1. Mobile Telephony:
Maslow would definitely have to re-do the hierarchy of needs for India. Seemingly a basic necessity today, it has been arguably the country’s greatest leveler and the most significant change agent since the winning of freedom 67 years back.
Everything changed, and for everyone. From the way business was conducted to how birthday wishes were conveyed. For a fisherman in the middle of sea to the high strung stock market trader.
The cell number became our social security number - allowing us to be uniquely recognized socially and to feel secure! And the various million mobile apps have transformed the humble cell phone into a magic console, from which we now never switch off, but only switch to something else.
Evening drama moved from soaps to sports. Sports drama actually. There was glamour, excitement, cheer girls, after parties, fame and money. And everyone was happy - players, spectators, home audience, sponsors, big and small celebrities…everyone!
Unknown players from little known towns got famous overnight, not to mention giving hi-fives to legends whose posters may be hanging on their walls! This was fantasy playing out night after night for 3 months. Year after year.
And the millions who hadn’t ever followed Club football of Europe or South America found it amusing and exciting that Sachin and Dravid were competing against each other or that Harbhajan and Symonds were on the same team!
Predictably Hockey, Badminton, Soccer, Kabbadi and Tennis followed suit.
Shopping as India knew it, first got re-defined by malls. With their offer of multiple cuisines, movies, gaming arcades, “foreign looking” merchandise and make-over kiosks, they soon became a very practical and aspirational option for people to go unwind with their families over the weekend.
Considering what most of India was used to, these swankily “house-kept” and grandly air-conditioned malls made hordes of Indians across town classes feel that they had progressed in life.
While it made them feel good about themselves, it also egged them on to get to a stage in life where they could afford to buy everything they were walking past.
If information is indeed power then Google certainly made millions feel powerful almost overnight; and with more smartphones in more pockets, it was actually possible to feel so whenever and wherever one wanted to.
Google made people feel better by making them be and feel less dependent and more confident in knowing more. We became curioser as a country; we had more questions because we knew where to find the answers. There is nothing Google did not know. Nothing. We just may have added one more God to pray and depend on!
In less than 10 years, Google became both, a valuable noun and an invaluable verb!
5. Purpose over Profits:
Companies and citizens alike increasingly felt obligated to play their part for society and exploring ways to doing well by doing good. Smart companies recognised the need of consumers to live vicariously through their brands and the causes they espouse.
A young India was looking for some prompt so as to figure where and on whom to place its purpose on; and brands have been more than willing to show it to them. While there were pockets of cynicism, by and large the social overtures made by brands were not outright dismissed or sneered at.
The 2 per cent CSR law is the right step though I cant help be reminded of the teacher who threatened the class that if no one volunteered, she would anyway nominate someone!
If ever there was a decade when Indians were actively seeking information and ways to eat and live healthy it was this. And a combination of 2 desires drove the fitness agenda in the country on steroids – wanting to be healthy and wanting to look good.
Brands and media fuelled this with passion and purpose, prescribing food and fitness regimes for everyone from 8 to 80. Movies and serials silently nudged people into desiring similar chiseled bodies. There was social sanction to pursue a healthy body and also to not feel awkward about refusing fat oily samosas at a friend’s place.
Doctors, Brands, Movie stars, magazines and Gold Gym were all in it together. And Nike and Reebok were not complaining.
7. Foreign Holidays:
Move over Ooty, welcome Auckland! With airlines and hotels tripping over each other to give travellers a great deal, middle class India discovered that foreign holidays were easy to organize and afford.
Foreign holidays were seen as a lifestage upgrade by many. And what started of as a trickle to Dubai, Sri Lanka and Bangkok, soon more destinations started stamping on the indigo passport – South Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
And thanks to the growing number of Indians, Vegans and Vegetarians the world over, food wasn’t a problem. We righteously stood in queues, emptied trash and smugly indulged in PDA.
Never before had food on TV made Indians drool, learn, aspire and cheer at the same time. You saw tattooed geniuses cook better than your mom. You saw artistically plated food when you thought that you had seen them all at 5-stars. You thought judges on Indian Idol were mean till you heard Gordon Ramsay bark, swear and humiliate.
The Godrej Nature Baskets of the world took early cue and started stocking exotic vegetables, fruits, cheese and meats. Recipes were downloaded, shared, exchanged by one and all; and many weekends in many households in India saw great culinary experimentation.
The show truly was world cuisine’s best ambassador. And of course did shit loads for Australia Tourism!
9. Sunny Leone:
A delightful example of India and its contradictions. While on one hand we had couples getting roughed up for holding hands, books and paintings being burnt, our women kicked around at pubs and discos, Taslima banned from entering India we also had grandparents, grandkids, politicians and various fringe groups watching Sunny Leone on TV screens with sagely straight faces.
Acceptance of her into mainstream Bollywood was something not many would have thought of a decade ago. It brought to the fore our collective schizophrenia – openness, tolerance, “moral” flexibility and our righteous comfort with double standards.
Nowhere else has our ability to coexist with absolute extremes been more evident as with our open and warm embrace of Sunny Leone into our lives.
From poems to jokes to recipes to hate chains to flowery wishes to porn to tile designs, to scanned bills - Whatsapp is used for everything and by everyone today. And the fact that you can use it in voice notes, text, pics and videos accompanied with emoticons, makes the interaction most fulfilling and instantly gratifying.
Business worth crores are transacted over Whatsapp everyday. 10 pairs of shoes are Whatsapped to a closed group and an instant response allows a young teenager to decide without doubt or guilt.
And the erroneous belief that they are free made it an even bigger and faster phenomenon.
