Sunday, January 29, 2012

On the consuming class and the destitutes

I make my way through the security and the large crowd gathered to watch a movie shooting. I pass by (now) familiar names-KFC, Taco Bell, Casio, Pizza Hut, Samsung, etc. I go to the box office and take out my Phone and check the booking number of the movie that I have booked online. I enter it into a touch enabled monitor. It throws out the ticket and I enter the  movie hall. There are a couple of foreigners sipping on Minute Maid. I look around and I see people busy on their Blackberries and Iphones.
 So I am at a multiplex in a mall situated in a very middle class locality in Bangalore. I am there to watch "The Descendants". The tickets are obscenely expensive. The minimum is Rs 260 and the maximum is Rs 350. The last row has these leather couches which turn into 180 degree recliners. All those recliners are taken. As the movie begins, I realise that the car Clooney drives, the phone he uses,etc are all available in India. And used by the so called "middle class".
So whats the point? The point is that the consuming middle class has increasingly become global. In 2005, Mckinsey had divided the Indian market into the "global indians" and the "aspiring class" and some more segments. In less than six years, my guess is that a large part the "aspiring class" is now part of the" global Indian" segment. This is co inciding with the recession in the developed countries.
 One part on why businesses are restless with  Indian policy makers is largely because of fewer opportunities available elsewhere in the globe. In an age when companies are filing for bankruptcy over a weekend, businesses are getting very impatient with Indian policymakers.

So while  the middle class educated Indians are enjoying the fruits of their labour, it is a disturbing trend about the" have nots". In developed countries, the have-nots have started believing that they will now become "have never". In India that pessimism is not there as yet. But it will only be a matter of time before the middle class will be accused of being parasitic.Of not having done enough to ensure that income disparity is reduced.

In that regard, opportunities for the less fortunate should be made available. In my own case, I have been extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity and choice by a "welfare" state. The whole of my education was subsidised by the government. So it is surprising that many of us are for privatising large part of the education system. Perhaps we are more proud of IIPMs than IIMs!

We need to understand that most of us today who are working in top notch companies, having globe trotting careers are a product of a welfare state and maybe brought up by a generation of parents who believed education was the best investment! And that education was available to all who were willing to work hard.

While we can be extremely proud that most of us are living a life comparable to those of the developed world, we need to be on a constant vigil to avoid the mess that they find themselves in today!


  1. What you wrote was always insightful but I simply love how your writing has evolved.

  2. The point raised by you about welfare state and public education is quite valid one. But you are not being fair upon privatization of the education.

    We need to establish both public and private institutes of the education. Otherwise, there will be artificial scarcity of the colleges for the education. How can you justify only one IRMA in the last 30 years ? If there is no private stake in the education, the scaling of the good educational institutes will not happen.

  3. @yayaver:PPP model is being looked at by the policy makers. In fact, meeting the requirements of the RTE Act will need some private intervention.
    Private participation in higher education is essential. But the fear I have is rampant practice of making tons loads of money by entrepreneurs and delivering shoddy quality education. We need to encourage the philanthropy of Tatas who established the IISc and TISS, the DCM family which founded LSR and SRCC and recent initiatives of Azim Premji. Privatisation for privatisation's sake will be harmful

  4. @Nitin, There is practice of making rampant money with shoddy education level in the private educational institutes. But, it doesn't mean that they should be looked down. With the increased mushrooming of engineering college, the quality has gone down in the initial stages but latter good college emerged in them. I really want to know how we can encourage the philanthropy in the corporate companies ?

    n Public Funding of Colleges and Towards a General Theory of Public Options. Read this piece for an insight to the cost and higher education.

  5. "In India that pessimism is not there as yet" This is something I've observed too. Among all classes. But i fail to understand why

  6. I came on your blog though Google search and i read 2-3 of your blog post and found many useful post out there...thanks for sharing...and keep the good works going..

  7. AS you rightly pointed out so called Middle class ,not just in India but across the world,are on the path of reaching the peak of selfishness.Their needs to be urgent change in the attitude to prevent further widening of chasms across the societal classes which i fear will lead to social unrest.
    Just to quote one example of middle class intolerance ... Recent incident in Tamil Nadu where properties of scores of Dalit,back word people were set on arson for the reason Dalit boy got married to a midddle class girl and the real reason was the fact that Dalits were climbing the economic welfare ladder towards being well-to-do and this fact was very harsh for the middle class to digest. So this attitude is very dangerous and something needs to be done with great urgency to prevent social unrest that's in the making.