Business Today

Single and ambitious

They are brash, confident and are aiming for the skies. And they’ll think of marriage only after they achieve, or are close to achieving, their goals. The bottom line: they want to get more out of their lives before they settle down.

Shamni Pande        Print Edition: December 30, 2007

This is a marketing conundrum: can consumers in the 21-24-year age band be equated with those who are 25-30 years olds? There is undoubtedly a large degree of homogeneity of desire to acquire the good things of life. But there is also a significant degree of divergence. Many men in the first group are still students, a large majority are unmarried and few have any major responsibilities, while many of those in the second are already into their first, and sometimes, second and third jobs, some of them are married and some even have children.

Thus, the motivations and aspirations of the two groups tend to be different. “This makes it difficult to plot the aspirations of this band,” says Sukanya Kripalu, an independent strategic and marketing consultant.

In fact, the four young men that Business Today spoke with, across regions, confirm this view. There appears to be different pulls and pressures marking their life stages. For instance, 24-year-old Gunjan Sharma, who works with MetLife India Insurance Company in Mumbai, is not done with education yet. A diploma-holder from IIMKozhikode, he intends to go back to a fulltime MBA, despite his parents’ reservations.

Financially, he is independent, but still lives with his parents. This allows him the latitude to “criminally waste money”. Sharma is hung up on cruiser bikes and recently bought a 350cc Royal Enfield Thunderbird for Rs 1 lakh, though his initial budget was Rs 60,000. Emotionally, he’s at a crossroads. “I’ve just suffered a broken relationship, and I’m confused now. I discuss things openly with my parents—except girlfriend issues,” he says. But Sharma is not entirely self-obsessed; he recently gifted his mother a diamond pendent.

Young India: Sliced and diced
He wants the good things in life and he wants them now
74% It is important to me to have really nice things
63% Being successful in my life is my top priority
50% Dressing smartly is an important part of my life
48% I like to take chances in my life
38% I wish I could be a racing car driver
In Delhi, 23-year-old Umar Sharif is not very different. He’s an aspiring model and has a day job as a Project Engineer at Vodafone. Sharif, whose family lives in Bhopal, likes splurging on the good things of life and recently picked up a pair of Diesel jeans for Rs 7,500. “All good things come at a price, but I never spend beyond my means or do things that will hurt my pride or bend my code of ethics,” he says, adding that he is extremely focussed on “moving on”. “I want to do justice to what I’m currently doing, but I also believe in exploring different things.” The latest on his wishlist: explore the medium of theatre. Sharif’s role model is doctor-turned-singer Palash Sen.

Down south in Chennai, 28-year-old Sreehari B., who works as Product Manager, Subhiksha Trading Services, has moved on from the self-exploratory mode of Sharma and Sharif. He’s fairly sure and comfortable about his career choice and is open to sinking roots if he finds the “right” partner. He is crazy about dancing and says his friends think he is “pretty good” at salsa and jive.

Sreehari, a native of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, speaks fluent Hindi, rides a bike, and is thinking of buying a car soon. Like many others of his generation, he loves shopping for shoes and clothes and most of these are impulse buys. “I gifted my mother a set of Hyderabadi pearls. I am also open to showering expensive gifts on my girlfriend provided we are committed,” he says. Sreehari has a problem, though.

“My friends say that I’m hopeless when it comes to gifting—I just can’t seem to pick up the right things,” he adds with a wry smile. In Kolkata, there’s Diptanshu Roy, 30, who is engaged and is looking forward to marriage sometime next year. He works as Creative Group Head, Bates David Enterprise, and has sustained his interest in music.

Diptanshu Roy

Diptanshu Roy
, 30
Location: Kolkata
Marital status: Single; engaged to be married next year
Education: B.Com, St. Xaviers College, Kolkata
Working with: Bates David Enterprise as Creative Group Head
Passion: Music (plays the mandolin)
Shopping profile: Loves shopping (even for groceries)

Roy has recently picked up a mandolin worth Rs 40,000 on the net, and admits to overspending—all the time. “I love shopping (even for groceries), and find that I am forever buying things that are more expensive than I’d initially planned. For example, when buying shirts, I set out with a budget of Rs 1,000, but invariably end up forking out Rs 4,000 on an Esprit (or other branded) shirt. But I make sure that it is never beyond my means,” he says.

Interestingly, all these young men, with the exception of Sharif, are given to snacking through the day. All, except Roy, are regulars at gyms, though Sreehari and Sharma do admit to some slackness at times, “but only on account of work”. They do have their preferences when it comes to toiletries like after shaves, colognes, shampoos and soaps, but are also open to someone else shopping for them.

And despite their fascination with the trappings of modern life, all of them remain conservative at heart. Questioned about marriage, they were unanimous that they want to be in a position to support and take care of their partner. Sreehari admits that he would find it difficult to adjust if the boot were on the other foot. “I may end up doing this if the need so arises, but right now I can’t imagine myself in that situation,” he says. Who influences these men? Clearly, friends and peer group—though Roy, perhaps naturally, given his profession, feels that everyone is influenced by ads.

Sharif really likes the old TV ad for Live-In jeans that has the man getting into a washing machine so as not to have to get out of his jeans when it becomes due for a wash. “It reflects my desire of not wanting to get out of my jeans, which I love so much.”

So, are they radically different from each other? No, at some level as they all appear to be “familymen”— single, or not. But, where they do differ is their speed of reaction to brands, situations and relationships. “This age group operates on a reasonably quick swing on what I call the love-hate pendulum for brands and relationships. This movement is much quicker than in the generation before them,” says Harish Bijoor, an independent marketing and business strategy consultant.

The bottom line: young Indian males are ambitious, materialistic and don’t mind change in small incremental doses, but they aren’t willing to go all the way to radically reorder their worlds.

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