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The Face of New India - A Preview


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Youth driven, red hot market, outsourcing hub, burgeoning middle class, rural power, hybrid cultures - these are some of the terms used by many in their descriptions of India.

Indian culture today is quite different from the stereotype perception that has prevailed so far. People today are very different from those of yesteryears in their ways of thinking, processing, analyzing and responding to stimuli. And there are powerful socio-cultural trends driving these changes, that simply cannot be ignored.

As we scanned the Indian multiplicity for trends, we realised how much a reflection of the new youth energy these trends are. They are now a strong movement, traversing and empowering various paths. The movement has now gained enough momentum to break into the collective consciousness of a billion people. In wanting to make a difference to their own lives and their fellow countrymen, the young crusaders have made their presence felt in multiple arenas, from business to politics to social service to environment care. As yes, they will largely determine India’s destiny in future. Urban and rural will resonate together to sketch out new scenarios, steadily altering the Indian landscape. Young Indians have found their voices of expression, be it anti terror rallies, gay right parades or basic education rights. It is almost like a second awakening, after the powerful fight for freedom more than half a century ago.

The culture of a nation has a very strong bearing on almost all aspects of its business. Many progressive sectors have invested in research on culture and training and the results are showing too. The IT sector is an excellent example - understanding local culture in a diverse land like India was certainly one of the important factors which saw them through. In understanding the cultural implications that drive the trends, one can achieve deep insight into India’s psyche today. This can further help in defining future strategies that will align themselves to the wave of change that has become evident in India.

In this context, what do international brands have to get right when setting foot in the diverse Indian landscape today? Do Indian companies have to stop and drastically rethink their roadmaps in the light of transformation? What could be inspirations for an entrepreneurial mind looking to capitalize on the changing Indian mindset? Through this report, Insight Instore gives you some food for thought in these directions. This trend study looks at 7 Indian sociocultural trends, and uses 26 exhaustive examples to analyze the implications of these trends on the Indian business scene at large and international entities interested in the Indian story.

In all this, our approach has been as non-linear as possible. Our intent is to stimulate ideas and actions in the right direction, and we believe the right time to do it is now!

Useful for brands, designers, product and content developers, ethnographers, analysts, researchers and consultants who are interested in learning in depth about the sociocultural state of India today.

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The Face of New India - A Preview

