‘Indian homes have more beds than mattresses’

May 8th, 2009 - 1:54 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 8 (IANS) Indians are gradually waking up to the joys of an affluent lifestyle with greater penetration of durable and consumer goods even though floor space at home is at a premium, says a new consumers’ primer.
Most homes in India have cots or beds, but a sizeable proportion of these do not have mattresses, as the ‘khatiya’ (rope cot) continues to rule, according to the recently released Indicus Consumer Handbook.

The book says a sizeable majority of Indians sleep on the floor as the average home area is small and there is not much space for furniture. Consequently, the beds are often put to alternative uses; sometimes to sit on or as social networking zones in times of large family assemblies.

Data collated from various government surveys show that 86.3 percent of Indian urban homes have cots or beds, while only 75.4 percent of urban homes have mattresses.

“The Indicus Consumer Handbook: The Marketers’ Guide to Indian Consumers”, published by Pearson Education, is a reckoner of the latest estimates on Indian consumers and their patterns of consumption. It has been edited by economist Laveesh Bhandari, director of Indicus Analytics, an economics and demographic research firm.

Documenting the latest trends in lifestyle accessories, the book says apart from cots, clocks and time pieces are the most common household goods, followed by chairs and electric fans, as reflected in the recently released data from the third round of the National Family and Health Survey. It surveyed over 100,000 households across the country.

With improvement in access to electricity, it is likely that the penetration of fans will go up, according to the primer.

Almost half of the country’s homes have access to colour or black-and-white television. Refrigerator is the next most important ‘white good’ that has potential demand.

Contrary to the projected boom, most homes in the country are not wired to mobile telephony and only 36.30 percent urban homes possess a cell phone.

And despite the entry of the Nano - the country’s latest economy car - the humble bicycle still continues to be the preferred mode of transport in India, according to the book. Only three percent of Indian homes have cars.

“There is quite a large set of dualities in Indian consumers’ behaviour, pertaining to age, structure, income, gender, age and families, some of which are either widening or disappearing or narrowing,” Bhandari told IANS.

For instance, the joint families are dying in both rural and urban India. “On the income front, differences have been widening over the last 10 years. One of the major factors for this difference is education,” he said.

Those with better human capital, said Bhandari, are benefitting more from the new economy.

The book also profiles the demography of the Indian consumer. The largest segment is below 25 years of age - and it is going to remain so for many years to come.

But the distribution of age is uneven, says Bhandari. “Though a majority of Indians is young, the number of youths is more in the lower income and lower middle income groups. The affluent classes in India are not young - like in the West. This is because the propensity to having children falls with higher income,” he analyses.

Most homes are single rooms, the primer says. Households with one or two rooms and with five to six people living in them are really short of space. This governs - or rather checks - the type and the scale at which the poor and the middle classes use various consumer goods.

Cities are the microcosms of the new India. The bulk of expenditure, says the primer, now occurs in urban areas even if they benefit rural people.

Bhandari feels this is because the largest markets are located in the city and “it is here that the latest fashions and lifestyle changes are created”.

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