As the country was hammered with bad news, the question that everyone kept asking was, how badly will the recession affect us. Is it real and are we insulated? Was the India shining story over, and were we entering a phase that would destroy years of growth?
While there is an economic reality there is also the reality that we create in our minds. Had our minds slipped into a recession even before the economy did?
The question we asked ourselves was how would the young generation, who has been fed on a diet of seemingly never ending growth, react to the slowdown? Would they go into shell shock or would we see resilience?
The Cogito team did two surveys with young managers to understand how the slowdown had affected them. The first survey was at the height of the slowdown and the second round was immediately after the election results were announced.
To our surprise, the young managers showed tremendous resilience, optimism and also a new maturity.
At the height of the slowdown, 70% still expected an early recovery in 2009-10 and after the elections the number grew marginally to 75%. In both cases the response was in contrast to the doomsday scenario by senior managers or the extreme euphoria of the stock market after the election.
This cautious optimism was really the defining mood of the young manager.
Jobs and self development
While job hopping and attrition has come down drastically, over 85% expect some hike in salary when polled after the elections. They expected that recruitment would slow down, but not stop. In short, a cautious and mature response.
The uncertainty in the job market and the time at their disposal are encouraging young executives to invest in furthering their professional development.
Education, they feel, will give them an edge over others when the markets return to normalcy.
Lifestyle and the quest for normalcy
These youngsters have not gone into withdrawal mode when it comes to living the good life. However, the inventiveness and the jugad in all of them has kicked in. They are looking at ways to make the most of the money available.
They are postponing, rather than cutting back on, activities. They are becoming more analytical as shoppers, cutting back on malls which encourage liberal spending to looking at the trusted kirana. They are wary of sales and have become even smarter as they have realised the purchasing power that they actually wield.
Anchor called relationships
Nothing is permanent and nothing can be taken for granted is the message that these youngsters have imbibed. Jobs are not as secure as they used to be and they have turned to family and friends as their work life becomes a little unpredictable. Relationships that they once took for granted are the things that they are falling back on.
They are investing in making these relationships more secure. From doling out a 500 rupee note to buy a gift, they are personalising gifts and making attempts to build a bond and say “we care”.
The new consumer
These managers are today’s consumers and tomorrow’s mega buyers. The slowdown has altered their world view but has clearly not dampened their enthusiasm. They remain cautiously optimistic. They are smarter, savvier buyers and more resilient than ever before.
The suddenness of the economic crisis has not crushed them. We do know that they have adapted to the crisis and many have re-invented themselves. Call it the optimism of youth or plain naivete, they have shown more buoyancy than the tales of gloom that have been flashing on TV screens.
Cautious optimism is here to stay.
The article is based on a large study done by Cogito Consulting.
Niteen Bhagwat is executive director, Cogito Consulting