  1. 1. THE FACE OF NEW INDIA A compilation of sociocultural trends 2009
  2. 2. CONTENTS Foreword 1 Trends - Definition & Introduction 2 India - A General Overview 3 - 6 Trend 1 & examples 7 - 10 Trend 2 & examples 11 -14 Trend 3 & examples 15 -19 Trend 4 & examples 20 -23 Trend 5 & examples 24 -29 Trend 6 & examples 30 -35 Trend 7 & examples 36 -40 Trends - Analysis 41 -49 Conclusion 50 About us 51
  3. 3. FOREWORD India’s colourful mosaic culture has been the main feature that defined the country since time immemorial. It reflects in many tangible aspects ranging from architecture to attire to food to culture. All these are deeply embedded in the rich historical and geographical elements of the country. In the past two decades, India has seen a plethora of change. While this again reflects in the many physical aspects, it is the mental make-up of the average Indian that has evolved considerably, more so, as an after effect of globalisation. Diversity, as mentioned, always characterised India. And to Indians,the ‘Unity’ in the well known ‘Unity in Diversity’ saying, earlier signified a deep love for the country and a blind acceptance of its multiplicity. It was the very definition of patriotism, simple and straight forward, mostly fuelled by the struggle for Independence in the last century. It was a common goal, and it was an era of the outstanding leadership of the Gandhis and the Nehrus. Decades after gaining independence, India struggled to gain a foothold in the international scene, bogged down with basic problems ,and on and off political instabilities. The economic reform policies of the 90’s was a boon and signalled the slow rise of a nation, which would soon be in the forefront of the list of countries leading the world into the next millennium. In the last two decades, India has seen more global influences than ever before. Coupled with this, is the fact that, technology has brought the diverse nation closer together. Communication patterns have evolved, a nation of thinkers has become a nation of doers, urban rural bridges have reduced , eco sensitivity is on the rise, and all this has translated into a new language of patriotism, and speaks of a redefined culture. This cultural shift has definite impacts on the Indian work scenario. Existing companies have redefined their strategies. Start-ups today have fresh innovative concepts and exciting working models. International players have realized the importance of understanding the Indian playground in depth. This report identifies the elements relevant to individuals and companies today, to be an active part of the new story. It highlights the key trends in the sociocultural scene in India. It aims to give insights into new aspects of thought and communication, that largely drive the nation today. 1
  4. 4. TRENDS AN INTRODUCTION Before we start with a general overview of the Indian culture and trends, let us more or less define what trends are or are supposed to mean. Trends are a manifestation of new enablers unlocking existing human needs. Human needs are constantly changing with time. Some core needs remain constant throughout, whereas others evolve in alignment with external variables. Some trends remain, only modifying themselves along the way, whereas others disappear, making way for newer manifestations. * Global and local events and developments give rise to trends, which are fluid in terms of their dynamics, and which most certainly affect all kinds of businesses. The world is getting smaller and much smaller as you read. Globalisation has raised the bar. In fact, it has given rise to ‘glocalisation’ of products all over the world. Brands feel the need to give consumers a sustainable proposition based on innovation in their country-specific context. Consumers today are global citizens. More exposure and more expectations have risen out of standardisation. A number of businesses have identified this shift and innovated. Businesses are increasingly catering to rational, practical, current cultural needs and are not based only on traditional models and offerings. So McDonald’s has Chicken Tandoori burgers, Mattel’s Barbie sports a bindi, Pizza Hut has paneer tikka pizzas and fashion models wear spaghetti sari-blouses, to name a few examples. Source : 2
  5. 5. INDIA - A GENERAL OVERVIEW Indian civilization is recorded back to 3300 BC, one of the oldest cultures on earth As of 2007, India’s population stood at 1.16 billion The annual rate of growth of population is 1.8% India has a GDP of over USD 1 trillion, the 12th largest in the world It is the 4th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity Its per capita income is just over USD 1100, 136th in the world Even during the recession, the economy is growing at over 7%, 2nd fastest in the world, which means its average income will double within 10 years A Goldman Sachs report predicts that the Indian economy will overtake that of the USA by 2043 India cannot be ignored ! *Source : Wikipedia 3
  6. 6. The culture of India has been shaped by the long history of India, its unique geography and by the absorption of customs, traditions and ideas from some of its neighbours as well as by preserving its ancient heritages, which were formed during the Indus Valley Civilizations and evolved further during the Vedic age, rise and decline of Buddhism, the Golden age, the Muslim conquests and European colonization.India's great diversity of cultural practices, languages, customs, and traditions are examples of this unique co- mingling over the past five millennium. India is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. Religion still plays a central and definitive role in the life of most of its people. The religion of more than 80.4% of the people is Hinduism. Islam is practiced by around 13.4% of all Indians. Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism, all of which originated in India, are influential not only in India but across the world. Christianity is followed by more than 2% of the population. Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahai faith are also influential, but their numbers are smaller. Despite the strong role of religion in Indian life, atheism and agnostics also have visible influence Traditional Indian culture is defined by relatively strict social hierarchy. From an early age, children are reminded of their roles and places in society. Several differences such as religion divide culture. Strict social taboos have governed these groups for thousands of years. In recent years, particularly in cities, some of these lines have blurred and sometimes even disappeared. The nuclear family is becoming central to Indian culture. In rural areas it is common that three or four generations of the family live under the same roof. Among developing countries, India has low levels of occupational and geographic mobility. Till recently, most people chose the same occupations as their parents and rarely moved geographically in the society. The new urban crowd has however, redefined many of these age-old practices, specially with the rise of the IT and outsourcing industries. *Source : Wikipedia 4
  7. 7. A lot has been said about India recently, with her ‘emerging economy’ label, about how, along with China and Brazil, India would be one of the few players on the fast road to recovery, post the recession gloom. Newspapers are abuzz with reports of India being the top retail market* again. ‘Red hot’ is the term used by the Times of India to project the attractiveness of this retail market. Yes, with falling inflation and reductions in rent, global investors are probably looking at India again to tap the golden opportunity. Indian companies, on the other hand, are holding back a bit on expansion plans and focusing on restructuring their operations towards developing new strategies that will work for them in the new post slowdown scenario. On exploring the landscape further, it is interesting to see that while there are good forecasts and possibly even a few dreamy-eyed plans emerging again, there is much more that is happening behind the scenes. The recent pressure on cost-cutting has resulted in companies looking to benefit from fresh schools of thought like design thinking instead of the conventional and expensive, highly research-driven approach to devising strategies. From this stems an imperative to have a different understanding of the lifestyle and habits of the new Indian. *Source: The 8th Annual Global Retail Development Index - ATKearney. 5
