India’s affluent : findings from a recent survey

by rohit on September 6, 2009

Nielsen India has recently done their first ever ‘Upper Middle class and Rich’ (UMAR) survey – among 18,250 individuals in 35 metros (covering all Indian cities with a population greater than 1 million). These metro cities account for 11.3% of India’s population and 40% of it’s urban population (Basis : India’s Census, 2001).

Xenon XT : India's first lifestyle pick-up vehicle

Xenon XT : India's first lifestyle pick-up vehicle

This survey aimed at identifying ‘affluence’ based on lifestyle and ownership of consumer durables criteria i.e. on ‘consumption’ criteria. A laudable attempt. Thus far, Nielsen and most  research agencies have measured affluence using socio-economic criteria viz. monthly income and education, a methodology which has it’s limitations.

Highlights :

A. Number of affluent households

2.5 million households qualify as ‘affluent’, as follows :
– 2.2 million are ‘upper middle’ class : they own a car and a PC/laptop
– 0.2 million  are ‘upper upper middle’ class : own a car,a PC/laptop and a LCD TV
– 0.1 million are ‘upper class” : own a car, a computer, aLCD TV and have been abroad on a holiday

Some quick comments on these numbers :

– Yours truly figures in the ‘upper class’, as no doubt many readers of this blog will.

– These numbers are rather small.

– Now, the 35 metros put together had a population of 116 million (as per Census 2001, current numbers will be more), which translates to about 23 million households. That qualifies only 11% households (2.5 million of 23 million) as ‘affluent’. And only 1 in 230 (0.1 million of 23 million) as ‘upper class’.

229 of 230 people around me do not share a comparable lifestyle. Something to really, really think about..

B. Some titbits from the lifestyles of India’s affluent

Key indicators :

100% own a car and a computer (this seems to be the survey’s definition of ‘affluence’, per se)

60% live in nuclear families (presumably the balance live in joint families)
50% have studied in the English medium
90% own a house
75% have a washing machine
40% have a home theatre and a modular kitchen

Media habits :

98% watch TV (mostly language channels)
70% read English dailies
67% go to the cinema
54% listen to radio
55% have internet access at home
38% read magazines
10% read English business dailies

Other habits :

90% shop at ‘modern retail stores’
80% ‘dine out often’
30% visit a parlour or a spa at least once a month (they also ‘gym’)

C. And here are India’s top 10 cities, ranked by the number of affluent :

1. Delhi
2. Bangalore
3. Greater Mumbai
4. Chennai
5. Hyderabad
6. Kolkata
7. Kochi
8. Pune
9. Jaipur
10. Ahmedabad

D. Five takeaways from above data :

1.  For Bangalore to rate above Greater Mumbai is surprising. Could this be because more households in Bangalore have a computer and/or fewer people in Mumbai have cars (a greater % use public transport) ?

After all, Mumbai has 16 million people (the world’s second most populous city !) as against less than 6 million of Bangalore (2001 data). Mumbai’s known to have the lion’s share of India’s income tax collections too.

Why include computer ownership as a criteria for affluence (the other being car ownership) in the first place? This is not clear.

(Btw, one wonders,  is there an internationally accepted definition of affluence ? If so, what is it ? It’s difficult to believe ownership of a car and PC will qualify one as ‘affluent’ in many other countries).

2. Local language dailies have fallen far behind English dailies when it comes to their brand/distribution/content. What else explain’s above data point that 75% read English dailies though only 50% have received an education in the English medium ?

3. Radio has not successfully catered to this affluent segment. Once radio was accused of being upmarket. Now all stations seem to want to target the mass market.

What else can account for the fact that of 2.5 million households – all of which have cars and can tune in to FM while on the move, leave alone at home – only 54% listen to radio ? A media opportunity going waste. There’s a need for someone to launch an upscale FM brand.

4. It’s surprising that only 54% households have Internet access. Now, these are 2.5 million ‘affluent’ households which all have a PC/laptop. I would have expected this to be at least 70%, a figure I have seen in other surveys.

A hypothesis : distribution and quality / service gaps from the ISPs – in many cities / areas.

5. What’s indeed surprising, IMHO, is the high % of households with home-ownership (90%). What also looks high is the 40% ownership of home theatre and modular kitchen (one needs to see what is meant by ‘modular kitchen’ and ‘home theatre’, this survey may have adopted loose definitions..)

There’s obviously lot’s more in the survey but it’s not in the public domain. The above has been gleaned from coverage in publications following a press release by Nielsen India. Nielsen still doesn’t have anything on their own site yet.

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