Rama Bijapurkar addressed attendees at the launch of Businessworld’s Marketing Whitebook 2014-15 Gauging Generations, where she decoded the youth of India that marketers are going to face as consumers in the future.
“I may not be the generation who understands the nuances of digital but I am certainly someone who understands the value of a captive target audience,” she said.
We tend to forget that consumers are shaped by everything that marketers do to them, they are not born with a script, she reminded the audience. They are also shaped by suppliers. If you have four or five brands that targeted at the youth rather than one, then you begin to have a wave and depending on which they are and where they come from the entire youth culture starts getting defined.
Imagine if our youth in the last ten years was under no real leadership and a moral compass gone awry, you would get one kind of a young generation, if the next ten years are with autocratic leadership, with a completely different political discourse, you may have young people thinking very differently. Today is a world shaped by supplier’s thoughtfulness rather than consumer needs. Young people are pragmatic and not idealistic today. Described often as a ‘Me’ generation that is disconnected from a larger nation building purpose, this young generation was also seen protesting against the Nirbhaya case and quitting their jobs to join AAP.
What is special about this generation, she asked. “ I call them the liberalisation children,” she said. With what happened after 1991, the influences were different. The next generation will be more heterogeneous than ever before according to Bijapurkar. Every generation pays the price for something. If the generation of Midnight’s Children paid the price for freedom, the generation after that paid the price for nation building. This generation is paying the price for India’s global integration, and yet to come for this generation is a lot of aspirations with a spectacular failure of public goods, she said with respect to lack of infrastructure such as power, roads, education, etc. There is a shortage in this generation of college seats with more applicants and fewer seats. You need a 100 per cent cut-off and two years of coaching. This is also a generation which does not really have jobs, majority of the people are unemployed; except for a small proportion of urban India. This is a generation with uncertain incomes and certainty of aspirations, she explained.
Bijapurkar also remarked that for those of us who think India is losing its sense of humour, it’s all actually on social media. Due to the rise in technology, an expressive nation like ours has found its voice on social media which is highly community linked, giving rise to far more multiple identities. Technology is now the nervous system. Quoting an anthropologist, she said, “What automobile did for USA, technology is doing for India.”
We have a generation in a great deal of pain which has to earn, acquire, aspire with no security, Bijapurkar stated. It is a dog-eat-dog world with hyper competitiveness and discourse is you eat what you kill. The good news is that power distance has decreased but it is a society with 21st century globalisation and 18th century mindset, she opined.
Bijapurkar said the arrived and privileged youth are the primary beneficiaries of globalisation. They can either run a business, or have a job with an MNC, or have newer jobs like RJ, party planner, script writer, etc. But that’s not all of India. There is another segment that has arrived with struggle, people with ordinary backgrounds in a fiercely competitive world. The remaining large section are described often as unskilled, unemployed and angry, said Bijapurkar; these are people arising from fourth rate education and are unemployed. For a peon’s job, a million people may apply. These are also going to be our future consumers.
India’s digital quotient is very high. Everybody is plugged in one way or another, some more intensely. The consumer is far more ready than the supplier. From the company’s perspective, all the backend has moved and embraced technology, what is moving slower is the frontend which is the customer interface or the marketing side. With consumer adoption of digital being very high, the only limitation is the imagination of the marketer in terms of what can be done or how to use it.
How is internet changing the generation before this? Bijapurkar said that we have an idea that all the people in cyber space are young, liberated, cool folk. But pause and think; every bigot is online too, she commented referring to the year of intense politics we witnessed.
But let’s not lose common sense, she cautioned. This is a blend of old and new. Indian consumers going forward are going to be monster consumers, she said. Until 2008, the prices of everything went down and quality went up. What the consumers are now expecting is hi-tech and hi-touch. We have a far more impatient consumer who is a monster consumer, being served by monster supplier. Service industry is spawning a lot more micro entrepreneurs with whom the big brands will have to compete, she said.