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New Routes from Old Roots

A deep dive into key Similarities, Differences, Myths & Realities prevailing in the Indian & Chinese middle class.


While a lot has been written and debated about the rise of China & the 'strange' rise of India, there exists limited knowledge about a comparative & qualitative assessment of consumers in these two markets.Yet, for most marketers, these are the gold mines that must be tapped in the 21st century. This research delves deep into the contemporary middle class in India & China and tries to identify the key influences determining the consumption habits of unarguably the two largest clusters of consumers in the world. The study achieves this by taking a candid look at household units that are experiencing maximum change in these two societies.

The study builds differential influence models for both the societies and tries to indicate possible implications for marketers and marketing communications in these two countries.

While this paper builds the 'Conceptual Framework' for the Research, Analysis and implications of the study, the enclosed DVDs constitute the Illustrative & Emotive part.

When we think of India and China, here are some popular perceptions & realities that cross our minds -

  • Global & Medieval - India's Schizophrenic economy;
  • Battles of the Righteous - The rise of India's lower castes
  • New India, Old India - The many layered character of Indian Modernity

  • The China Price
  • The pirate nation
  • The Revolution against Communist revolution
  • A Startup & a Turnaround

These are real chapter titles from some of the recent and more popular books on India & China. While both media & business have focused their attention towards the way these two economies have grown and would grow in the future, there is limited ready & usable information about the social impact of these economic developments. Manufacturers who set up factories in India talk of hedging their bets. Should brands do likewise? Are there lessons in marketing to huge populations that can be shared between the two developing Asian economies?

Project Blood is the first step as a part of a pioneering initiative of Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific to understand the social impact of these economic developments.

As a part of this initiative we have focused on the Household as a unit & looked at Household Influences in these two societies.

The connections & contrasts between the way households live in these two societies throws up insights about them. This research paper tries to crystallize these insights and short lists the set of key internal & external influences that determine buying decisions.

The reason for choosing household-unit as a lens, instead of the individual, is to do with the collective nature of the two societies. Globalization & other foreign influences notwithstanding, both societies have traditionally demonstrated a more household & family centric social structure. Household & Family as an entity is seen to be more important than the individual, society or even the country.

This difference is important because it contrasts these two societies from many western societies where the individual precedes household, the family & the rest.

  1. Perception
  2. Motives
  3. Learning
  4. Attitudes
  5. Personality
  1. Roles
  2. Family/Household
  3. Reference Groups
  4. Social Classes
  5. Culture

Our study focusses on the 'real' middle class in India & China. Thus the research is based on learnings from households living away from the major commercial cities and metros like Shanghai & Mumbai.

Download New Routes from Old Roots (pdf).

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Saurabh Sharma and Kunal Sinha with Jane Ling
Ogilvy & Mather, Mumbai, Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai