Jas, 21, likes to 'chill out' and 'hang out' with friends but not at home watching television and sipping coke. He'd rather sweat out at the bowling alley, quenching his parched throat with 'Bacardi breezer'and talking to friends over his new cell phone in between the rounds of bowling.
Silently, over time the traditional values of simple living, high thinking of yore gave way to pursuit of happiness through lavish living and high spending. The change came in three pronged ways: the economy opened and there were multiplexes and malls all over, internet brought in newer ways to acquire wealth and the invasion of satellite television into our homes removed the guilt associated with spending.
So now there is money or credit cards in the pockets of the youth, malls are brimming with goodies and multiplexes are offering ample entertainment. But more than these opportunities, youths sport the spirit to live to life to its fullest. Life beckons the young urbans to the fast lane. Apparently this is a killer combination of opportunity outlets and attitude. A decade ago, India did not have a single mall. But within the last two years, more than 50 malls have come up all over the metros and semi metros.
Poise yourself at a mall for a few minutes and observe the people around. You'll find a good number of them are below 25 years. Mobile phones on their hips, English on their lips and hands holding the other's shoulder. Some of these are just hanging out but many of them are actually spending. Uptil five years back they'd be negotiating with parents on buying those new cut jeans. Today, they work to earn their money, take their purchasing decisions and are buying latest in gadgets and apparel with little concern for the price tag.
This is in fact the classic chicken and egg case. Are young urbans spending because they are earning or are they earning because they need to spend? Unlike yesterday, they are keen to take up jobs, which were considered a taboo earlier. Minnu Bhonsle, a Mumbai based psychotherapist says, "Youngsters use consumerism as a short cut to happiness. Bombarded by the FTV and MTV, they are ready to take up any job and use money earned to be 'trendy' because of peer pressure. To them it is the quick way to gain acceptance in their peer group."
It is stylish to discuss an issue over a cup of coffee, but not at home, at Coffee Café Day or Barista. Here they are encouraged to spend time, be themselves and rejuvenate themselves. Companies are also positioning their ad campaigns to this effect. The guy with the latest Nokia phone becomes an instant stud and has girls drooling over him. Levis, with the push of a bold ad campaign has reported an upsurge in its jeans sales and owes it to the BPO money.
It may be psuedo-happiness for the young urbans but it is sure a happy time for the industry. According to NASSCOM, 2,45,500 people were employed in the year 2003-04 with an average salary of Rs 10,000 just in the BPOs. Business houses are not just happy over the available 2300 crore pocket money, from the young, independent and employed, but are making intelligent moves as well. For them it makes sense as approximately 54 per cent of the Indian population is below 25 years.
Typically, the under 25 year olds spend most of their money on mobile phones, entertainment, food, music, gadgets, clothes and accessories while the under 30 would spend on these and also on vacations, consumer durables and computer peripherals. At Center One, the thriving mall at Vashi, New Mumbai, 19 per cent of the footfalls are of those below 25 years who flock the mall's food court & entertainment outlets.
The buying and spending spree of the nouveau-riche young urbans is perhaps a reflection of growing independence and raging consumerism. It still dazzles all of us but if we look towards the west we may find a phase not too dissimilar, and a prospect of confusion that lies ahead of us all.