For those end-users who have always been skeptical of the old socio-economic classification (SEC) model in place and often questioned the veracity of the realm under which the data was compiled, change may just be around the corner. After a five-year long hiatus since the change was being worked into, the Media Research Users’ Council (MRUC) and the Market Research Society of India (MRSI) have unveiled a new Socio-Economic Classification (SEC) system, under which all Indian households will be classified.
The new classification would now entail 12 grades from the earlier eight and would be inclusive of urban and rural. The 12 grades being spoken of range from A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1, D2, E1, E2 and E3.
Apart from the four additional grades, what will be noticeably different in the new classification system is the addition of a new parameter for mapping data –number of assets owned (in the case of rural households this will also include agricultural land owned). With this new clause in place, the old referral system that considered ‘occupation’ as one of the factors has been done away with. The other parameter that will remain unchanged is educational qualification of the chief wage owner in the household.
Sharing his stance on the need for an upgradation in the system, Lloyd Mathias, Chairman of MRUC, explained, “The old system was in use for more than 20 years and considered only education and occupation as the two parameters for tracking data. Obviously, it was an outdated approach that was followed and a change had to be brought about. Also, the new system will now play up rural as aggressively as urban and not in silos as done earlier.”
Taking the audience through the new methodology, Ashutosh Sinha of IMRB, said that a committee representing both MRUC and MRSI had identified some key requirements for the development of a new SEC system. These included the need for the new SEC system to be more discriminating, with sharper identification of the upper-most segment of the society; the new system needed to continue to be easy to administer; and there needed to be a common classification for urban and rural India.
According to Sinha, the advantages of the new system include that it would achieve more discrimination as compared to the current systems; would include a single system for urban and rural India; there would be less subjectivity as occupation as a parameter was no longer being used and that it would be more easier and simple exercise to carry out. On why the two parameters were considered and not any other, Sinha chose to play it safe by saying, “The two questions would provide the best possible details than the others – an aspect crucial for compiling data. The procedure was anyways a tedious one and most respondents found it a time-consuming exercise to be engaging in. So, we had about 15-20 minutes for the exercise to be completed and we chose to opt for brevity.”
But apprehensions are already being cast on whether the new grading system and parameters would bring about any clarity or confuse the users even more. Nandini Dias of Lodestar found the new parameter a bit confusing as according to her, consumers would keep upgrading their appliances quite often and would also trade the old for the new, so a skew in the data couldn’t be ruled out. “We will have to wait and see how the clients and industry take to the new SEC. But since they are open to suggestions and the promoters being open to change, we can expect remedial measures to be carried out.”
TAM’s LV Krishnan, too, was hopeful of the new system and said that it required time for the system to fall in place and for the industry to accept the new changes. “I think the industry should abide by the new system with glee as it expands the SEC universe. They can anyways refer to the old system just in case confusion arises,” he added.
It’s only a matter of time before we know of the benefits or pitfalls that arise from the new system. In any case, the promoters plan to revisit the system every two years if the need so arises. It’s only beneficial that the industry embraces the new system so as to gauge the viability of the new tenets.