Youth Inc.

Coming of age

The youth economy is burgeoning. Marketers are scrambling to keep pace with this confounding yet rewarding segment

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Published 9 years ago on Jul 07, 2012 16 minutes Read
Illustration by Sahil Bhatia

When 16-year-old Sanay Mehta wrapped up his board examinations in March this year, his father offered him a trip to Dubai or Singapore. He had cousins at both places, neither of which he had visited. Sanay had worked hard the last year and his father was convinced this surprise offer would be well received. But the teenager declined and made a counter offer. Give him half of what the trip would have cost, in cash. The rest would go to his bank account. “Return air fare and an overboard shopping spree would have cost about ₹1 lakh. With my cash wad of ₹50,000, I wanted to buy a pair of football boots, an iPad and upgrade my phone to an Android,” says Sanay. The trip wasn’t all that attractive to him; he would rather take a gap year and go to Europe with friends a few years later than be babysat by an uncle and aunt in Singapore. His father, though shocked, agreed. “He was always going on and on about the foreign trips his friends took. Who knew football boots were more important?” he says.

The under-25 demographic constitutes roughly half the population of the country. Yet very little is understood of their culture and consumption behaviour. One reason is, of course, the lack of historical data. This is the first generation that’s grown up in liberalised India. From television to computers and now smartphones, this is also a group of digital natives who keep pace with their peers around the world on a second-by-nano second basis. All of this determines their aspirations and their consumption behaviour.

Marketers usually define the youth economy as the consumption market occupied by 15-25 year olds. It is a dynamic demographic, one that behaves far differently from the population they have so far marketed to. Ten years ago, an 18-year-old would have nagged his parents to buy a desktop computer that could be used by the whole family. The parent would have then asked around about the most reliable machine and the best after-sales and maintenance service. They would have eventually bought one they were sure would last a long time and could be easily repaired if a fault were to arise.

Big spenders

A quarter of youngsters' spend goes on eating out and entertainment

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