Guha kicked off the session by pointing out that the different mediums that defined the digital age - SMS, blogs, MMS, multiplexes, set top boxes and even play stations – had two things in common: involvement, and do-it-yourself. He cited examples like 'Salaam Namaste' and Gregory David Roberts' latest book 'Shantaram' - creations that had worked in reaching out to the Indian youth.
Guha drove home the point, “The writing on the wall is IC – involvement and customisation - which could also mean individuality and chance.” He spoke on how content in India had crossed the hurdle of bringing in quality, and in the process, made ‘Made in India’ a term that was taken seriously today. He said, “I believe that the next stage is that people will think, ‘If it’s thought in India, it must be brilliant’.”
Generation Next and the Digital Divide
This threw the forum open for Arvind Singhal, Chairman, Technopak, to dissect the Indian youth to understand what could be made in India to hit on this TG. With statistics that established that the youth TG formed a significant portion of the Indian populace, and that India was in a unique position of being the oldest civilisation and the youngest nation today, Singhal explained what he saw as the qualities of the youth today.
“I call this ‘Generation next’, which is setting trends for the whole nation today,” said Singhal. Unlike the old identity, where audience was determined by socio-economic groups, religion and occupation, the new identity boasted of a new set of values, he explained. The youth had goals, were fiercely proud of their Indian-ness, and at the same time, were receptive of the western culture too. In essence, India comprises a global youth.
Singhal further said, “Generation ‘Me’ is a blend of national and international qualities. They are more optimistic, their role models are the likes of Mukesh Ambani, Narayana Murthy, Rahul Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. They are just as comfortable with MTV as they are with Aastha. They get excited about freedom. They enjoy watching Manchester United play and Formula 1, and billion dollars sounds much more appealing to them than a billion rupees.”
He observed that the Indian youth was earning young and had high disposable incomes while being socially networked and media savvy, enjoyed a more open lifestyle, and sought entertainment in the form of gaming, films and going out.
Adapting Vs Imposing
And how should they be dealt with? “There is a paradigm shift that has to be acknowledged here. We should look at adapting rather than imposing, we need to think young and contemporary and the only change in mindset required is in our own. And finally, invent for India and re-invent in India,” Singhal maintained.
Ashutosh Srivastava, CEO, GroupM, brought the focus back on changes in the attitude and behaviour of the youth. He believed that technology was already impacting the new generation in a big way, and was set to do it some more. He said, “With half the population under 24 years of age, combined with increasing levels of disposable income and rapid penetration of new technology, attitudes and behaviour are undergoing a radical change – and this will have far reaching impact on the kind of entertainment, and also the way it is consumed by this young India.”
The challenges, as he saw them, is how this consumer can be navigated. He brought in the angle of aspirations here, and said, “And this brings us to the concept of what we term the digital divide – between the earlier generations and the younger one, between the affluent and the not so affluent. The two biggest phenomena that are changing attitudes and behaviour on a scale never seen before are the Internet and mobile phones.”
Quoting statistics to indicate the market and the growth it is poised for, Srivastava said, “Total SMS revenues in 2005 were about $75 billion. To put it in context, Hollywood box office is a bit below $30 billion. Global music industry revenues are about $35 billion. Video gaming, consoles and all software are about $40 billion. And the total value of all laptop computers sold in 2005 was about $65 billion. SMS alone earns more than any of those industries... And SMS is still over 90 per cent profit. Do we love this industry or what?”
Summing up, Srivastava said, “We are talking about tomorrow’s world, which will be connected live everywhere with the world in its pocket. Where content is to be personalised to all types of preferences, where portability will transform the way people consume content, where social networks will determine content consumption and what’s hot and where, thanks to technology it will be possible to target much better, while making it possible for consumers to control content.”
A picture perfect generation that prefers imperfection
Ajay Vidyasagar, EVP, Marketing, STAR Entertainment, said, “The youth, or as we call it, the ‘multiplex going generation’, is a growing TG in India, and just to cater to this section, we launched a complete channel – STAR One. At STAR, we have seen this TG evolve very closely and their traits can be best seen in three points.”
One of the first points he enumerated was that of ‘Perfect vs Imperfect’. Using examples of advertising for brands like Mentos and Naukri.com, he explained that the youth today liked imperfection better. The next point he delved on was whether the TG was modern or traditional. And Vidyasagar, like many others in recent conferences, said that it was more of the ‘middle road’. To establish his point better, he showed the ‘Hamara Bajaj’ commercial, which he believed captured the youth mindset of today completely. The third point was whether it ‘Made in USA’ or ‘Made in India’. On this, he said that Indians, and especially the youth, were very proud of their Indian-ness, and at the same time, receptive to international successes.
Citing the example of ‘KBC 2’, he highlighted the importance of localisation. The final point that Vidyasagar raised was that between playing it safe and pushing limits, Indian youth today definitely opted for the latter.
Movie, Men, Muse
Rakeysh Mehra, Director of recent big hit 'Rang De Bansanti', had a surprise for the audience when he pointed out that one didn’t need to think like the youth and then produce content, but could produce content that gave direction to the youth and had longevity. He stated, “Being a young nation is a fashion and like any other fashion, this too will go away. True, the majority of our population is very young, but as a content creator, I have a decision to take - whether I want to do a quick job or make something that is long-lived.”
He expressed his belief that like any young entity, even Indian content providers would face setbacks, and said, “We are just learning to walk yet and we will fall. But the point is that are we going to concentrate on fashion or on setting values, and this is what I think should reflect in our content. We have to act with responsibility and steer a young nation in the right direction.”
Mehra presented an optimistic side when he said, “The positive aspect of the youth today is that they can identify with the global Indian factor. We are open to global happenings and we should participate in them but not by adapting or re-creating western idioms – we need a new idiom.”
The points, according to him, that one should think about were - how the energy of the youth could be harnessed and converted into something productive, and how Indian cinema could reach the scale of international movies. On the latter, he explained, “We have to get to the international scale. How we get there, I don’t know. It is a colossal task and as an industry, we have to take that journey together. Indian movies have to enter the big screen and we have to do it in partnerships with the big global players.”
“This is a flowery situation and I see a great opportunity in India now. It would be interesting to see what our content will offer in the next 30 years or whenever it is that we become a more mature nation,” he concluded.
Success doesn’t mean happiness, and they know it
Where everything was about statistics and studies, Siddhartha Anand, Director of another hit youth flick 'Salaam Namaste', chose to narrate experiences around the problems the film industry faced a few years back, and now. Taking off from the ‘failure’ that his father faced and the success that Anand had seen with 'Salaam Namaste', the young director said, “Things have changed today and the youth knows what it wants. They just don’t want to be successful – they want to be happy. All I want to say is that give Indian youth their due. Doesn’t matter whether they are thinking big or small – they are headed in a direction.”
Ajay Bijlee, MD, PVR Cinemas, explained that even as the Indian youth had become global entities comfortable with modern ways, in terms of movies, they had given their verdict a long time back - in favour of Indian movies over Hollywood.
The Indian youth is a mixed, 'thanda-garam' breed. And those who can successfully figure out this TG’s DNA, will succeed.