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The Tiger Roars

Capturing India’s Explosive Growth in Consumer Spending
February 16, 2012 by Amitabh Mall, Kanika Sanghi, Abheek Singhi, and Arvind Subramanian

Both the size and shape of the consumer market in India are fundamentally changing. While the dramatic growth of the market is known, it is not well understood. In a nation as large and diverse as India, there are nearly as many estimates of the growth of its consumer market as there are official languages, and questions abound on whether such growth is sustainable.

The shape of that growth—the changing patterns of and attitudes toward consumption—is even less well understood. Most notably, a new generation of consumers has grown up in an era of economic liberalization and social freedom. The members of this generation are entering their prime spending years, and they will indelibly and dramatically reorient the market. Call them “Gen I.” “I” stands for India, independence, and individuality.

In order to understand Gen I and the broader consumer trends in India, we looked at the market from both the top and bottom, combining a macroeconomic perspective with on-the-ground consumer research. We sought to answer four fundamental questions:

  • How large is the prize?

  • Why is it so large?

  • Where, in the amazing diversity of India, is the prize?

  • How can companies capture it?

India is the second-fastest-growing major consumer market in the world. These are important questions for any company with global aspirations.