Madhukar Sabnavis
Sep 09, 2011

Opinion: Exciting times in India and much more to learn

Madhukar Sabnavis is country head, discovery and planning, and regional director, thought leadership, O&M India

Opinion: Exciting times in India and much more to learn

Jab life ho out of control, Honthon ko kar ke gol, seeti bajaa ke bol, Aal izz well.

This song from the 2009 hit, 3 Idiots, sums up the mood of India in 2011. This is a far cry from the 2001 hit song from Dil Chahata Hai that said Hum hai naye, andaz kyon purana. This was the spirit of confidence bordering on arrogance!

It’s been 20 years since liberalisation – after India was born again in 1991. We are still young – however after the thrill of high speed, experimentation and the freedom of the ‘90s and the first half of the new decade, young India is moving into the second phase of youth – when reality of the world dawns upon it – it is feeling the risks and fears of the high speed; the loneliness of freedom and the challenges of choices. The last four years: the years of Campaign’s existence have revealed the ‘growing up’ pangs of late youth, the confusion and pressure one feels as one moves from early college to late college as one prepares to step into the real world!

Clearly, the last four years has seen India becoming richer and materially better off across town classes. It’s evident everywhere – from malls and multiplexes to the premiumisation of brands and the entry of many high-end global brands. Health and health consciousness have emerged as new sectors of growth. Simultaneously, there is no doubt that modernity has spread across consumer segments- technology and media has enabled it. Western wear has got democratised; mobiles are a form of communication even in rural India. Education is another big sector that is booming- both education and health have become mass media advertised brands! Signs of progress are everywhere around us.

However, with the continued momentum of the past has emerged another side of youth – a world of uncertainty and insecurity. At a macro level, we have seen a global recession which hit us in 2008-2009 and the ‘pessimistic’ mood abroad spread into the Indian corporate world – even though we, as a country and market, performed quite well. Simultaneously, the ‘growth of terrorism’ has added to the atmosphere of general caution. With the emergence of choice and opportunities, the level of competition has also increased. In a competitive environment, the youth has got shaken. No longer do we find a confident swagger. Instead there is a profound insecurity which is reflected in the song from 3 Idiots.

This insecurity is visible across age groups. Youth live in a new world of frenemies (friends as enemies) – close friends at work or in late college are both confidants and competition. Migrant young adults talk about investments and saving at 25 and yearn for parental support and guidance instead of enjoying their independence uninhibitedly. With the growth of technology and more job opportunities, women have become more independent and gender equal- but along with that more insecure about their relationships- ignorance was bliss in the old world, knowledge complicates in today’s world. Yet, men are more lonely, yearning for appreciation. This is much like the women of the 80s did.

The world of communication has moved towards opposites – the ‘mindful’ and the ‘mindless’. At one end ‘causes’ have aroused consumers and viewers: be it the latest Anna Hazare campaign or movies like 3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par or Pipli Live or campaigns done for Tata Tea and Idea. And going back to roots in Indian culture like the Cadbury campaign is finding traction. On the other hand, pure non-cerebral fun has charmed the adult heart with movies like the Golmaal series and Dabangg or mindless nonsense campaigns for Bingo and Five Star or the cute but odd shaped characters like Zoozoos. IPL, the biggest brand built in the last four years has taken everything really competitive out of cricket and created the largest ‘mindless’ fare of entertainment that has captured the hearts of lovers and non-lovers alike, three hours of pure escapist fare!

India is growing up and we could see more transitions before we settle on a final character that blends the values of progress with the core values of our rich traditional past.

For us, in the advertising and marketing world, it will continue to be exciting times with much more to learn.

Something worth thinking about.

Views expressed are personal.

Campaign India

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