room. And not just on the pitch. Tendulkar, Dravid, Yuvraj and others showed Indian youth what they are made of as compared to the cricket stars of the earlier years.

Cricket then was represented by the big cities. Access to coaches, stadiums, facilities and grooming academies was restricted to these 4 cities. And every small town boy dreamt of wearing that coveted blue by moving into these cities.

In 1991, liberalization changed the face of the country and the markets began to see new product categories and brands. The new millennium saw a proliferation of MNC brands in the market place leading the way in FMCG, durables, engineering and automotive among others. Jobs, growth, industrial output and consumption experienced meteoric growth way hitherto unseen. And a little later, internet and mobile telephony changed the consumer landscape forever. Along with attitude!!

Today, according to the Internet Trends 2017 report by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), India today has 355 million internet users (June 2016) and 277 million broadband users (March 2017). Indians also spend 28 hours a week on the mobile, compared with four hours on TV and two hours reading print publications and books. Of the time spent on the mobile, 45% is on entertainment, 34% on search, social media and messaging, and 4% on shopping.

India today has 65% of its people born after 1980. Of the 65%, 443 million are Millennial & 393 million are Gen Z. And we churn out 7 million college graduates every year.

We mentioned earlier that India was represented by Mumbai, Delhi and a few large cities. A lot has changed in the last thirty years. The digital wave has created an equilibrium level on the country, its youth and the mindset.

Digital has changed the way we shop. Amazon and Flipkart deliver anything anywhere. We transact plus manage banking and finance online. We can study and learn online. We can select movies, vacations and maybe even a spouse with a mouse. And unfortunately, socializing may soon reside within the realms of the digital world. Roti, kapda and makaan traditionally represented the key pivots of expenditure for us. Over the last few years, however, prominent deviations in spend patterns have emerged. There is a rise in expenditure on quality of education, leisure and luxury driven by tectonic shifts in technology and accessibility. Preferences for premium brands have also been developed for apparel, food and consumer durables too. The youth of today’s hinterland India is ambitious and informed. No matter where he stays, he has access to all brands. And can prove his mettle across all arenas in life. He possesses that attitude of passion and aggression. A plethora of engineers, architects and bankers in US and Europe today are from unheard of Indian towns and villages. Many have stayed behind or moved back to their roots to start their own ventures and success stories.

MS Dhoni, Yousuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh and Munaf Patel all came from small towns. They burst into the cricket scene with grit and demeanor that won all hearts. They lead the way for other small town boys to follow. With the same passion and aggression!

On the entertainment front, Bollywood has witnessed a lot of small town nobodies such as Kangana Ranaut, Sushant Singh Rajput, Vidya Balan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui among others making their presence felt.

The list can go on. They say that life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react. Consumer behaviour across India has reacted for the better. Let’s smell the coffee and reap the harvest.

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