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youth fashion & lifestyle trends in India


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Oct 27, 2008
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The term youth refers to persons who are no longer children and not yet adults. Used colloquially, however the term generally refers to a broader, more ambiguous field of reference- from the physically adolescent to those in their late twenties. India Inc. is no doubt becoming younger with 60% of its population under the age of 30 and further depicting a downward trend (where-as most of the developed countries are becoming aged and the work force with creative green mind will be in high demand). About six out of ten household in India have a liberalization children (born and have grown up in the period of liberalization of Indian economy) who acts as a change agent in that household. With the first ever non-socialistic generation's thriving aspiration & new found money power combined with steadily growing GDP, bubbling IT industry and increasing list of confident young entrepreneurs, the scenario appears very lucrative for the global and local retailers to target the Gen Y. Due to these reasons, India is marked as the most prospective destination for the retail investment in the A. T. Kearney's Global Retail Opportunity Report, 2007.
Hence, the hype is on and the business possibilities are enormous. But, these group of wonderful young bloods are not yet understood (by the market experts & researchers) in respect of their lifestyle, habitat & attitude and often being mistaken as similar to any of their global peers. The result is to "take them for granted" and copy the "similar" products most popular in various other countries and try to promote them in India with an obvious result of instant failure. Then making a haul stating that the Indian youth are not yet "trendy" as of their global peers so the "internationally hip" designs or colors are not selling in India...
Have we ever tried to understand the logic of them who rejects the product? What goes in their mind resulting a nation-wide ripple effect (through word-of-mouth, sms-ing, instant messaging and scrapping in social network sites)? Why a blue color beverage or yellow color two wheeler (for ladies) fails to catch their attention? Why they want to look "matured yet cool" rather than "wild and outrageous"? Why there is no indigenous youth oriented style-tribes or subcultures (ie. Punks, Hippies, Goths, Psychedelics, Skin-heads etc.) in India though we have enormous numbers of sects, sub-sects and religious or spiritual groups?

"Aspire rich"-

"When I was growing up, my parents told me, "˜Finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving.' I tell my daughters, "˜Finish your homework. People in India and China are starving for your job' ". - Thomas Friedman

As Marian Salzman & Ira Matathia states in Next Now- Trends for The Future "A lot of world's smart money is flowing to where a lot of the world's smart people are- specially as they cost less than smart people in the developed countries...(in west) anxiety will be a raising emotion as people get scared- for their job and for their future."
Not only in west, but the liberalization's children of India are also under pressure to get the "first wave" of becoming "rich" before it eases off. But it's not an "easy grab". As many as 9.3 million young people want to go to college where as only 3 million seats are available. For admission to the premier engineering college, the IITs, there are 7,000 kids at each mark point in the entrance exam. During any major "exam season" the household becomes war zone. In India, the children are considered as an asset for the entire family and the expenditure in their education is considered as investment for the future of their parents. As Rama Bijapurkar correctly quotes, the liberalization's children in India are "a Pressure-cooked Generation". Unlike their global peers they study really hard to make their parents proud and pay them back by achieving the epitome of success. Hence, interestingly, the youth icons in India are the successful Indian entrepreneurs (Tata, Birla, Ambani etc.), rich established Indian sport-person (Cricketers, Tennis players etc.) or rich & famous (not the struggling, young & not-so-famous) gilt-edged Bollywood movie stars, singers and producers rather than scandalous young and upcoming pop-stars or alternative subculture leaders.
The Indian youth are highly motivated and geared with limitless aspiration. For a lucky few, the success follows; and follows the money-power, at quite a young age. The high aspiration with a motto to "make my family proud" (as seeded by their parents) are not only making the youth in India as focused & career centric but also the most family oriented youth in the world. The recent Global TGI report states that India scores highest (76%) in the rating of "it is important my family thinks I'm doing well".