11. MS Dhoni:
MSD in a lot of ways defined the mood and spirit of the last decade. He was young, he was confident, he was willing to slog, he was plain speaking, he played his game his own way and he was himself on and off the field.
His various hair styles, his abilities on stage, his brand endorsements, his wealth and fame, his cool demeanor, his intuitive backing of tactics and players, his Ranchi roots and his helicopter shots came together to create a heady mix for the youth of India.
He was a living testimony to millions that India gives a fair chance to anyone from anywhere. And that was what a billion people wanted to hear, see and believe.
12. Concrete Conquests:
Worli Sea Link, T2, T3 , the Delhi metro , the Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports and a few others. They surprised a few, but many more were just plain proud of these structures.
For good or bad, infrastructure is often the most visible metric of a city’s or country’s progress. New York, Shanghai, Singapore, London, Dubai are great examples of fantastic structures that reveal the prosperity of these cities!
Besides the convenience and efficiencies they brought to our lives, these structures sent a clear signal to the world at large that we were joining the party. Rarely known for our infrastructure engineering or aesthetics, these structures squashed both quite conclusively.
Never before has a nation been surer and keener about how it looks; the country has become camera aware, camera confident and camera crazy! Quite like how every model or film star is acutely aware of his/her best pose, profile and angle. A DIY identity creator – anywhere, anytime
It has made autographs redundant and made people selfie ready; just in case.
And Ellen’s Oscar group selfie gave etiquette sanction for people across age and net worth to pose for selfies anywhere and everywhere.
Selfie corners in coffee shops and mobile phones with rear taps are just a few evidences of a societal succumb.
14. Budget Airlines:
The number of Indians who flew in the last 10 years is probably more than the number of Indians who flew during the past 50 years. Put together!
Low cost airlines not only made air travel possible for lakhs of Indians who couldn’t have otherwise afforded to, but with interesting food options, new aircrafts, warm air crews and mostly punctual schedules, low cost didn't necessarily mean low quality. It was low-cost convenience.
Inexpensive tickets, shorter routes, good connectivity with smaller towns and above all warmth and respect made hordes of Indians choose air travel over road and rail.
In a society driven by the desire to constantly upgrade, this was relatively an easy win for many!
Whats common between interviews, dates, meetings, studying, gossip, break ups, reading and “meeting the folks”. They were all being done in the thousands of coffee cafes across the length and breadth of the country.
The location, pricing and décor were perfectly pitched - reasonably affordable, reasonably cool, reasonably formal. It was incidental that the Café Coffee Days, Costas, Baristas and Starbucks were serving coffee and cookies; they were hang outs first. No where else could a cup of coffee be allowed to stretch on for hours. But that’s what kept these brands in business.
Only 2 things today seriously compete for an average middle class Indian teenager’s wallet – SIM recharge and Café visits!
India’s new found social glue.
Flaunt, voyeurism, the need to express and the need to re-connect has made India with its 100 million users, Facebook’s largest market outside the US. With busy lives and a premium on time, Facebook’s entry seemed to be timely and the easiest way for millions of Indians to feel and be connected.
So while on one hand, relationships became more “virtual”, the shares, likes and friend requests allowed you to be actively connected with so many more friends who you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. And allowed you to share events, which you otherwise couldn’t have.
But with the overcrowding of one’s family and work colleagues on Facebook, it will be interesting to see where the young flee to!
17. Aam Aadmi Party:
Touted as India’s 2nd Independence struggle, the average citizen saw the possibility of honesty and accountability in politics and governance through his own active participation.
AAP and its motley crew of young, “real”, dedicated and educated crusaders fired India’s imagination in a way that perhaps no other group had, since the early days of the Indian National Congress in the pre-Independence era. They also showed the guile to leverage a very bemused and curious media; and the smarts to harness the rage of the country against corruption and poor governance to make a movement of it.
But while India’s fling with “honesty in politics and governance” and “citizen participation” ended without consummation (as yet!), it was a resounding wake up call to all.
Lured initially by discounts, it was access to brands and the convenience and options of payment that eventually got consumers to believing that this was a no brainer! Expectedly, metros responded well, but it was the way the non-metros embraced e-shopping that shocked and surprised everyone.
While brands like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Myntra and Amazon made geography, history, they were also constantly trying to create greater shopping delight through apps, deals, sale and faster deliveries.
While customers were clearly having a field day, small time entrepreneurs too discovered that this was a very cost effective way to sell and exhibit their wares and services, and to the entire country.
In a snap, India’s shopping kart just got flipped. Amazing!
19. Start ups:
The sheer media and campus noise on crazy valuations, massive fundings, brave ideas and quick success, made many 30 year old millionaires the new poster boys and girls of New India; the brave band of men and women who were seen as passionate, aggressive, intelligent and so confident of themselves, their business model and the India story.
Most Indians held a binary view on earning livelihood right since independence – salaried or doing business. “Start-ups” re-purposed, re-packaged and re-defined the profession of “doing business”
These success stories emboldened an entire generation to think audacious, the social sanction to take risks and an allowance for a bit of hubris. And to their relief, most encountered an encouraging eco-system.
India was prodding the young Indian to get a move on.
The role of media has never before been this frighteningly influential. Most have gone way beyond brief; reportage and debates at times brave and enlightening, but many times brazenly motivated, rabid and unabashedly sparse in objectivity.
The chatter on social media too became a very powerful force. Managing and manipulating content, tone and following became top most on everyone’s agenda from political parties to personalities.
Thanks to paid and unpaid; offline and online media, the basis of how opinions were being formed in this country tectonically changed in the past decade. Freedom of speech played out in its most unbridled form. And expectedly, it came with the good and the bad.
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Former partner with Finsbury Glover Hering tasked with establishing a new global unit for this function.