Ideas rocked India in 2006 and the country lapped up, debated and cherished them. These motley themes are now being carried into the New Year with renewed hope that they would echo louder in the national consciousness. For the first time, the nation demanded accountability, compliance, a better deal for its citizens and a rich debate on its identity.
ET joined hands with advertising agency Dentsu India to 'Trend Spot'-essentially delve into the underlying themes that resonated with Indians as consumers and citizens in 2006. The results of ET-Dentsu Top Hits of 2006 unequivocally point to the importance of ideas, new and resurrected, in the Indian polity.
So even while consumer India demands and gets more bang for her shopping buck, the citizen in her is also alive and kicking. No wonder our top 20 hit products are an eclectic mix of the physical with the ephemeral - from pure ideas such as Gandhigiri, proud-to-be-Indian, judicial activism, right-to-information, coach-bashing, uncola-isation to unabashed consumerism in e-ticketing (for air travel), low-slung jeans and low-budget airlines.
Gandhigiri and the Sensex emerged as prominent themes, right at the top of our hit products list. While Gandhigiri got the vote of confidence by an overwhelming 59% at the top-spot, the sensex was at number one for 18% but got over 40% of the votes to emerge as a clear No 2.
Munnabhai did the trick through as potent a medium as cinema and entertainment tax exemption for the film only fuelled that. That the film's brand of Gandhigiri caught the popular national mood is more than obvious.
While the survey in its current format could not get into the interpretation of Gandhigiri by respondents, popularity of the concept is undoubtable. Increase in penetration of investment culture down the income hierarchy made the Bombay Stock Exchange's top 30 stock index,Sensex, clearly a part of the common man's lingo.
At number two on our list, Sensex's performance is perhaps better tracked than the performance of the beleaguered Indian cricket team by most Indians now.
The ET-Dentsu Top Hits 2006, moulded on Dentsu's two-decade old property in the Japanese market, is based on an online survey of 2,019 Indians in the age-group of 16-60 years, polled in the second week of December 2006.
Anything from popular content to social phenomena to changing consumer habits to actual physical products that may have made their mark on the minds of Indians in 2006 were treated as part of this hit-parade. An initial consumer research helped bring the short-list of hits of 2006 down from a 100 to 25. These short-listed trends/products were then included in the e-survey.
Barely year-or-two-old trend, e-ticketing for air travel, came number three on our list, pipping even low-budget airlines, which is much lower the pecking order with rank 16. Popularity of online travel sites is perhaps indicative of e-ticketing's gaining currency with consumers. Will this spell the death-knell for your friendly travel agent?
Another positive new idea that clocked in at No 4 was 'Proud to be Indian'. The booming economy, the racing GDP numbers, global investors rushing in to encash the India story and more choice for the consumer seem to have created a groundswell of self-confidence amongst Indians. 'India everywhere' (India visible globally) was ranked at No 12.
“If you aggregate the scores for 'Proud to be Indian' and 'India everywhere' then this is almost the top trend of the year,” says Sandeep Goyal, chairman Dentsu India. Adds D Shivkumar, managing director, Nokia India: “Self confidence and national pride is palpable amongst the Indians this year and it is infusing fresh air into the popular mindset.”
Judicial activism and right-to-information snowballed into major issues in 2006. All the media noise and coverage of demolitions in Delhi to the Jessica Lal and Priyadarshni Matoo case (to perhaps the court verdicts in the Shibu Soren and Navjot Singh Sidhu) have moved judicial activism to fifth rank in the hits of 2006.
“It would be interesting to see through a more detailed qualitative studies if judicial activism is in some ways influencing the earlier trend of 'Proud to be Indian' as the ability of the system to redress injustice around us, and bring people in high places to book,” adds Goyal.
Interestingly, 'Mall culture' which was in our long-list of 100 trends initially, did not make it to the Top 25 that were put to vote. The idea of Search came in as hit No 8 signalling a new trend in consumer behaviour and 'blogging' also put in a fairly impressive showing at No 14 though it did not make the top 10.
That the survey was e-administered could well have pushed Search in the hit rankings, but the fact that more and more Indians are using search to answer more and more of their queries and satisfy their information needs is pretty obvious.
The success of the FIFA World Cup (while cricket struggles concurrent to the fortunes of the Indian cricket team) was visible as it held rank No 9 in the hits of 2006. Whether this means that Indians are now expanding their sports viewing habits to more than just cricket or the fact that we are largely neutral as a nation to soccer viewing without prejudice, remains to be seen.
While non-celeb reality shows and talent-hunts got knocked-off in the short-list to the Top 25, celebrity shows such as Nach Baliye carved its own fan-following. Interestingly, while the US is witnessing a resurgence of a mid waist and tight 'skinny jeans' Indian fashion still seems to be precariously hung on low-slung jeans.
Even though Coach-bashing emerged as an idea last year, it wasn't as pervading as it seems. Guru Greg-haters could take the bashing numbers only to the 18th spot. Uncola-isation (rank: 15) or consumers' preference for healthier juices, tea or coffee could send the cola major to tinker their product strategies for India.