As India chugs along to its rightful place in the pantheon of leading nations, a subtle but unmistakable cultural force readies itself to assume the vanguard of this change. It is itself a product of ‘India Rising’ and, yet, it stands to define its very character. Meet the ‘young urban middle’. It is not as much a generation as a mindset. It is nothing like the middle class of yore with set values and work ethic. One of its very characteristics is that it defies narrow categorisations—a direct reflection of its diverse make-up.
It is difficult to trace its exact origins but somewhere in its founding is the unnamed group that smashed open the bridge in Gurgaon that was waiting for a VIP inauguration. And, it is this irreverence that often stands them out from the India that was. The other is its benign apathy towards formal religions—counter-secularism, if you would. As a group, it is well-read, widely travelled and upwardly mobile. They work for global giants, ever harbouring the dream to go entrepreneur. It is not apologetic about money—of earning it, spending it or even wanting more of it. These are first-generation well-to-dos and proud of it.
This group is not shy either. You find them being vocal on all manners of issues on camera and yet, ironically, it is politically disenfranchised, as a majority of them don’t vote. This is a curious contradiction that should give pause to politicians and social scientists alike. Politicians, for now, have decided to bear their outrage in the media and ignore them politically. The communists in defense of an outdated ideology, BJP in defence of the hinterland and the Congress in defence of the family are out-of-sorts with this group. To make matters worse, they don’t conform neatly to the Right or the Left but demand a liberal social view while being conservative on economic matters. They also don’t respond to the politician’s favourite bogeys—religion and cultural honour. They like to question. And as such, the Right to Information Act and the proliferation of independent media outlets are purpose made for this group. It is fiercely protective of its right to free speech and equally intent on testing those boundaries. As consumers, they are the ‘India Story’. There is more than their sheer number or their collective spending power. They bring a new consumer sensibility to the market and yet they hold steadfast to the renowned Indian expertise in value shopping. This group, though, will pay for higher benefit products—premium variants here we come. The move from broadcast TV to paid cable to much higher priced direct-to-home signals the coming of this new sensibility. It is an informed group that regularly exasperates poorly-trained showroom staff with its pointed questions. It knows its way around information—where to find it, how to use it. And, yes, they are connected to others like themselves which can be very unforgiving to companies that disappoint them.
Disciples of the decadent West—oh, the horror! Not quite; to this group, it is just the freedom of personal expression. They carry ideas from different countries and expect India to measure up to their dreams. But don’t expect the emergent blueprint to look anything like the present West. An impatient lot that is, in turn, is speeding the progress in the country. What of Bharat, then? This group might actually do something for inclusive progress. The challenge is to get on its agenda. This is not a group known for its attention to anything for long.
Did you say conflict? Sure, bunches of it! A lot of what it holds dear are out of sync with a country that forgot to implement its hard-fought freedom. An Indian revolution to make the French blush? Not likely, this group likes the airconditioned confines of the TV studios too much. The fear from this group is not as much bloodshed as irrelevance. The change would be gradual—it would be won one family at a time. But as agents of change of a generational proportion, this group is an equal to the task. Get ready: there are 200 million of these guys joining the workforce in the next 15 years.
6 months ago