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Shrikhande began with a brief primer on the culture of the country: Comprising 29 different states, with 12 different spoken languages and celebrating 72 different festivals, India should be considered as one does Europe, a patchwork of nations rather than one enormous entity. "Each state has its own culture," said Shrikhande, likening their differences to those between France, Germany, the U.K. and other countries.
He continued by highlighting the enormous shifts toward modernization that have taken place over the last 20 years, and broke the consumer base into five segments: Global India, or those who know all the 'in' things around the world; self-employed India, comprising lawyers, doctors and entrepreneurs who "are driving the growth of consumption"; middle class India, which makes up the "backbone of the IT revolution"; farmer's India, accounting for 75 percent of the country, and poor India.
Although 35 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, things are changing rapidly, said Shrikhande, noting that 70 percent of the population is starting to consume larger items. For now, though, the Indian market is largely focused on the country's six largest cities, and it was on the habits of the urban population that Shrikhande expounded.
"They are very well connected to world standards and they demand brands and products," he said. "But at the core, they always demand more value than anything else." That fact has resulted in a fundamental shift in buying practices among those with money. "The philosophy is changing from see it now and consume later, to affordable indulgences," said Shrikhande. "India has one of the highest savings rates in the world at more than 32 percent."