You Had Me At HELLO …

I went to India last October to attend to my ailing Mother-in-Law. I was greeted by her nurse-attendant, a chirpy but shy girl, all of 24 years old but who looked younger. Let’s call her Peeya for now 😊.  It was my home that I went to and I was extremely relieved to see my Mother-in-Law eagerly waiting for me. Now, covid was still around and restrictions still applied, so without taking a third step forward into the house, I turned towards the guest bedroom which has an en-suite bathroom and toilet. Now, this was also the washroom that was being used by Peeya. I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see what met my eyes. My bathroom was filled with big bottles of toiletries that I wouldn’t expect of a young lady who hailed from rural India. There were large bottles of Dove Shampoo, Dove Moisturisers, Pantene Conditioners and Surf Excel detergent for washing clothes. She even had these large bottles of Himalaya Moisturisers. I was not buying her any of these. She is so self reliant that she chooses to shop for herself, online. Helpers who had come before had never used these brands. They used Nirma, Wheel, or Lux soaps etc. Not that I have anything against these brands. My point is different here. I told you I was happy. I was happy that someone who came from one of the remote parts of India was using these upscale brands. It reflected something nice about my country. It reflected the changes that my country is going through. Brands are now no more the prerogative of urban dwellers. Across the country, urban, rurban or rural… Indians are getting more aspirational, more networked, more conscious of brands, and making informed choices about their lifestyles, their care and choosing themselves. This makes me happy!

Please do not mar my POV with your list of caveats in my country. I know what they are. But for now I want to revel in what is good in my country and this is one of them. The changing face of rural India. The Gen-Z in Indian hinterlands is similar to the one sitting in a big metro. They are consuming the same media, socialising online in much the same way as their urban counterparts and expecting to be treated in the same way.

Peeya has earphones plugged in her ears all the time and there is a certain confidence in her gait which comes not from money or geography, but that comes from being self-assured and knowing that you are deserving of all that is good. This aspiration and self-assurance have been greatly helped by the way my country has grown in the past couple of years. Digitisation has taken off big time and mobile technology is now seamlessly spreading across the country, irrespective of geography, literacy. There are more people with mobile phones today in India and that is bringing about a whole lot of change. It has opened up avenues for brands and marketers, content creators and influencers to reach out to audiences they had never thought of. The government’s initiatives of encouraging digitisation and the policy push towards financial inclusion is helping the far-flung audiences who marketers never paid attention to. Marketers and brands have today woken up to the persuasive power of regional languages, which is also empowering people. With content creators and influencers today ruling the messaging platforms, the younger generation are looking up to them not as celebrities but as the boy or girl next door who is giving them life hacks and tips to survive this world and bridging the generation gap between them and their millennial and gen-X custodians.

I am happy to where my country is headed. I am happy a level playing field is slowly being created. Yes, there is a long way to go and lot more to do. And I am not here to rant about that. I am honestly excited about where we are all headed as a country, as we grow and get all gung-ho about entrepreneurship and self-reliance.

Peeya has already taken a step forward by coming out of her village where girls are married off young, is planning to continue her education in nursing, is planning her career and setting an example for her younger sisters. She has already convinced her family about not getting married now and pursuing a career and living independently. And I would like to believe that digitisation and the smartphone in her hand has a lot to do with it. It is definitely the medium of change and I am excited to see the next phase.

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