Consumer transformation seen early Brands will benefit

Indian consumers were known for their tendency to stay away from conspicuous consumption. But with the availability of products increasing manifold, Indians are exchanging their ‘restrained, priestly mindset’ for the acquisitive and achiever tendencies of the warrior classes.

The emerging Indian mindset is finding its roots in the values of the traditional warrior class, as against the Brahminical values of the priestly knowledge class that has been the biggest influencer so far. This change has implications not only on consumption behavior but also on the language that brands and businesses utilize to connect with consumer motivations.

The core value of the consumer transformation manifests itself in five key cultural codes.

Activate your destiny
Currency to extrinsic values
Criticality of the last lap
Finding extraordinariness
Making use of tradition

One of the biggest changes in today’s India, especially the younger Indians, is the belief in being able to break the ‘birth barriers’, where a doctor’s son need not be a doctor. And aspirations have hit the roof. For instance, the average age of new homebuyers in India is in the early 30s, and is declining every year.

In the past, Indian consumers could almost be divided into two halves: those who owned their houses and those who spent most of their active years dreaming about owning one. Owning your house at the age of 30 is one of the biggest hurdles that a young Indian today crosses in being the master of his own destiny.

Some brands have cottoned on to the insight. One of the recent campaigns by HDFC, the market leader in the home loan segment, breaks the category clutter by showing company executives all real employees in the right side of the 30s to present a with-the-times face to the consumer.

Even brands that cater to the lower-income strata have picked up this ‘new-found confidence’ insight. Take Dabur Lal Dant Manjan: the brand’s new communication line is reflective of the seize-the-day sentiment.

You need not slog for your entire lifetime to earn a crore. The dotcoms started it. TV shows like KBC showed it was achievable. For the first time, homes with a cable and satellite connection were collectively exposed to a term called ‘X Factor’.

Take national talent hunt show, Indian Idol. It has given a window of fame, glory and success to those who have the talent but no resources. The first Indian Idol comes from a lower middle class locality in Mumbai, and was born to a clerk in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation.

At another level, parents today are also willing to invest more in their children. According to recent estimates, the total value of the coaching classes segment that caters only to IIT examinations is worth Rs 10,000 crore. Some institutes even offer residential coaching programs.

IIM and not JNU is the new seat of education. IIMs have made the Indian middle-class believe that they too can have access to a per annum salary of $200,000, and a job in New York or Singapore.

It has been a common refrain that Indians lack the killer instinct — the national cricket team often being the best example of this frailty. But today’s parents are trying to fill that void in their children.

The routine of any young kid in India will baffle you with the sheer number of activities they are able to pack into one single day; activities ranging from a dance class to math lessons. Going out and doing your thing is becoming the philosophy of the new India. Indians today are playing to win.

The brands capitalising on this trend: milk food beverages. A recent Cadbury’s Bournvita ad showcased the fusion sequence of a child from the big city grooving to the music of an equally young folk singer. And yes, Boost insists that it’s the losers who seek refuge in excuses.

The toast of 2006, it was The Times of India’s Lead India initiative aimed at finding new leadership that saw the wheel come full circle in 2007. The biggest fear among today’s Indian youth is being ordinary. Their desire is to be extraordinary in everything they do. The desire to be untypical is visible in the changing profile of most preferred careers as well.

Earlier the choice of a brave few, vocations in media, airlines, modeling and sports are finding popular acceptance. The Frankfinn Institute of Airhostess Training has over 60 centers, dotting several small towns across India, and the institute is making it possible for young girls from all over India to take a shot at a career that’s part-glamour and full independence.

Culturally speaking, the Frankfinn Institute is symbolic of the flight that young Indians today are taking to a life of their dreams and desires, irrespective of their gender, class and place of birth. Tata Motors is another brand embodying ‘extraordinariness. The company is trying to create the world’s cheapest car at one end, while trying to turnaround luxury brands like Jaguar and LandRover at the other.
While so much is changing in India, some things aren’t. Contrary to most xenophobic thought, the younger generation is not breaking the link with tradition. In fact, it’s making use of tradition to its advantage. Like numerology friendly names for success, Vedic mathematics to crack exams like CAT and so on. Virgin Mobile used this insight to communicate that Indian youth find a way around rather than a way against sticky situations.

Indian consumers are certainly moving in for the kill, and if brands make the right counter-moves, it could well be a win-win situation.