  8. 8. As indicated earlier, the culture of a nation has a very strong bearing on almost all aspects of its business. Many progressive sectors have invested in research on culture and training and the results are showing too. The IT sector is an excellent example - understanding local culture in a diverse land like India was certainly one of the important factors which saw them through. To reiterate, Indian culture today is quite different from the stereotype perception that has prevailed so far. People today are very different from those of yesteryears in their ways of thinking, processing, analyzing and responding to stimuli. And there are a powerful socio-cultural trends that are driving these changes and simply cannot be ignored. Read on… 6
  9. 9. TREND 1 YOUNG LEADERS When a country has 450 million young people below the age of 18, it reflects on the youthfulness of the country in more than just one way. Over the years, India had been steadily showing strong indications of the youth movement in many spheres, be it business or politics. The movement has now gained enough momentum to break into the collective consciousness of a billion people, as is evident from the examples we explore. The Indian political system where caste and communal considerations rule over issues and ideologies, is one major area where this movement is seen. There are now a number of young politicians who have made the right moves at the right time, with the burning desire to make a difference to their own lives as well as those of others in the country. These are the people who, more than anyone else, will determine the course of India’s journey ahead. The freeing up of the economy that started in the 1990s has fuelled an entrepreneurial boom that has seen several young business leaders. These young captains of industry have successfully navigated India through tricky and challenging international waters to plot for their business and industries, a course that has gained the admiration of the world. Moreover, in what could well be the most significant aspect of the youth movement, this shift has not been restricted to just urban India. It has found resonance in the huge numbers that make up rural India. After all, close to 70% of the Indian population is rural. What is common among all the participants of this trend is their burning ambition., something that has made them question age-old values and customs in favour of efficiency and growth - their strong need for early success and a willingness to share the fruits with their brethren. 7
  10. 10. TREND 1 EXAMPLE 1 DECIDING EARLY IN LIFE YOUNG LEADERS 17,000 bright students from 1,800 primary schools in Surat and Tapi districts are appearing for village, block and district-level competitive tests so that they can confidently take the public service exams when they grow up. These students, barely in their teens, nurture ambitions of becoming bureaucrats or police officers one day. They are being trained by their school teachers under a program called Personality Development for Primary Students. The selected students of class V to VII are given books and other test preparation material as part of the program. The test material is prepared and provided by All India Ramanujan Maths Club free of cost. The question papers contain 50 to 60 questions related to science, mathematics, logic and general awareness.Successful candidates are awarded medals and certificates to boost their confidence levels. Kunjlata Gamit, a class VII student of Parchuli Adarsh Prathmik Shala in Uchchal taluka scored 50 out of 60 marks in the block level test. “Thanks to my teachers, I am sure I will become an IAS one day,” she says. This is the generation that will lead India onto the world stage before the second half of this century. 8
  11. 11. TREND 2 OPEN EXPRESSIONS Roti (food), kapda (clothing) and makaan (shelter) were not just the election issues they were until just two decades ago. They were the only real issues that most of India was grappling with. In sharp contrast, here is a list of recent and publicly raised issues in India that have caught the attention of the country: Protests against racist leaders Anti-terror rallies Save water campaigns Gay rights parades Women’s rights parades Human rights abuse in Sri Lanka protests Environment issues parades AIDS awareness campaigns Basic education rights campaigns Without doubt, public acts of solidarity and compassion are on the rise. There is a clear move towards fighting for causes that are not necessarily one’s own. Fighting for one’s underprivileged counterparts, for their equality and justice is a passion for many, and now it is not uncommon to see even children rallying for causes. 11 20
  12. 12. TREND 2 EXAMPLE 1 VOICING CONCERN OPEN EXPRESSIONS The 28th of June witnessed the Delhi Queer Pride 2009 Parade, which was held to demand the abolition of Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, that awarded a 10- year jail-term to those indulging in oral/anal sex. Most demonstrators were members of the LGBTI (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community, which has hundreds of members today all across India, with a higher concentration in metro cities. History was made when, on July 2nd, the High Court legalised homosexuality between consenting adults. The fact that hitherto ostracised transsexuals are not only openly declaring their sexual status, but also organising themselves socio-politically, shows that acceptance of change in India is coming at a faster pace than ever before. Transgender issues today are not an uncommon – far less a taboo subject of public debate. This suggests that many Indians today are no longer afraid to publicly express their opinion/ideology, no matter how radically unorthodox. 12 22
  13. 13. CONCLUSION We have looked at sociocultural implications where both Indians and the international crowd are concerned. However, these are suggestions by Insight Instore, to stimulate ideas and actions. Importantly, steps in the right directions need to be taken immediately to avail of the existing opportunity to boost economic growth and enhance the sociocultural landscape of India. To buy this report, please visit For enquiries regarding reports, please write to us at 50
  14. 14. ABOUT US Insight Instore is a trend research and retail shopper marketing consultancy. We study trends and shoppers. We see the shop as our laboratory. Our aim is to create impact instore, through insight and innovation. Our areas of work include shopper research and instore consulting, design consulting, trend research and forecasting. Our solutions are driven by a combination of various skills and disciplines, coming together on a vibrant and receptive platform. Research forms the basis of our consulting work. Consulting for us does not stop at developing a strategy, but extends to helping our clients to execute and evaluate the strategy. We also use this entire experience for trend research and forecasting. Insight Instore is headquartered in Bangalore, India. Contact us: Insight Instore 455, 1st Cross 9th Main, HAL 3rd Stage Bangalore - 560 075, India email: Tel : +91 97390 94983 / +91 97399 74069 51