It's today that counts

It's today that counts

India's GeNext male may still have conservative social values, but when it comes to spending money, he's as avant garde as they come.

The Indian Male survery 2007 At the tender age of 18, a 12th standard youngster today doesn’t mind picking up a night owl BPO career while taking out a few hours during the day to study through a correspondence course. He spends freely using his multiple credit cards. In mid- to late-20s, when he decides to marry his girlfriend, he surprises her with an exotic honeymoon in Switzerland or Alaska, thanks to the easy EMI schemes. A dream house or a car is also not far from his reach, with most banks wooing him with loans at affordable interest rates. He is also a savvy investor who keenly follows the stock market. Besides, he is not averse to switching jobs regularly to keep his career graph and pay packet moving up.

Not all men of today fit the above description entirely, but they are certainly more aggressive in their approach: They are go-getters and risk-takers and have no hang-ups about taking up an entry-level BPO job, or switching careers mid-way or investing their hard earned money in the high-risk–high-return stock market. They are also very optimistic about the sustainability of country’s high economic growth in the years to come.

The biggest change for today’s man is that debt is no longer considered a bad thing. “Today, debt has become a means to achieve one’s dream,” explains Himanshu Samuel, an MBA graduate who left his cushy job to expand his father’s restaurant business in Delhi city. These revolutionary changes could be traced to early ’90s when the liberalisation wave was unleashed in the country and new sectors like BPO set foot in cities like Gurgaon, Pune, Noida, Bangalore and Hyderabad. In just a decade, the BPO industry churned out lakhs of jobs for under-graduates.

It even lured engineers and chartered accountants with its lucrative salaries. For many, a BPO job today provides a makeshift or temporary career option. “There are so many job opportunities available today that one can afford to take risk,” says M. P. Singh, who works in the HRD department of Fortune Park Hotels, an ITC Group company. Today, the BPO sector employs over 600,000 people (mostly men), which is expected to reach a million by 2008-end. The modern retail malls, too, have opened up job opportunities for young men with even lesser qualification, and are expected to hire 2 million people (mostly men) by 2010, according to an Assocham study.
Sinha, 36, Project Director

Bipin Sinha, 36
Project Director

“I make it a point to return the money on time to avoid heavy interest payment. At times I have repaid as much as Rs 50,000-60,000 in a month”

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Expectedly, this has brought about a massive change in the way men approach a career. They are no longer looking for that secured job in the government or a nationalised bank. By 2020, the average age of Indians is expected to be 29 years, and most would find jobs in the services sector. This will further fuel consumerism and boost credit culture in the economy. The new sectors like BPO, insurance and modern retail are certainly here to stay, and have boosted the optimism of today’s man who knows he can easily get a new job in case things go wrong at the current one.

Ditto for the well-qualified man, whose priorities are different from those of the earlier generation that always invested in postal savings and fixed deposit schemes of banks. Today’s man is more inclined to take risk in the stock market and defers buying other assets like car or a house. Twenty-six-year-old Pankaj Rathod, a commerce graduate currently doing his MBA while in job, has his eyes fixed on the stock market. Rathod’s learnt of the stock market when his father, who worked for a public sector bank, applied for shares in the bank’s IPO in 2000.

Ditto for Vipin Bharel, 35, who is an officer in a state-owned insurance company and prefers to invest directly in the equity markets. Perhaps, today’s man realises that a nine-to-five job is not going to take him anywhere. “Stock investing is my first priority,” says Rathod. A protracted buoyancy in the stock market, coupled with complete transparency in stock dealings and paperless trading through demat accounts have contributed to the huge attraction of equities. “I’m convinced about long-term India story. I invest money for the long term,” he avers.

Today’s man is also managing to save more, thanks to his rising income. The country’s savings rate has jumped from mere 8 to 10 per cent in the ’70s to about 25 per cent since 2000.

In the fast lane

After working for close to eight years in financial services firm IL&FS as marketing officer, Kunal Awasthy, an MBA, shifted this year to Cargo & Logistics, an altogether different industry. Son of a retired army officer, Kunal doesn’t believe in sticking to a single job or industry. “There is no dearth of job opportunity today,” says Awasthy. He is very clear about his career. “Money makes life easier and one has to take a little bit of risk in career,” he declares. Awasthy also sincerely believes that there is significant opportunity for today’s man to make a career switch at any stage of his life.

The job opportunities in the post-liberaliation era in sectors like telecom, insurance, modern retail, aviation, entertainment, etc., have outpaced the availability of experienced people, which in turn has encouraged faster job changes or “switching”. The contract system has also contributed no less to this phenomenon. In a BT survey, a majority of respondents said they judged their workplace on the basis of money they earned more than anything else. (See Box: In The Fast Lane)

Today, easy availability of jobs, high disposable income and soft loans have made the Indian man an early buyer of home or car. The age of house buyers (mostly men) has now reduced by almost 20 years. Renu Sud Karnad, Joint Managing Director at HDFC Ltd. says that today a house costs only 6 times an individual’s annual income compared to over 20 times a decade ago. “The age group for home buyers has come down to between 30 and 38 years since 2000 as against 55-58 years some 20 years ago,” says Assocham.

There are plenty of examples of young buyers who are buying houses within a decade of starting their job. The trend of DINK (double income no kids) couples also enables them to own a home at a young age. Raman Sharaph, 29, an investment banker who is buying a house with a hefty loan of Rs 78 lakh, has no plans for kids for now. “I have taken a 20-year home loan from HDFC, but I along with my wife, who also works, plan to repay the loan within 10 years,” he says.

Unlike in the ’60s and ’70s, today’s man’s aspirations are very high and he doesn’t mind living a life on credit whether he is paying a restaurant bill or buying apparels, grocery or other household items. Bipin Sinha, 36, who has been holding multiple credit cards since he was 25, today prefers to pay by cards. He also rolls over the money from one card to another. “I make it a point to return the money on time to avoid heavy interest payment. In fact, at times I have repaid as much as Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 in a month,” he says.

The aspiration of today’s man is evident when he takes a holiday abroad on EMI. He doesn’t want to wait for eternity to travel abroad, and instead wants to enjoy today and pay later. Clearly, the man of today is not in sync with the man of yesterday, as both are poles apart in their thinking, attitude and financial habits. The man of today is in the fast lane. “What’s differentiating him from our generation is the high burnout cases, all-pervasive depression and turmoil in his personal life,” explains Yogesh Trivedi, 68 and a retired banker. Trivedi may well be right. Perhaps, the most telling indicator of today’s man, according to the BT survey, is the value that he attaches to a good marriage.

Only 15 per cent consider good marriage as one of the two success indicators in life. “These are not high figures, by any reckoning,” says the report. The jury is certainly out on the man of today.