f o r    m a n a g i n g    t o m o r r o w
JANUARY 14, 2007
 Letter From
 Message From
The Prime Minister
 Editor's Letter
 The Great Indian
M iddle Class
 India'S Poor
 The Next 15 Years

Flying High
The Indian aviation industry is growing at a rapid pace, thanks to air transport deregulation, emergence of new operators, lower fares and large untapped demand for air travel. The numbers tell an interesting story: India will require an estimated 1,100 aircraft. The average annual passenger traffic growth in India through 2025 is estimated at 7.7 per cent, well above the world average of 4.8 per cent and China's 7.2 per cent.

Bars Of Gold
The global gold industry is flourishing, largely fuelled by Asian demand and a weak US dollar. The boom is probably only halfway through since prices bottomed out in 2000. Since 1800, the boom and bust cycles have averaged about 10 years. While production is down, the value of gold purchased today is up 47 per cent from a year ago. The super-cycle of high metal prices is seen to be spurred largely by demand from China and India. An analysis.
More Net Specials
Business Today,  December 31, 2006

The Liberalised Generation:
A Different Consumer


Be it Pepsi, MTV or McDonald's, most of the global brands have had to Indianise themselves to be widely accepted

By all popular accounts, 1991-92 is the year in which India changed tracks and embarked upon yet another journey into the unknown. It can be debated whether this change in tracks was on account of enlightenment on the part of the political leadership at that time or whether circumstances forced the change. Nevertheless, more attitudinal change has occurred in these last 15 years of so-termed liberalisation than what may have been in the first 45 years of independent India. It is a pleasant coincidence that both Business Today and my firm Technopak came into existence at the start of this phase 15 years ago and have had the privilege of witnessing the change from the ringside. From the perspective of changes in the behaviour of the Indian consumer, what have been the salient ones?

India has a way of confounding all predictions and of twisting conventional wisdom to emerge with its own unique take on things. The story of the past 15 years is consistent in this respect-that many of the things that were expected to come to pass did not occur, and many others not foretold or foreordained are quite visible today. Some of the important learnings from these last 15 years include:

The Value Shopper: It was always assumed that Indians are price-sensitive consumers. However, what has happened is that they have emerged as value-sensitive. If a product or brand or service delivers value, they are willing to buy. Not only that, the average appetite for premium stuff has gone up and spread beyond the 'old wealth' type of families. Witness the numbers of Indians who are now travelling abroad on holiday.

Hum Hindustani: It was feared that liberalisation would mean the arrival of western cultural imperialism. Interestingly, what has happened is the exact opposite. In Technopak's recently completed India Consumer Trends 2006-07 study, the Indian youth is strongly espousing very Indian values and attitudes. While Valentine's Day has found a ready market for cards and gifts, what is really celebrated with greater gusto than ever before is Karva Chauth. Be it a Pepsi, MTV or McDonald's, most of the global brands have had to Indianise themselves to be widely accepted.

Features over Brand: The Indian society has always been considered highly status conscious. It was assumed that a similar status consciousness will operate in consumer behaviour, wherein top segment consumers only buy the top brands and lower segment consumers buy other brands. However, the experience of many-for example, Sony versus LG-defies this belief.

Neo-Imperialists: Another fear that cropped up among critics of liberalisation was that this would spell the end for India Inc. But Indian companies and brands have done well in these 15 years. Raymond and Madura Garments remain India's largest textile and clothing companies, while Haldiram continues to shine in the shadow of McDonald's and Pizza Hut.

High-net worth households are growing at 14 per cent per year, and are spending nearly $9,000 per annum on luxury goods

Brand Loyalty is Dead: Where once the Indian consumer swore by his set of brands and refused to change, today it is horses for courses. Rare is the home wherein the same home appliance brand is bought across categories, or indeed all the cars owned are from the same maker. In the coming years, the Indian consumer will be even more brand fickle.

The Opposite of Scrooge: Gone are the days of scrimp and save, of 'neither a borrower nor a lender be' and fiscal prudence. The explosion in the number of goods and products available has expanded the size of the shopping basket in terms of number of categories purchased. And in order to do this buying, consumers have availed of the easy credit banks are offering. Everything, from a holiday to a house and car to an appliance, is bought on credit. Credit card usage is growing. Between 1999 and 2004, the total Indian retail lending market grew at a compound annual rate of 30.5 per cent, from $9.7 billion to $36.7 billion, according to Merrill Lynch. That increase includes compound annual growth of 35.1 per cent for mortgages, 33.4 per cent for credit cards, 21.9 per cent for automobile loans and 27.4 per cent for other consumer loans.

New Maharajahs: Traditionally, India's luxury customers were its Maharajas, buying ornate pieces of jewellery from Cartier, Louis Vuitton steamer trunks and bespoke luggage. Today, the ranks of the Maharajahs have spread wider and deeper. 1.6 million households earn over $100,000 in India today and have a good appetite for premium and luxury products. These high-net worth households are growing at 14 per cent per year, and are spending nearly $9,000 per annum on luxury goods. Technopak's estimates put the luxury market alone at $440 million, and that of the premium market at $14 billion.

The Experiential Indian: Now that the struggle for survival is over for a large chunk of its middle-class households, India has moved on in life from mere availability of products and goods to demanding better experience. Be it at the movies, restaurants or shops, Indian consumers are demanding better ambience and better service, and voting with their feet and wallets. Shopping has become a fun activity and the growth of malls which combine entertainment, experience plus shopping has led to 'malling' becoming the preferred activity for families over the weekend.

The Future

It is of course very difficult to forecast what could be the most important changes in the next 15 years when it comes to the Indian consumer and her spending habits. However, some visible or emerging trends include:

Brand Blanked: India is currently seeing an interesting explosion of youth population. They have grown up in a new India that is booming and among the key worldwide markets and in an era of plenty as opposed to the gulag years of scarcity. As a result, their world view is completely different from that of people from an older generation. Most importantly, this generation is brand-blank. Except for brands which were launched during their growing up years (i.e., in the last 15 years), they do not know the history of other currently existing brands. As a result, they may be missing the critical 'why buy me' link in the story.

This augurs an interesting future for brand marketers. New brands will have an easier time across categories because they are not fighting history. Existing brands will have to find a way to merge the demands of history and the cultural imprint and needs of existing customers representing an older generation while renewing themselves to stay current with the youth.

People will look for excitement in the exotic rather than comfort in the familiar. They will experiment furiously in clothing, food, dining out, and travel

Increased Appetite for Risk: The current generation of youth is growing up in an atmosphere where the entire family unit is designed around helping the new generation live a better life than the previous one did. Moreover, the parental generation has established a basic standard of living that is unlikely to fall. Therefore, this generation has a much greater appetite for risk. They are more willing to try out new careers, new ideas, and new ways of doing things.

The Discerning Spender: There is an emerging market at the mass-premium level, though at the very premium level people will still want things that are not so easily accessible. Overall, the Indian consumer will be more rational, and foreign brands will no longer be the benchmark of quality (or Indian brands connoting the opposite). Rather, each will be