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Youth, the most sought after customers in India

Youth, the driving force in the arena of consumers, given their sheer numbers, are becoming possibly the most researched segment in India, writes A Sharan.

business Updated: Oct 02, 2007 23:02 IST

Call them "iGen" as MTV does, the "3G" generation as Mindshare Insights does, "Funsters" as Airtel does, "The Zeitgeist" as Animax does, "Young India" as UTV does, or "Hesitant Believer" as Radio City does. Or call them just plain youth. Youth by age—also extending to 'youth by attitude' for some—are a force to reckon with, rapidly gaining importance with anyone who has something to sell.

In India, youth as a consumer segment has become very important. Natural, when 72 per cent of India's population is under 35 years of age (UTV's research for Bindass), and 50 per cent is below 25 years (MTV research). According to Mindshare's (the WPP group's media agency) research arm, Insights, over 700 million Indians are below 35 years, and over 550 million are below 25 years. And there are over 25 million newborns per year!

Youth has become possibly the most researched consumer segment. A look at some of these studies throws up interesting facts, either common across all the studies or supporting what one study may show. The UTV study carried out before the launch of its new youth channel, Bindass (target 15-34 years), threw up a very interesting finding—the median age for India is 24 years and is going down further! Census 2001 had recorded it as 26 years. This Young India is in the throes of consumerism and economic boom, and loving it.

While MTV's research covers youth as 15-25 years of age, and Animax 15-23 years, UTV's and Radio City's research span 15-to-34/35 years. Airtel prefers to go more by attitude for its "Funsters" target. "Youth is not one big map. We define our Funsters group by attitude to life; the emphasis is on 'young'," states Gopal Vittal, director – marketing & communication, Airtel. The newly-launched Google Search on Airtel and the expansion of its value added services under Airtel Live, are directed at Funsters.

UTV's insight of "longing and belonging" places 17-21-year-olds in the Sweet Spot of "those who belong"; 15-17-year-olds under those who "aspire and long" to belong; and 21-34-year-olds under those who "long" to belong.

Mindshare Insights' research finds youth to be about going out, gizmos and being cool, where classification of "cool" is entirely its choice. Being cool is a 24x7, 360 degree experience with many spaces that need to be filled by brand experiences. It's a "constantly on the move" generation for whom "what's edgy today is passé tomorrow."

"Today's youth is very comfortable with change," says Vittal. "Not challenged by technology, it is confident about the new world."

Most of the research studies considered bear out a duality in Indian youths' lives—the need to be independent but also the need to belong. Ashish Patil, GM, MTV, and VP – creative & content, says, "They are less about 'hanging out' and more about 'hanging in'. It's about community and belonging—generation Xerox. But within that community, they want to stand out."

Another common finding, as Vittal points out, is that there is "a certain feeling of invincibility, muddled with confusion and insecurity that is unarticulated. This insecurity has always been there for youth; since today's youth see signs of progress, its confidence is significantly higher." Animax's research finds agreement here in that while money is what youth wants and business is one of the preferred professions, the government job (security) has still not lost its shine.

Rana Barua, national head – marketing, Radio City, agrees: "Our research shows that today's youth are hesitant believers—they have dreams and desires, but are not very clear on how to go about them. They have internal inhibitions, though they believe they will win. The hesitancy is because of their legacy." Most of the studies agree on youth having strong family values/attachments.

A few critical insights are articulated by Patil: "Today's youth want to be successful and want to be seen as being successful. Fame is important as a measure of success. They are definitely looking at shortcuts here. Packaging is important."