The Fountain of Youth

There was a time, not so long ago, when we were bemoaning our country spilling at the seams with 1 billion people. Today that has become our biggest blessing. In fact that has become a single most important feature for almost all developing countries. 86% of the world population lives in these countries and they offer over 5bn consumers who need some product/services or several from less expensive to top end.

But what makes the markets singularly attractive is the fact that 80% of the under 25s live in developing countries. These are consumers with an appetite for new things, they are tech savvy and will add to already large work forces in these countries. In at least 100 countries, 15-29 year olds make up at least 40% of the population. India is unique in that one half billion Indians are under the age of 25 and 700mn are below 35. By 2015, there would be 550mn below 20 – twice the population of the US.

There is a huge potential for products and services for this segment. Companies would do well to understand these young consumers, their needs, attitudes, lifestyle, aspirations and activities. Further, this consumer segment is different in terms of their media habits and how they can be reached and engaged. Some of the promising categories for them are mobile phones, education, games, computer, fast foods, cafes, fashion, apparel, magazines and music and many others. In a survey, for MTV in 2004, Indian urban youth considers as the coolest things to have- the latest cell phone, perfumes and deodorants, car or bike keys, jewellery, credit card, Walkman and laptop.

One of the fastest growing categories in consumer goods is that of toiletries and cosmetics. Beauty pageants, Miss World contests and winning beauty queens contests are one quick road to success and fame. In some ways it signals a move from collectivism to individualism to enhance both occupational and social confidence. Equally important is to remember that these will soon become the core consumers (25-44years). These baby boomers will be driving the economic growth during the next decade. It is important to keep in mind that this generation is very different from the earlier group of core consumers. For one, they are tech savvy, which means that traditional ways of connecting with consumers will not work. Mobile phones, internet will become potent media for reaching them. A growing trend among them is choosing brands that resonate with their beliefs and attitudes.

Indian youth, as youth elsewhere in Asia, hold what could be called ‘dual passports’, that is they are plugged into the global world while nurturing and enjoying their local identities. Today even the TV soaps are imported and adapted. In a survey conducted among 13-19 year olds, teens rated individualism, ambition and freedom higher than did 60 year olds, much in keeping with their counterparts from the developed world. However, often the motivations for using products are quite different. The famous example is that of the Walkman, while in the West it is used to protect privacy, in the East it keeps you from disturbing others.

This segment is in a sense at their most impressionable life-stage. Therefore it is important to understand the role of influencers and role models. Bollywood, cricket, and sport have spawned a whole host of icons that are used in advertising to the youth.
Education offers a huge potential for any marketer. There are more students than there are good schools and colleges. Most international colleges are opening branches in India to make education available to greater numbers, cheaper than what it would cost them to go abroad but more expensive than local institutions. E-learning centers, coaching classes are highly fragmented and offer a huge market potential for somebody who would consolidate the market.

The young women are going through a faster change than the boys, with rising literacy rates, aspirations to work, greater job opportunities with the rapid growth in the services sector – banking, IT industry, telecommunication, entertainment. They are becoming a potent consumer segment.
By 2050,however, there will be a ‘birth dearth’. Across the world, over 60s will outnumber children below the age of 15 for the first time. But till then companies would do well to drink at the fountain of youth.

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