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India's Changing Middle Class

Mar. 01, 2017

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 Being highly motivated to spend, India's middle class has been driving consumption growth - a fact that has even received significant attention in India as well. This paper clarifies the consumption patterns of India's middle class by targeting Indian consumers "living in Tier-1 cities and having annual household incomes between $7,500 and $35,000."
 New and old senses of values coexist in India. As a new sense of values, there are growing attitudes toward being flexible in accepting new functions (secular-rational values) and the acceptability of doing things differently from others (self-expression values). At the same time, people still make decisions based on their faith and lifestyle habits (traditional values) and attach importance to rules and bonds to maintain and strengthen the community (survival values).
 Compared to their Japanese counterparts, more Indian consumers tend to trust the opinions of actual users and attempt to gather a larger amount of shopping information. In addition, they are less reluctant to use financial tools for purchases. These findings suggest an orientation toward secular-rational values. Nevertheless, many Indian consumers still want to see products at physical stores rather than completing purchase transactions only via the Internet, exposing views that are not based on secular-rational values. The orientation toward self-expression values can be seen in attitudes on shopping for enjoyment. Because of the trend toward smaller families and the economic and social empowerment of women, the middle class can freely spend a greater portion of their incomes, enabling them to enjoy shopping. The spread of IT and SNS has caused people to act conspicuously to show themselves off in the best light, such as by publicly carrying brand products.
 Conventional consumption behaviors that reflect traditional and survival values are a normal part of their lives, often rendering them unaware of their behavior. Indian behaviors that reflect traditional values include judging quality by sense of touch and making purchases during religious events. In addition, even though they are motivated to spend based on secular-rational values, they act within a framework of conduct acceptable to their religious faith. Behaviors representing survival values include placing importance on emotional connection not only with products but also with suppliers (companies). Such behaviors are also seen in the role of the family. Family plays an important part in the division of responsibilities for shopping, decision-making criteria and justification of spending.
 The value for money (VFM) attitudes that strike a balance between secular-rational and traditional values, as well as the attitudes toward putting family first (family-first principle) that balance self-expression and survival values, constitute the characteristics of India's middle class. These attitudes are expected to remain particularly strong in the future.


  1. This Paper's Objectives and Subjects for Consideration
  2. The Sense of Values among Indian Consumers
  3. Spending Behavior of India's Middle Class
  4. Consumption Values of India's Middle Class


India's Changing Middle Class


Author's Profile

Hikojiro ISOZAKI

Senior Consultant
NRI’s Social System Consulting Department
Specialties: Business strategy and innovation management for emerging economies


NRI India’s Business Strategy Consulting Division
Specialties: Business strategies in India, drawing up strategies for entering overseas markets, particularly emerging markets, and supporting the implementation of such strategies


NRI India’s Investment Strategy Consulting Division
Specialties: Supply chain management, cost optimization and policy support

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