The Great Indian Middle Class and The Baby Boomers of the West

In marketing to different audiences, the consumer is very often grouped into denominations/sub-sects, and then put under the microscope to figure out their likes,dislikes,demographics, mindsets, what they eat, where they shop, how much they spend, and what have you, right down to when they had sex last. And marketeers are always watching the largest and the core of the demographic pudding like hungry hawks, waiting for opportunities to feed their brands to them.

In India, amongst all the various sub-sects and target groups, the great Indian Middle Class (IMC) is one such denomination. Here in Canada, it is the Baby Boomers.

In understanding cultural nuances and drawing parallels between these two countries, I’ve noticed some interesting similarities between these two target groups, that I think are worth mentioning. Why? Because with Canada being the multi-cultural mosaic that it currently is, maybe it’s time to understand migrant groups on  a deeper level.

A look at who they are – the Indian Middle Class, I believe, is an off-shoot of a class hierachy that existed in ancient India. After a basic class divide was in place due to the cast system, the rich became richer and formed the country’s industrialists,businessmen and head honchos, while the poor became poorer and were the menial labourers, grass-root worker ants. Amongst these two classes, a third class emerged. They were educated and hence not at the bottom of the pyramid, but neither were they born with a silver spoon. They constituted the first traces of what would later be known, as the ‘middle class’. The Indian Middle Class, forms a huge chunk of the nation and is characterised on the basis of earnings, and family size.

Coming to the North American Baby Boomers. These are the post great depression children, who’ve grown up in an era of icecream trucks and white picket fences. Today they are those in the 45+ age bracket; and in Canada, they are one of the largest denominations, and have stolen the spotlight from the under 20’s.

So what is it about these two groups? The IMC to begin with,stand out because they are the never-say-die go-getters. The 9 to 5 workers who toil hard, believe in cultural values and lead simple lives, but plan their once in 2 years family vacations abroad. The Baby Boomers too, come with a never-say-die attitude,quite literally! They refuse to age, push boundaries, are going back to school (huge trend!) and are challenging stereotypes.

The huge difference with these two groups are the fact that Baby Boomers inherently have alot of moolah, while the Indian middle class is working hard for their daily bread. The similarities though, lie in the fact that both these groups know they stand out from the fabric of society. They are the underdogs. They know that they are society’s surprise card. There are endless stories of middle class Indians who shine through tough times. And there are endless stories here in Canada, of grandma wanting to take up a finance course or in recent news, the story of Jaring Timmerman, Canada’s 100year old swimming champion!

It’s interesting to keep track of these two groups for a variety of reasons – for example, What I’d love to know is, amongst the Indian migrant population here in Canada, (and a large chunk is the middle class), are the 45+ learning the ways of native baby boomers? If yes, how does that then change things if they go back to India? Will we see a rising baby boomer mentality in India? Also, are the inherently rich baby boomers reacting to the Indian middle class giving them a run for their money?

One thing’s for sure, while these two groups are as different as chalk and cheese, it is in their inter-mingling that the possibilities are endless,for brands and marketeers alike. I predict exciting times ahead.

Advertisements

A tale of two states

Amongst the different migrant populations in Canada, South Asian is amongst the highest. Statistics Canada says the proportion of foreign-born people from Asian and Middle Eastern countries has long outstripped those of European heritage.

However, while marketing to the Indian/South Asian population, it is important to realise that their as different as chalk and cheese within themselves too. Out of all the Indian states, Punjabi’s and Tamilians account for a vast chunk of the ‘outsourced’ population here in Canada.

In trying to figure them out, it’s important to understand certain cultural and social nuances that undermine their attitudes and behaviours, which would make it possible to take marketing to them beyond mere language translation.

Here;s what I’ve learnt about them, from living amongst them for over 20 years:

Punjabi’s:

-They’re large hearted, happy people and believe life is about celebrating the good times in full swing. Hence, song and dance is a large part of who they are.

-Outgoing.

-They live to eat and at social occasions, the food will be a large conversation topic.

– They take bold initiatives in business and are strong-willed to see things through till the end. They might not be well educated, but business (over or under the table),runs in their veins.

-Outwardly driven, they like living life kingsize. Hence, their homes will be huge houses with 2 and more cars in the driveway. The clothes they wear too, will have flash value. However, they don’t flaunt this way of living, it’s just a part of who they are. (This also stems from the fact that back home in India, most Punjabi’s originate from Chandigarh, a state with huge  fields, wide roads and ample space)

-Getting Punjabi’s to loosen their purse strings won’t take more than a little cajoling if they know it’ll be worth it.

Tamilians:

-A contrast to the Punjabi’s, the Tamilians are a close-guarded, conservative community.

-Education and knowledge is the foundation of their beliefs and lifestyle. Hence, in terms of spending, the acquisition of knowledge is probably the only thing they’ll spend on without remorse.

-Stemming from a heritage that is over 2000 years old, Tamilians were a part of the brahmin class, and were very often the high priests of society. Knowledge and religious scriptures were their forte. Hence, living a righteous life, being vegetarian and visiting the temple often are traits that are instilled in their culture till date.

While the Punjabi’s are the loud, pompous lot and the Tamilians are the reserved intellectuals, they both share alot in common- like pride in motherland, cultural values and a clanish outlook.

This is just a sneak peak into their lives, I’m still discovering how these diverse culture groups behave while living in Canada, amidst an amalgamation of nationalities, thus influencing their perceptions and attitudes and changing the rules of the game.