Comfortable with family traditions and contemporary groupism, India's youth brigade is a consumer force that responds best to dialogue and engagement. Here's how it acts and buys. Brands must plug in to cash in. Anita Sharan writes.Updated: May 09, 2011 02:17 IST
Rebellion is out. Dichotomy is in, and India's youth are quite comfortable with it. In the spotlight as a potent consumer force, recent research on youth throws up some interesting insights on their behaviour and how it affects their buying decisions.
MTV India, in a recent youth study called Age of Sinnocence, found that today's youth has one foot in traditional values and the other in a contemporary outlook of life. They are living with the best of both worlds.
Aditya Swamy, channel head, MTV India, explained: "Career decisions are strongly influenced by parents, and on marriage partners, parental approval is desirable. Beyond that, it's the 'age of gang' — the gang that I can have and share experiences with; that is also the bank I can borrow from."He added that for youth, experience is more important to be "cool" than what you're wearing or carrying. "And money is important for experience. The youth's gang is his or her safety net, to turn to in times of monetary crises. They constantly pool in their resources that each gang member is able to access above and beyond his individual means. This enables lifestyle experiences that would otherwise lie beyond his reach." In the choice of a job, salary becomes the most important factor.
What MTV calls the youth "gang", KFC India calls "tribe". Dhruv Kaul, director marketing, KFC India, qualified: "While you hang out in big tribes, individuality is not lost either. One doesn't overpower the other. The group space is about a family of friends." KFC tries to reflect the youths' "easy cool attitude" in its outlets, products and communication. Its Street Wise range is affordable at Rs 25-100 to attract college-going youth who want to hang out but have constraints on money. It also has its KFC-outlet-as -adda ad campaign.
UTV Bindass, which carried out a youth study — Jigsaw — with Synovate, found that Indian youth is driven by "relationships, mobile, Maa, jugaad and udhaar." The mother plays a very important role as provider/protector. She shops for their clothes too.
The Jigsaw study found that today's youth are proud to be Indian. Ravi Dixit, VP, research and strategic planning, UTV Broadcast, said, "A lot of them don't want to go abroad because it's not that happening today. They see themselves in a much better position than their parents were in at their age. They've seen much more money in the last 10 years. Today is better than yesterday and they believe they will find their true calling in this country."
The MTV Sinnocence study also found that today's youth want to earn more than their parents (89%); that they would like to earn more than their spouses (80%); that they feel more money would make them superior to their counterparts (79%). The point is, today's youth believe they can earn well.
Jigsaw also discovered that the youth today don't see brands as multinational or local. They watch what their friends are watching, wear what they are wearing. "They learn from what they consume," said Dixit, "and then they share it. Buzz value is important."
Financial security, Jigsaw found, is top-of-mind and hence good grades and admission into prestigious engineering/management institutes matter.
On a social/relationship note, girls found body odour as the biggest put off, and boys favoured AXE as the solution.
Jigsaw also found that the mobile phone has become a body part for youth and the most important feature that they look for in their next phone is touch. Blackberry is the mass status symbol whereas iPhone is the top status symbol but mostly out of budget. Internet-on-mobile is strongly preferred in free wi-fi zones such as at Café Coffee Day outlets (KFC is also mulling wi-fi at its outlets), college campuses, et al.
Kaya Skin Clinic, which has a large youth client base, finds that youth have no guilt about spending parents' money; the average monthly pocket money is Rs 3,000-10,000; 13-15-year olds are concerned more with accessories and dressing, 16-18-year-olds with hair styling and appearance, and 19-22-year-olds with brands and beauty; and they want quick, tangible, visible results.
Suvodeep Das, head marketing, Kaya, said, "Youth have more money in the 13-22 years range and very little guilt about spending. This is leading to an 'instant generation, the T20 generation' who are highly brand conscious, want to buy the best, and want to look good. In their extremely competitive world, looking good gives them self-confidence and advantages over their peers."
In a filtered view, India's youth are a positive, aspiring generation who believe they can achieve. Belonging to a group is a part of that expression. From a brand's perspective, Swamy concluded, "I believe the day of mass media marketing is coming to an end. For the youth, it has to be straight-talk messages, genuine, uncluttered 'and then I'll talk to you.' There has to be dialogue. 'Don't treat us like a herd'."