Cable TV

Go for the young, but be alive to the downside

MUMBAI: "Made in India - Made for a Young India". A celebration of youth and the paradise of riches lying there for the pickings by those who could succesfully tap into this demographic.

This could be termed as the gist of what constituted one of Friday's high powered sessions at Frames 2006 in Mumbai that was chaired by Zee Telefilms CEO Pradeep Guha.

According to Ashutosh Srivastava, CEO, GroupM, South Asia, "With half the population under 24 years of age, combined with increasing levels of disposable income and rapid penetration of new technology, attitudes and behaviour are undergoing a radical change – and this will have far reaching impact of the kind of entertainment, and also the way it is consumed by this young India."

"This is the most media savvy and exposed generation. It is also a lot more very self expressive ‘me’ generation, seeking its own identity, and has an opinion of everything. And, driven by the widespread penetration of mobiles and the internet, it is also the most socially networked generation," Srivastava said.

The downside of all this was thrown in (almost inadvertantly one thought) by KSA Technopark managing director Arvind Singhal who said for this generation, there was an intense aspirational sentiment at play as well as strong ambitions to "make it". And to achieve this success, if the law was twisted towards this end so be it. The end justifies the means. Singhal used the character (small time con artists) of the lead protagonists in a recent hit film Bunty and Bali as an example. That Singhal didn't seem to see this as a dangerous trend seemed a tad worrisome though.

Even more bizarre was Singhal's contention that in aspirational terms, India's youth did not see themselves as being Asian but looked westward (specifially the US and the UK one would assume). This stands out in even starker relief stacked up against the common world view that points to Asia as being where the action is, India and China in particular and the rest of Asia in general. Where he fished this piece of data from might be worth a separate study.

After the rather depressing dose of Singhal's "world view" on India's youth, it was refreshing to here from Rakeysh Mehra, director of the recent blockbuster hit Rang De Basanti, who introduced a cautionary note into the discussion. That there should also be awareness that in the midst of the hype and hoopla around the celebration of a young India, efforts to build a strong (ethical) foundation for a not so young india of the future was also needed was the point he tried to bring forth.

Said Mehra, "It is important to harness the emotions of the young in the right direction and in a poetic way." He added, "For the young India, it is essential to create a new idiom rather than copying one (from the West)."

That new idiom was what Star India executive VP marketing and communication Ajay Vidyasagar focussed his presentation around. Vidyasagar believes that the creators of content, in order to connect with the young Indian, have to speak the language of the youth.

The core message from all the panelists: It's a whole new generation out there, with new mindsets, habits and working styles. As Srivastava pointed out, "This has huge implications for the industry. We will be forced to rethink current business models. Today, the consumers pay very little and and get exposed to all kinds of messages and content. In the future, they will pay and trade personal information to access the messages and the content they want, through different multimedia devices, at a time and place of their choice."

So what of the "40+ fossils"? What's to become of them? This question was raised by some in the audience though the response from the panel was half-hearted to say the least. But then, this was a session that had all to do with the promise of youth. For the "fossils", maybe another forum would be in order.

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