An Indian middle class consumer


Mr. Moose of Chinchpokli is a middle class market consumer but aiming at keeping up with the affluent or upper classes. Let us call him simply MC in this article where we are deliberating upon his efforts to keep up a superior life style and as a consequence the marketers have to keep affordable products to increase the market share for the business from people like MC generate for them.

At a time when Indian markets are adapting to changing consumers segments ranging from homemakers to teens to kids, one consumer who has never been assessed for his change quotient is the middle class family man. Marketing has always treated him as a boringly predictable consumer, who works hard, graduates, marries, has kids, and then settles to a content uneventful existence. But with so much change surrounding him, today’s middle class man MC does not remain unchanged.

We found that today’s MC is resisting he idea of being the ordinary man next door. He is willing to reinvent himself and experiment with new product to stand out in some small way. One 35 year old said he turned down his wife’s “sensible� advice of a 100cc motorcycle to choose a 150cc cruiser bike because he does not want to be just another bike on the road. Some MC types sported slick mobiles and others used subject expertise. Basically MC doesn’t want to be plain and wants to be in a world celebrating winners!

MC is an ordinary man with extraordinary responsibilities. Most men said that they had started playing more meaningful roles at home. Those with working wives had learnt basic things like heating food, making tea, even shopping. Most were also more involved with kids’ development. Like one said, “Parent teacher meetings insist on both mother and father�. And these layered family roles have come at a time when office hours are getting longer and stressful. This makes the family to buy more gadgets to do the house chores so that the husband and wife can share office and household work without much difficulty. This enables the family to look for better quality consumer durable goods even at a cost. Comparison with neighbors and office colleagues also make them to buy the ‘latest’ gadgets.

Many MC types staying in nuclear units harbor deep guilt about taking enough care of their parents. And this guilt is creating the fear that their sons will also not take care of them. So on one hand, they’re actively contemplating retirement solutions to safeguard their future and on the other they are indulging kids on every whim. Some even boasted of having to ask kids permission before using ‘their’ computers! If it is not there MC do not mind buying one so that the household can boast of having a computer. This isn’t just because kids shouldn’t feel left behind vis-à-vis peers, but also so that kids don’t blame them later.

We found that as society celebrates money and the moneyed, the MC types are facing status anxiety, which is making them reach out for credit more easily. And this runs pretty deep. One told us about how his neighbor’s son refused to sit in his car asking his dad, “But why are we going in such a small car?�

Many men also admitted to choosing hi-risk investments that would allow lifestyle leaps beyond salary. Like one said, when explaining why he didn’t take an endowment policy, “Getting money back is not that important. In case of a problem, my family should be able to maintain their lifestyle�.

MC becomes part of the change brigade here are some marketing implications that comes to mind.

Men feel the need to forge connects with parents on one hand, and kids on the other there is marketing opportunity for bridge products that build connect either way. On one hand, this could mean free add on mobiles, credit cards and financial plans that sons can gift parents. On the other, it could mean clean, nonviolent videogames and residential complexes with sports facilities where dads can bond with kids.

Home technology:

Men get more actively involved in the household, there’s scope for home technology products that men can use without feeling unmanly. American show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy� legitimizes this by taking men shopping for things like lawnmowers and barbecue grills. So how about an easy, functional microwave that heats food, makes tea and is positioned as a man’s convenience.

Fashion for men:

The critical thing about today’s MC is that they want to keep up with where the world is going, but are not conversant with things that are not main stream. If a television channel with main stream male viewer ship created a fashion news segment that gave men a quick roundup of new wardrobes, gadgets and lifestyles the channel is able to grab more sales promotion advertisements with a corresponding increase in male viewer ship. Studies have shown the increase in sales of these products as well.

Lifestyle protection:

At a time when the average Mr. MC is increasingly placing a premium on a good lifestyle, how about connecting with him by making a statement about insuring not just his life, but also his family’s lifestyle? As the Mr. MC grow older, how about sports clubs positioning themselves for men approaching retirement, as a fulfilling solution to post-retirement boredom?

For marketers, a changing Mr. MC contingent is the final sign that old rules and marketing logic must give way. Clearly, it’s a revolution out there and anyone who’s not in is going to be out.