Alisha Shinde
Saturday, 19 January 2019

Globally, the millennials are now the largest community with a high disposable income. Their living, buying and eating habits are markedly different from those of the previous generations. And they are trend-setters in various segments, says Alisha Shinde

One generation preferred luxury, another prefers convenience. The other had abundance, this one promotes sustainability. One had limited indulgences in food, the other has an ever-changing palate. These are some of the differences between baby boomers and the millennials. 

As they say, ‘The time of the millennials has arrived’. Those born between mid 80s-mid 90s form 34 per cent of the Indian population today. That also makes them the largest community with a high disposable income and thus their voice, opinions are heard in various segments. The millennials are also setting the agenda for change — be it in fashion, food or in employment sectors. 

They were labelled ‘cool and lazy’ by the generation that came before them. But true to their style, the millennials have slowly and surely replaced the baby boomers, by becoming the largest demographic in 2019. From playing outdoors to moving indoors with cool gadgets in tow, this group has made the ‘weird’ become the new ‘cool’. Think avocado toast and the unicorn smoothies! 

Here we chat with a few industry experts and millennials to learn more about this drastic wave of change that this age group is riding.   

The millennials happen to think differently, and thus they bring a new flavour to everything they do. Shabbir Hussain is co-founder and CCO of Hats-Off, a digital media company. A millennial, he leads a team of people in the similar age group, and says that this generation is reshaping how an office should be — in terms of the workforce, the energy or the appearance. 

“The office design and culture has changed drastically in the past five years,” says Hussain adding, “The millennials have brought a homely touch to the workplace. It gives them a certain freedom to adapt to the corporate culture instead of being stuck in the trauma of 9-6 jobs.”  

In situations where the boss too is a millennial, s/he creates a culture in which they become a leader instead of a boss. They are trying to do away with the concept of cabins, since it creates distance.

“To cite an example, when we started the company seven years ago, we decided to limit the walls and the glasses in the interior structure. The open office culture has been helpful since this has helped the current generation to get more friendly and approachable with their managers and CEOs. Otherwise, the employees would feel like students, who are scared to talk to their teachers about any difficulties they have,” says Hussain. 

He believes that this open and flexible setup has brought out the best in people at work, even those who fall in the older age bracket. It has interestingly helped them absorb newer ways to accomplish projects and tasks.

“A lot of bigger MNCs and brands are now drifting towards employee-centric workspaces instead of client-centric setups. It might take a while for people to realise that millennials are assets who will drive the business and so keeping them happy should be the primary focus,” says Hussain. 

Like the food industry, the fashion segment too is taking into account the choices of the millennials, who lean towards ethical and clean fashion. Say Saaksha Parekh and Kinni Kamat of the label Saaksha & Kinni, “The millennials are much more conscious of where and how their clothes are being made — whether animals are being harmed, whether there are ethical working conditions, fair wages for the artisans and whether the clothes are sustainable.” 

This generation has the biggest buying power and as a direct byproduct, their voice is being taken seriously throughout the fashion world. “New trends are being set such as gender fluid garments, recycling of garments and so on. The millennials are also demanding transparency from the clothing companies they buy from. This has become a huge driving factor in the fashion industry,” says Kamat. The designers observe that this generation has also turned to online shopping, heavily persuaded by social media bloggers and influencers, which in turn has changed the way labels have started branding themselves. 

Ayesha Munshi, a fashion designer and fashion writer at INIFD Deccan, says that millennials have brought about a very significant change in the overall functioning of the fashion industry. “They like the classy look and at the same time believe in reviving the traditional wear rooted in history. These factors have brought about a stir in this industry,” she says. 

The young adults have a different style of living; they believe in being fit and using clean and organic products. “If we allow our culture to open up a bit and allow sustainable elements to be a part of the fashion, this generation in particular will hold the key to change. With the explosion of the internet and the digital media, fashion communication has become easier than ever. It gives each and every fashion enthusiast an opportunity to put their opinion in front of millions of followers. The world loves new energy and new ideas, so why not follow them?,” asks Munshi. 

