A new, optimistic generation is taking its place in driving the direction of their economies: These new consumers are exactly what Asia and the world need. And yet, like consumers everywhere, they will be a stabilizing force in their giant economies. What more could Asia or the global economy ask for?
In this paper, I examine a number of cultural and social themes accompanying the consumerist trends in India. Although India remains in the bottom half of the world economies, there is every reason to believe that this is not likely to last long, for many structural changes are evident including the transformation of the middle class which is at the vanguard of the consumer revolution.
Unlike some of the other Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan, where the "consumer revolution" has already forged ahead, or is in progress, India has been a slow starter in this push for change.
However, recent trends suggest that a wave of consumerism is spreading to India also. This paper is based partly on my ethnographic field work conducted in Madras, a Southern Indian city of approximately five million people, and partly on a reading of secondary sources.
This should be considered work in progress and, therefore, only some initial ideas are presented here. The general presentation in this paper will be thematic or topical rather than analytical, or theoretical. That is, the paper explores several themes instead of a unifying set of research questions or a single theory.
Thus this is a thick description of Indian culture and India as a consumer society. Many multinational corporations are beginning to invest in India.
In this respect, India is no different from many other emerging consumer economies, whether they are in Eastern Europe, Asia or Latin America Arnould l, BelkGer and Belk l, Witkowski l This fact by itself does not give any special clue to the Indian scene unless one also examines what peculiar circumstances pertain to India.
In other words, just because there may be similarities across different markets and cultures on certain dimensions, it does not mean that the content and patterns of the developments are the same. The paper will not provide a comparative analysis of India with other countries where similar developments may be taking place.
My experience in India has taught me some important lessons. With the burgeoning of comparative studies, there may be a tendency among researchers to draw quick conclusions about cultures in which they may have only superficial familiarity.
Any serious study of different cultures requires some deep knowledge gained through a proper study of the culture. See Arnould l for a good example of writing with great cultural depth and understanding. This can be accomplished by a knowledge of the literature, the economic scene, and important cultural works that reflect the culture in some meaningful terms.
A second lesson that I have learnt is that belonging to a particular cultural group does not immediately qualify one to claim scholarly expertise on that group. It certainly helps, no doubt. For example, many of the best works on India are written by non-Indian scholars who have devoted a great deal of time and effort over a period of several years.
Their interpretations may be different from those of indigenous scholars but they are nevertheless well-informed and well-founded. Much research exists on the evolution of consumer societies in the West. Although there are some common characteristics in these societies, there are also many differences.
The differences are based on cultural variations within each culture. This is the reason why I have proposed a new paradigm for the study of consumerism based on cross-cultural differences. I have labeled this "ethnoconsumerism" Venkatesh la. Recent cross-cultural work has shown us how the same products may undergo different consumer usages and experiences based on particular cultural norms and practices.
The case in point is the motor scooter dy Pessler l The author describes in great detail the cultural context and experience of the motor scooter in three different cultures, Italy, England and India.
Part of the rising consumerism in India may be cast in the general context of global tendencies in consumerism.
Recent work suggests that global diffusion of consumerism has been aided by the expansion of multinationals, the diffusion of telecommunication and satellite technologies, the general dissatisfaction with socialist political regimes and rising economic success in East Asian countries.
Certainly, recent moves in India echo these developments. What is happening in India may also be described in postmodern terms. Indian development does not follow standard chronological sequences observed in some Western societies.
Models of social change do not follow any known patterns of change. Modernist methods found in the conventional social sciences have limited value when the objective is to capture change in non-Western cultures.
This is because modernist thinking is regimented, very rationalistic and pseudo scientifically oriented. Postmodernist thinking accommodates non-linear thinking, and is open-minded when it comes to alternate or non-orthodox patterns. For example, some new technologies in India are diffusing faster than some old technologies.
So, one cannot use the historical progression of the West as a model to study India. Indian consumer scene is replete with what might be misinterpreted by the modernist to be contradictions and the juxtaposition of opposites and therefore, non-naturalbut in reality they represent highly symbolic modes of behavior much of which must be understood within the Indian cultural framework.
The Discourse of Consumerism In this category, we include the rhetoric of consumerism in everyday life.CONSUMERISM IN INDIA ISSUE & PROBLEMS the external environment which has a tremendous impact on the development and growth of business. The environment of business Business has to change its attitude towards consumerism in order to survive in .
In India, consumerism has been active for some time past.
A few years ago adulteration of food articles was sought to be presented by the food Adulteration Act in India. Inspectorate departments were set up in all States of India to implement and supervise the way the Act was followed.
Richard Robbins is worth quoting at length on the impact of consumption on the environment and on people. William Rees, an urban planner at the University of British Columbia, estimated that it requires four to six hectares of land to maintain the consumption level of the average person from a high-consumption country.
Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, Pages INDIA'S CHANGING CONSUMER ECONOMY: A CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE. Alladi Venkatesh, University of California, Irvine.
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