Aditi Raju, 17yo. Bengaluru, India.
In 2021, I will have lived in India for 9 years, the same amount of time I’ve lived in the United States before moving to Bangalore. Having grown up in different countries I have garnered a unique perspective on the different consumer qualities.
When India opened its bustling economy to foreign direct investment (an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country) in 1991, many multinational companies rushed to access its large population of potential consumers.
However, many of these companies soon came to the conclusion that Indian consumers aren’t like others around the world.
At first, Indians believed in the supremacy of foreign goods. Now, their attitude towards foreign companies has remained essentially the same but their faith in domestic companies has grown.
This is because conspicuous consumption (the spending of money on luxury goods and services to publicly display one’s wealth) isn’t a very prominent phenomenon in India.
In India, there is a culture where consumption is not about status or ostentation outside of a few narrow products like silk saris, gold, real estate, etc. However, in a highly developed country like the United States, Americans in contrast turn all of their purchases into a status symbol. In India, where most of the population is below the poverty line, status symbols are not highly regarded unless you belong to the wealthiest 1% of the population.
In addition, Indians have a very high acceptance of imperfection. It's known as the “it will do” attitude and applies to pretty much anything. There is little to no culture of quality demand, therefore, the market is a huge area for inconspicuous items. There is a corresponding unwillingness to pay for more expensive goods.
Overall, it is safe to assume the Indian consumer prioritizes functionality over aesthetics.
The modern Indian population has a very niche set of needs that are not met by established multinational companies. Furthermore, a study found that developing countries, like India, are most likely to adopt and embrace new products and innovations in the market, while Americans have a higher regard for a product’s reputation and brand name.
The “it will do” attitude is the main difference between Indian and the Western consumerism and it is here to stay even while India is changing on a continuous basis.