The Indian youth segment roughly estimates close to 250million (between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five) and in my view, this segment can be broadly divided into three categories: the Bharatiyas, the Indians & the Inglodians (Copyright Kaustav SG2007). The Bharatiyas estimating 67% of the young population lives in the rural (R1, R2 to R4 SEC) areas with least influence of globalization & high traditional values. They are least economically privileged, most family oriented Bollywood influenced generation. The Indians constitute 31.5% (A, B,C, D & E SEC) and have moderate global influence. They are well aware of the global trends but rooted to the Indian family values, customs and ethos. The Inglodians are basically the creamy layers (A1,A SEC) and marginal (1.5% or roughly three million) in number though they are strongly growing (70% growth rate). Inglodians are affluent and consume most of the trendy & luxury items. They are internet savvy & the believers of global-village (a place where there is no difference between east & west, New York & Noida, developing & developed countries), highly influenced by the western music, food, fashion & culture yet Indian at heart and emotion.
The Inglodians are minimal in number but they are the innovators or initiators of most of the trend directions. They are globally inclined, exposed and affluent enough to afford so called trendy "look". All the Inglodians may not have grownup in creamy layer but "reached" in the creamy layer through various professional and academic achievements. This category always wants to be different than the rest of other categories and wants to appear different than the rest of their peers as well as from "aam aadmi" or mass population of India. Here stands my theory of "adopted differentiation" which states that "To distinguish & separate themselves from the mass culture (aam aadmi) of India and other youth categories the Inglodian (and majority of Indians) youth segment consciously adopted the sophisticated yet cool look and attitude which is not as young as per the Global perception of youth culture". The theory is fairly simple to understand. India, as a country is very colorful (considering various cultural aspects, festivals, decors and lifestyle) and decorative. The mass uses color & ornamentation as a tool to define their identity and interest because color & textures are the most cost effective & easily accessible medium in fashion (other than the rest two attributes: materials and silhouettes). Being a well lit and sun drenched country, color has the maximum impact on the viewer. Naturally, the black, white, pastels and grays are the most awkward color tones among mass. Here I want to quote Mr. Kishore Biyani's observation on the immediate cause of failure of white shirt sell at the Big Bazar "one of our first mistakes was around the humble white shirt. Plain observation and intuition suggested that almost everybody has a white shirt in his wardrobe. Therefore it should naturally be one of the highest selling items. So we ordered around one lakh white shirts and offered these at Rs. 149...customer however, were not keen as we expected them to be and it took us a long while to get rid of all that bulk...the reason slowly became clear. The customer who walks into a Big Bazar travels by train and buses. Even when the price of a white shirt is low, the maintenance cost of these shirts is too high for him" (It Happened in India- Kishore Biyani & Dipayan Baishya, Page. 122) ...and check what one of our respondents told during my one-to-one discussion session (for trend direction analysis) at Delhi University "White is mine...it makes me stand out of d crowd and chaos...And ya, it shows that I have money to maintain white...as I drive ma car...Its really tough to maintain white in Delhi u know...he he he". The color makes a difference even in social status!
Not only social status, a color exhibits the aspiration level too. Another respondent stated "Why Grey?! I wana be Tata or Birla...wana acquire all the global giants in business...wana be the man of steel...u know, the Ambanis and Mittals look smart...I wana be in the Forbes list of global rich!"Another exclaimed "Bright I like in occasions...when I wear kurta during festives...but I like pastels overall...it makes me appear matured...sometimes, even if u have money People doesn't respect u unless u LOOK matured."

Global survey by Swedish research and consulting firm Kairos Future found that "Work comes as top priority for Indian youth, followed by a good career and higher-status. In contrast, for those in Europe, a good living environment comes on top and above all work-related aspects", Kairos Future said. The priorities of Indian youth -- work, good career and a position with high status - are reflected in their values such as endurance and entrepreneurship. "Indian youth are also strikingly more optimistic about their own future and also about the future of society. The general picture in other countries is that young people tend to be personal optimists but societal pessimists," according to Kairos Future Group CEO and founder Mats Lindgren.
Their craving of exhibitionism (of affluence, acquisition of money-power, affinity to indulge, sky high aspirations) and obvious craving of looking "matured yet cool" influence them to adopt a particular look & lifestyle of "neat, balanced and sophisticated" as a tool of differentiation from aam addmi, the other side of India. This further clarifies why the bright yellow or khaki were never a popular color among Indian youth segment though they were the hot selling colors world-wide. Both the colors are perceived as "cheap", cause yellow is widely used in "Cheaper" services and products (the STD booths, the Autos, Taxis & cabs, the earth movers and lorries, helmets of the construction laborers etc.) and same implements to khaki too. In another survey I found that the youth prefers to wear a tee shirt with "western images" (gothic, rockers, pop stars, Che Guevara etc.) or westernized Indian images (the stylized OM insignia or Vedic mantras) but hates to wear a Bollywood influenced image though Hindi & regional movies are the most popular entertainment medium. The reason is quite simple, the Bollywood influenced image is perceived to be cheaper than the exotic western influence.

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