Gunjan Prasad
Nov 6, 2017

India's massive millennial wave

Connected with a conscience, a younger generation of Indian consumers is keeping marketers on their toes.

India's massive millennial wave

By 2020, the average age in India will be 29 and the country is set to become the world’s youngest, with 64% of its population in the working age group. In so many words, this cohort is the one that will have the most disposable income.

“This is the target group every brand is trying to capture as they hold a tremendous amount of buying power,” says Anurita Chopra, area marketing lead for oral care with GSK Consumer Healthcare India.

Close to 407 million Indians across its length and breadth qualify as “millennials” by the virtue of their year of birth. Perhaps the most researched and least understood of the cohorts, the Indian millennials, like their global peers, have often been portrayed as individualistic, lazy, hedonistic, impatient non-conformists while also being ethical, entitled, confident and adventurous. Stereotyping such a huge population could be the biggest mistake any marketer could make and that in itself is what makes this generation a challenge.

Anurita Chopra

“Millennials keep marketers on their toes, so to that extent are more than a blessing, says CVL Srinivas, country manager for WPP India and CEO of GroupM South Asia. “Many marketers and their agencies carry too much baggage from the past and are unable to break free and create relevant connections with this segment.”

In a white paper titled The Early Millennials—Coming of Age published by Kantar-IMRB India, millennials have been divided into two groups: Late (born from 1980-1990) and early (1990-2000), but internal studies demonstrate that attitudinally, there is not much difference between them. In fact the generation gap between different generations appears if anything to have reduced. When compared with the 20- to 55-year-old generation, they are equally hardworking (53% vs 52%), collaborative (50% vs 51%), responsible (59% vs 58%) and loyal (61% vs 62%).

"Indian millennials are more interested in convenience, minus the responsibility of ownership."
—Anupriya Acharya, Publicis Media

This comes as a surprise to those trying to cookie-cut this generation, which is an amalgamation of contradictions: silly yet cerebral, passionate yet critical, questioning and even conforming.

This generation has witnessed events like recession, economic growth and terrorism as well as government campaigns like 'India shining', 'Make in India' and the demonetization of the Indian rupee last year. These have played a part in making them more pragmatic, practical and grounded in reality, much more than their parents. They know how to wean out the need-to-haves from the must-haves. For instance, according to Kantar-IMRB’s paper, 56% of early millennials intended to continue living with their parents and 50% wished to earn supplemental incomes.

Why own?

But that said, their bucket of aspirations differs from their parents and grandparents in that they don’t see value in “ownership”. This is a huge demarcating factor, as Indians have traditionally been known to own, save and hoard.

“Indian millennials are more interested in convenience, minus the responsibility of ownership," says Anupriya Acharya, CEO of Publicis Media India. "Taking a radio cab may be preferable to owning a car. Renting out furniture from small stores in crowded cities may be preferable to owning furniture."

Anupriya Acharya

But then they are way more nostalgic that their parents ever were. While the Generation X or Y took pride in embracing the West and breaking traditions, Indian millennials are 20% more likely to listen to old film songs on the internet and as likely to tune in to remixes on radio and mythological shows on TV, reports Kantar-IMRB. “In an age of impersonal digital media, inundated with information and sensory overload, perhaps the simpler, familiar things of yesteryears act as a safety valve,” says Rashmi Nair, Associate vice-president of Kantar-IMRB. “60% of our respondents prefer to go back to the same place for a vacation.”

Facebook's timeline memories video feature, Throwback Thursdays, Instagram filters and Pokemon Go are some examples that work with Indian millennials as much as with the others in this age globally.

Faith is a factor

Another big differentiator as far as Indian millennials are concerned, is their abiding faith and practice of religion. It is not something that they are shy about and in fact many wear it as a badge. It is a common sight on Monday nights in Mumbai to see groups of kids walking long distances to catch the first prayers at the famous Siddhi Vinayak temple.

The entire herbal wave that has seen a local homegrown brand Patanjali—built on the ‘goodness of Ayurveda’ brand proposition, grow to Rs 10,000-crore company in less than a decade is a proof of their belief in traditions.

It has seen many a multinational exploring the ‘local-herbal-healthy’ brand extensions.

The young adults in India have made a leap from being an internet-first to mobile-first to mobile-only generation in less than two decades. Mobile has gone from being a platform to a companion to them.

As shared by Facebook India, many of the first time users of the internet in India are coming via mobile phones. Young adults are spending close to 2.2 hours on mobile, unlocking their phones about 80 times a day. It has also changed the way this generation buys; 42% of all B2C commerce is on mobile versus a global average of 34%. Google India shares the sentiment as it feels that these 'screenagers', people born after 1995, live their lives online and, thus, trust technology more than anything else.

Acharya says: “India is scheduled to soon reach the mobile tipping point—the point at which consumers spend more time accessing the web from their mobile, than any other device. This in turn could help Indian millennials create a consumer-to-consumer economy where they rely on each other to find partners, financers, buyers or collaborators because of greater interconnectivity.”

"Discoverability and authenticity of brands are important to this consumer group. Are you adding value to their content and conversations or are you irritating them? What is the story behind the brand and is this story authentic?"
CVL Srinivas, WPP/GroupM.

Empowered by technology, the early millennials do not have the patience to stand in line and wait their turn. According to KANTAR-IMRB, they are 10% more likely than the older generation to transact online to avoid standing in a queue. This generation is more likely not to consult doctors and self- medicate/seek advice from friends and relatives for their ailments. They are more likely to make their own travel arrangements and the Internet also provides them with the option of experiencing unassisted shopping and checkout.

“Discoverability and authenticity of brands are important to this consumer group. Are you adding value to their content and conversations or are you irritating them? What is the story behind the brand and is this story authentic?,” says Srinivas.

The brands that constantly innovate, experiment, yet stay authentic are the ones that have succeeded.

Tata Tiago built a narrative for the brand with a web series Tripling, which lives the spirit of the brand and delivers on great engagement with content. Maggi is a great example of a brand coming back with a bang because of the love and loyalty built up over the years.

More recently, HDFC’s ‘Memories for Life’ digital platform achieved social amplification by asking consumers to leave behind recorded messages for loved ones to reinforce their brand.

“68% of our new users in 2017 are age 25 and under,” says Meetal Shah, associate vice president and head of brand & communications with Saavn. “These users, like their global counterparts, are willing to pay a premium amount to ensure a higher quality of service, and often take on the role of influencers and word-of-mouth promoters for brands that they like, leaving a significant digital imprint of their preferences.”

Marketers, thus, need to tread with caution. Not only are the Indian millennials highly opinionated, they believe in instantly broadcasting their views, be it positive or negative. Hence, brands must be confident of the information they are putting out and in no way deviate from their core values.

“Millennials also believe in first reviewing the product before purchasing," adds GSK’s Chopra. "Here’s where the whole aspect of influencer marketing comes into play. So again, the brand needs to stand tall when it comes to delivering its purpose. More so now than ever.”

Campaign Asia

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