Middle class in India has arrived, by T N Ninan

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Only 2 per cent of households have credit cards (so much, then, for the vaunted advent of plastic money). Even that basic item in a middle-class household, the refrigerator, exists in only a sixth of all households in the country (probably because only a third of rural households have a domestic electric connection!).

It might be as much of a surprise to know that half of all the TV sets sold in the country are either black and white, or small (i.e. 14-inch) colour sets.

The only items of truly mass consumption remain daily consumables like cooking oil and washing and toilet soaps (which should really be classified as necessities, not options), followed some way behind by shampoos.

Among consumer durables, the ones used most often are not the stuff of contemporary middle class legend, and are either table/ceiling fans or bicycles. The first category sells about 37 million each year, the second about 25 million.

In other words, what appears a normal lifestyle to the average city youngster working in an office is completely abnormal for the majority, in both towns and cities (just as it is completely abnormal to speak and write in English — only about 6 per cent do that).

From this, it is a short leap to yielding to the obvious appeal of CK Prahalad’s thesis, that your “fortune lies at the bottom of the pyramid”; in other words, if you want to make big bucks in the Indian market, you had better serve customers with really low-cost goods and services.
Story found here.

Source: rediff.com