Consumer Raj

Looking at the current Indian scenario, any naïve outsider would be pleasantly surprised. Reading certain newspaper articles and the various interviews of enlightened entrepreneurs, one gets the idea that perhaps India is poised to become the next United States of America. There are strategists, economists, marketing experts and even your local horoscope guru, who all for that matter seem to be continuously gushing about the current economic boom in the country.

The point to note? India has finally become a channel for the influx of luxury brands. Global brands are currently eye-ing the Indian market. Labels like Luis Vuitton, Prada, BMW… it and you have it. Some of these brands are even opening up stores in the metropolitan cities! The new Indian lunch is a Subway sandwich and the newest khadi for the Indian youth is a pair of Levis jeans. India is finally here to stay.

Going through various media reports, one comes across these eloquent articles which contain opinions of the Indian “common man” who gushes about how the legendary foreign beers have finally hit the Indian bar scene. Corona, Tiger, Budweiser are all finally tapping into the Indian brewery. At this point let me mention that the “aam aadmi” who has been interviewed for these very articles is probably a software professional who earns around 4 lacs per annum. Common man indeed!

American and British executives have solemnly declared that Indians have finally reached that elite high spending mark. Now, that does give the average Indian a pleasant tingly feeling of patriotism, does it not? That precise feeling of nationalistic hangover lasts until that very same average Indian leaves his congested two roomed apartment and boards a dusty bus for yet another day of drudgery. And who is this elusive “average Indian”? Why, me and you of course.

Dear reader, while certain elitists go on gushing about how the newest brand of luxury Swiss chocolates have changed their chocolate eating experience, we spend that same time trying to make two ends meet. Worse still, a woman meets her death on a Calcutta pavement because a hospital refuses her admission. In a remote village, a child starves to death. Somewhere, a town still remains in darkness. To be fair to our media community, such day to day tragedies are perhaps well represented in the media forum. But how much more eloquent are those which talk about India shining! How eagerly do you turn the pages over to that page which talks about the newest super bike that Yamaha is bringing out in India within the next few months?

The point is, its all hunky dory to talk about how better quality material products have changed your art of living, but the ultimate truth of this consumerist utopia is that you can only experience it if you wield the golden key of money. The high flown one liners like “I don’t mind paying a little more for better quality” bespeak of the abyss of complacency and hypocrisy that the modern Indian has fallen into. In a country of starving millions, we hail the coming of luxury brands as a blessing. In a land of dingy by lanes where people live in miserable shanties, we build multiplexes. In a land where a woman is stripped naked and chased on the streets, we obsess about Tommy Hilfiger.

“If they don’t have bread, let them have cake”.

Vive le Hindustan!

Rudrani Dasgupta

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