Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The changing mindsets of a billion minds
The Changing Mindset of a Billion Minds

Date: 18 June, 2008

"2008 winner of WPP's prestigious Atticus award for Research and Insights."

The mindset of India as a nation is changing. The emerging Indian mindset is finding its roots in the Kshatriya values of the traditional warrior class as opposed to the Brahminical values of the priestly knowledge class that has been the biggest influence of the Indian mindset so far. The new India has found a leaf within its cultural roots in the Kshatriya way of life which is putting an accent on extrinsic values of action, success, winning, glory and heroism as against the Brahminical values of knowledge, adjustment, simplicity and restraint.

The India of today is seeking a "karmic transformation". While traditionally, Indians have taken refuge in the idea of karma and its interpretation that our life is governed by our fate hence not much can be done to change what's writ. The new India is seeking to transform its karma. The emerging belief is that karma is shaped by your actions and it is possible therefore to transform your being; to achieve a life that you desire than live the one that's destined. This desire and belief of being able to change ones' destiny is the driving idea or the core value of the changing Indian mindset.

This larger cultural change is visible in the changing cultural codes. For instance Indians today are no more content with sitting back and waiting for opportunity to strike, on the contrary they are going out and knocking on the doors of opportunity. Take for example, a city like Bangalore, which is facing a genuine scarcity of chauffeurs. In general, the Southern states in India are more conversant with English as a language than say the Northern states. As such, most of the people who worked as chauffeurs in a city like Bangalore, had some fluency in English as a language. And the boom in the services sector has meant that anyone who could speak some bit of English and is open to working hard is sought after by the BPO industry. Many chauffeurs in Bangalore have joined the BPO industry at salaries four to five times higher than what they probably earned driving someone else's car. Across strata and town class, Indians today are "activating their destinies".

About a year back, for the first time on national television, 60 million households (those with cable and satellite connection) in India collectively got exposed to a term called "x factor". "X factor" or more specifically the lack of it, was what the judges of the TV reality show "Indian Idol", used to decimate the chances of many talented singers, some with more than 12 years of training in classical music. For the first time the Indian middleclass realized the importance of looking good, dancing well and being stage friendly. They realized that 12 years of training in classical singing may not be enough to win a talent competition, but being able to perform like a rock-star might. For a Brahminical India, which valued talent over flair, substance over style and academics over personality, realizing the importance of the so called x factor marks a never before shift in the mindset. The concept of x factor in many ways defines the code of "currency to extrinsic values" that the new India is learning is a critical instrument to success.

Indians today are realizing how critical it is to push the limits and close the last lap, not letting go before the finish line. The result is that while India has always done well in things cerebral such as chess championships and mathematics Olympiads; we are now beginning to get medals in intense sports like tennis and athletics. In the year that went by, the entire world witnessed the dramatic takeover of the French steel company Arcelor by Mittal Steel, a company owned by an Indian though not operating out of India. The sheer perseverance with which Lakshmi Niwas Mittal approached the deal, making offers, aggressive counter offers, parlaying with the involved governments and stakeholders was a spectacle in the art of "last mile closure".

The biggest fear in today's Indian youth is being ordinary. Their desire is to be extraordinary in everything they do. "Bunty Aur Bably" that has been a blockbuster success across India has at the heart of its story, the desire of a young boy and a young girl from the small town India to escape Fursatganj, a symbolic small thinking town, and make it big in the city of big dreams – Mumbai. The most defining moment of the movie is when the film's protagonist refuses to go for a government clerk job interview, which his father has set up through reference. His refrain to his father is that the job that you have set up for me has neither recognition, nor fun nor fame – the three critical parameters that the Indian youth uses to evaluate anything including a career. As the film sequence goes on to highlight, a set of values exactly opposite to the values of hard work, respect and honesty that his father lived by, spending more than two decades in the government job of a ticket collector for the Indian Railways. The safe playing Indians who made efforts to blend in and be part of the social whole are today universally seeking opportunities that will make them stand out and make them extraordinary.

Evidently so, the newer mindset is rooted more in action than the knowledge orientation of the traditional Indian mindset. This change in the mindset of the new India is becoming the cultural engine of the Indian economic charge. Individual entropies of the young people are adding up to provide a larger momentum to the country on the whole. Considering that more than 500 million Indians are below the age of 21 years and its median age of 25 is even lower than that of China (33) that should make for quite a force.

Monday, April 20, 2009 Building youth brands in a youthful country Dheeraj Sinha, Change Agent in India, writes:

Earlier this month, I was invited to the Esomar Asia Pacific Conference in Beijing to present my paper on "Building Youth Brands in a Youthful Country". Esomar, in case you don't know, is the global think tank that champions research. The conference theme was "Asia – Competing on a world stage". It sought to explore innovative new approaches, ambitious thoughts, novel methods and innovative technologies within marketing and market research in Asia. Within this context, my paper comes from the premise that existing models of youth marketing have a Western eye. Hence rebellion, machismo and a continuous search for what's 'cool' with youth seem to be the formulae for building youth brands. However, there is an inherent assumption in this model – that the behavioral distance of youth from their senior generation is significant. Therefore, this model doesn't work in markets like India which have seen such dramatic change in past decade. Where everyone is feeling young, not just the youth. A market of "middle-aged teenagers" like India therefore needs a new framework for building real youth brands. It needs brands to get away from the traditional need-gap model, focusing more on how the brand links various parts of the consumer's life rather than worrying about what links the brand to the consumer. The world of Indian youth has witnessed fundamental changes especially compared to the previous generations. What was sacrosanct till now has been made fluid. Their desires are discontinuous, their morality is self assessed and they are seeking more a partner in crime than just need gap fulfillment. A consumer segment like this needs a framework of brand building that too is nonlinear and non-hierarchical. A brand framework which is designed to locate the brand into the life web of the youth than plug into it from outside. What's critical also is to look at youth not as a different species, but as just another generation. A generation which is a continuum of other generations and in many ways defines itself in relation to them. Being subject to the same social stimuli, but responding in a different way. To be able to sharply understand how youth as a generation is different, we need to look at them in relation to the other generations. After all what makes the youth has to be in many ways what doesn't make the others! This hypothesis is proven through the success of Bates 141 India's campaign for Virgin Mobile. We were tasked with the assignment to launch Virgin Mobile to the youth audience in India starting in 2008. Our insights on young Indians were that they do not believe in outrageous irreverence and open rebellion. They believe in "managing the system", manipulating it in a pleasing way to achieve their ends. Therefore, the campaign was based on helping Indian youth "bypass the firewall of sanctions" that society imposes on them and positioning Virgin Mobile as an accessory for inventive thinking. Check out the paper and videos and let me know if you can draw any parallels with any other youth brand or country.

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