Savvy and young, the great Indian consumer rises (Feature)

May 23rd, 2008 - 9:19 am ICT by admin  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) The new Indian consumer doing the rounds of the markets this season is a savvy shopper. He is educated, knows his brand and is ready to spend more on premium lifestyle products and entertainment. He is dreaming big and going all out to translate his aspirations into reality, even if it means overspending and using credit. And giving him the power are banks with low-interest finance schemes. All this has combined to make pricing an insignificant factor in the decision to purchase goods.

Picture this: A large fast-moving consumer goods shop in the Lajpat Nagar market, a sprawling middle class shopping zone in the heart of the capital, is crammed with the summer holiday crowd looking for good bargains on air-conditioners and refrigerators.

The air-conditioners in demand are expensive, fitted with special features and add-ons. The buyers, mostly middle-class families with double incomes, are willing to shell out more for air-conditioners this summer, with the average lowest cut-off price being Rs.13,000 for a machine.

“Our range of split air-conditioners is doing very well this summer. It is primarily because we are projecting our new air-conditioners as lifestyle products rather than utility goods,” V. Ramachandran, sales and marketing director of LG India, told IANS.

“We have introduced several new features like plasma technology, 12-stage air filter for 99.9 percent pure air and brands with high aesthetic values like floral ACs (with floral patterns) and Artcool, which look like paintings on the wall rather than an air-conditioner.”

The machines are priced between Rs.18,000 and Rs.70,000. And the company’s business in air-conditioners has grown by nearly 40 percent, spurred mostly by first-time buyers, says Ramachandran.

Similar is the trend for all other consumer goods in the market, say industry watchers.

Studies cite that post-globalisation, Indian consumers have been spending more than their counterparts in the Asia-Pacific region and the country now has one of the highest per capita spends in the continent, almost on a par with the economic giants like China, Japan and South Korea.

Economists attribute the trend to the process of evolution brought about by global competition, proliferation of choices and growing disposable incomes in the hands of young Indians. In the last two to three years, consumers have been spending more on lifestyle categories like niche consumer durables, eating out, movies and entertainment.

With the size of the family growing smaller by the day, expenses incurred on meeting social responsibilities have shrunk giving the single-unit (micro-nuclear) families more money to spend.

“A large segment of buyers comprises upcoming young couples with double incomes and their children, who are keen on premium star-rated products,” he says.

Courtesy television advertisements, they walk in with more than a fair knowledge of the products and their children wield clout in decision-making.

“All of them have credit cards and the willingness to buy. Mall is the new culture. Today’s consumer needs constant change and new products because they have a very short attention span, triggered by the remote control culture,” Josy Paul, chairman and creative head of BBDO India, a global advertising agency, told IANS from Mumbai.

Analysing the dynamics of trend, Paul says there is an entire generation of remote-control kids in the age group of 10-25 years who are used to multi-tasking like working on laptops, watching television, playing video games; and juggling all this with their studies, social life, parties and careers at the same time.

They have pushed up the demand for durables and newer forms of entertainment, he explains.

“It is kind of heartless but these youngsters are our largest body of consumers. With growing affluence and rising disposable incomes, working parents make up for their guilt and inability to spend quality time with children and young adults with balances of the monetary kind,” says Paul.

The new age consumer is a complex consumer who thrives on polarity and discontinuities. She is extremely demanding and aware that she drives the market, says adman Zubin Driver, chief of media solutions shop, Cell 18.

According to him, globalisation has created the same patterns of expectations and varieties in different sections of society.

“I really don’t think we are going to see a huge differentiator in terms of expectation across the country. Smaller towns now have bigger aspiration sets and reflect more conspicuous consumption,” Driver told IANS.

According to Driver, globalisation and standardisation are the future trends. “Like Americans, Indians will also become a totally ‘consumerist’ race,” he says.

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