She also mentions that the young  generation has a very queer and individualistic fashion sense. “The millennials are the ones who bridge the gap between men and women and they will break the rigid bonds of age, race, colour and gender. It is this fluidity and individuality that calls for appreciation,” Munshi concludes.

The parents and grandparents of the millennials prefer to eat at home. In their time, when they stepped out for dinner, the options were limited and expensive. The experience of eating out was ‘once upon a time’ and not very magical either. The picture is completely reversed for the millennial foodie, who craves for scrumptious grub, the ambience to relish it and the whole experience that comes with eating out. How we savour food has become an art!

Devashree Sanghvi, who runs the award-winning blog Thecrazyindianfoodie, points out that in the past three and half years she has noticed more and more restaurants opening up every day, catering to the ever-demanding young generation. “Armed with the passion for exploring unique cuisines, a high amount of social media exposure and spending power, the millennials are reshaping the food industry like no other. Any new food trend in one corner of the world can easily go viral in another part of the globe,” she points out.

She says that with a large percentage of millennials craving for new experiences, they have a large influence on the food industry. “Right from the kind of food that is served to the way it is served and menu pricing to the interiors, restaurants are quickly adapting to the preferences of this generation,” adds Sanghvi.

Girish Monie of Sorted. Delicatessen adds that a large percentage of this age group consists of conscious eaters who are focused on health. “Looking good and staying fit has never been as important as it is now, with the extensive proliferation of social media. The industry has to focus on a more wholesome healthy life since this age group is goal oriented and focused on themselves,” he says. 

But why do the restaurateurs have to pay heed to the millennials? Chef Peter from Savya Rasa says that since they make up the highest percentage of the Indian population at 34 per cent, with a high disposable income, they have ever-changing choices. “They are tech-savvy and make extensive use of online reviews and data analytics. In recent times, we have seen a surge of online review platforms and almost all decisions to eat out in a restaurant are decided after reviewing the choices online,” says the chef. 

He adds that a lot of changes in the food trend are attributed to the millennials. For instance, healthy food has evolved into more sustainable and organic offerings. “Food trucks and online deliveries have taken the centerstage for the convenience-seeking millennials. Restaurants, which are growing at a rate of 18 per cent every quarter, are changing their menu ever so frequently, some even once in three months, to cater to the changing dining choices. This also makes the fast-casual segment of restaurants the only growing one in the last five years,” says Chef Peter before signing off.

Armed with social media power, the millennials have made inroads into the entertainment industry, taking up the cause of content and thumbing down trash. 

Shrey Gupta, a Delhi-based movie buff, says, “With the social media power at our disposal, the buzz that we can create on online platforms can either boost the performance of a particular movie or completely mar it. Thus it has become extremely important for the entertainment industry to produce content that is in synchronisation with the taste of the millennials.”

He adds, “Content for us needs to be relatable and good. We are looking for content that is related to worldly life, not something that is too lofty or insensitive to any gender, colour or race. We do not watch a particular movie just because there are some big actors in it. We are open to new talent if they come with good and genuine content.”

Going by all that has been said about the likes and dislikes of the millennials, one thing is clear — this generation is clear about what it wants, and that it is also adaptable. Anuj Puri, chairman of Anarock Property Consultants, says that the youngsters have a very different take on home-ownership than their parents and grandparents had.

“The millennials display a much higher ability to adapt and accommodate than the previous generations, which is why co-working has become such a relevant concept in India today. They tend to have a bit of ‘digital nomad’ in them,” says Puri.

He avers that the youngsters are not as particular about the status value of their address as they are about the connectivity, conveniences and security of a neighbourhood. “They want to be able to get to work and back home quickly and enjoy a decent level of social amenities in the area they live in. These living options might be beyond their financial means, so renting an apartment makes sense to them. In some cases, even when they can afford to buy a house, they do not do so, they would rather invest their surplus cash into stocks,” Puri observes.

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