Is AI becoming a better friend to the youth than humans: Cheil India’s new report

Is AI becoming a better friend to the youth than humans: Cheil India’s new report

The new report highlights the evolving youth-AI relationship.

Cheil India

Mumbai: Artificial Intelligence is dawning a new digital age, and the Indian youth are leading the charge, reveals a new report by Cheil India. The report, titled ‘Generation AI – Exploring the dual role of AI in Indian youths’ lives and its implications for brands, dives deep into AI usage by Gen Z students (aged 16 to 25) in India, covering their academic and personal uses of AI tools on an everyday basis. It includes quantitative and qualitative research findings from over 1200 students across the country.

Cheil SWA president and CEO Limseob Chung said, “Over 68 per cent of the youth have a more positive perception of AI now than last year. Brands must adapt to this new reality where LLMs are the new best friends that the youth seek advice from. The caution regarding AI adoption is giving way to more optimism as the once-sceptics are turning into super users.”

“We found 73 different usage scenarios for AI and this is just the tip of an iceberg yet to emerge” said Cheil SWA COO Sanjeev Jasani. “While it’s no surprise that more students are motivated to utilise AI for learning purposes, their personal uses are way more varied and interesting, ranging from daily life hacks to creativity to connecting with others.”

Cheil India chief strategy officer Sourav Ray explained, “AI plays two roles: as the Liberator in academics, freeing students from the constraints of traditional education, and as the Conqueror in personal life, helping the youth seize new opportunities and face their fears.”

AI as the liberator from traditional education

On the academic side, there are six segments of AI usage by the youth:

1. Troubleshooter: 33 per cent of students use AI to solve academic problems, mainly male students in schools and undergraduate studies. This liberation from academic grunt work is being sought majorly by around 54 per cent male students.

2. Automator: 16 per cent automate school work and assignments, focusing more on co-curricular activities. This segment consists largely of college and university students.

3. Instructor: 77 per cent believe AI enables self-paced learning, acting as a non-judgmental, tireless private tutor. Students appreciate this freedom to learn at their own pace.

4.    Navigator: 15 per cent use AI as a scheduler or time-manager, especially before exams. STEM (29 per cent) and Business (27 per cent) students are the most common users in this segment.

5. Explorer: Eight per cent use LLMs to explore new topics outside their current field of study, seeing AI as a career counsellor and guide.

6. Mentor: Six per cent use AI as a co-builder of new ideas or ventures, they are mostly STEM (31 per cent) and Business (24 per cent) students. This segment is not just using AI; they are also creating future applications and businesses around AI.

AI as the conqueror in personal life

Gen Z has found an ally in AI, which shape-shifts into trusted confidants, creative collaborators, and relationship coaches. The 5 segments identified are:

1. Genie: 31 per cent use AI for daily life hacks, from suggesting home décor tips to travel itineraries.

2. Savant: 31 per cent expect AI to provide expert advice, replacing visits to specialists. This includes medical diagnosis, legal advice, astrology, make-up tips, coding help, and more.

3. Co-creator: Many use AI as creative partners, generating inspiration for ideas or bringing those ideas to life with simple prompts. The most commonly used AI creative tool is Canva, followed by other tools like Designs.AI, Adobe Firefly, Figma and DallE.

4. Wingman: Eight per cent seek AI's help in social situations, particularly introverts or youth with social anxiety. This segment has 54 per cent male users, who are primarily residing in Metros.

5. Buddy: While 72 per cent believe AI will soon understand them better than many people, there are few who are using it to conquer loneliness (11 per cent). This segment actively seeks a friend or a therapist in AI, discussing personal issues or having intimate conversations. The report calls this “human-machine symbiosis” once only shown in sci-fi movies, but now happening in real life.


The flipside: A cautionary tale of over-dependence on AI

However, not everything is rosy in ‘AI-land’. The report also highlights the rising concerns among the youth. 41 per cent fear that overdependence on AI will reduce creative or critical thinking skills. Nearly 40 per cent doubt the quality of AI-generated outputs, calling them too generic or superficial. In academic spheres, while there is broader acceptance of AI in everyday learning, 56 per cent still hold the conventional view that using AI is a form of cheating.

If AI is affecting the way we think independently, the question, therefore is: Will the famous Descartes quote “cogito ergo sum” still hold true in the age of AI?

How should brands navigate this new AI world order

The report also provides specific insights for brand builders and business leaders on navigating the future:

1.  High-involvement experiences: Brands need to understand the level of AI involvement among youth before creating AI-enabled solutions. The report shows how the needle needs to move from ‘transactional exchanges’ in low-involvement users to ‘relational experiences’ in highly-involved ones.

2.  To each their own brand: Customers are becoming so AI-dependent that their purchase journeys are beginning with a prompt. Brands might soon need to achieve AI-enabled hyper-personalization, creating distinctive new identities and offerings for each consumer.

3.  Brands as AI: Brands that have traditionally focused on building a personality over time need to now start thinking about ‘brand personification’. Future consumers will prefer interacting with brands as if they are friends or mentors. Imagine a 16-year-old asking Nike about weight loss or asking Dove about building confidence. This might be the right time to start developing “brand LLMs”.

4.  Empathy is the key: AI solutions must act with empathy, addressing human vulnerabilities to either liberate youth from their issues or help them conquer new frontiers. The question every brand need to ask is: What will we as a brand do with AI that either liberates or conquers?