Posts tagged ‘demographic shift’

Quality of Available Education

As promised in our last post, here are some interesting statistics from Pratham’s ASER survey about the quality of education available currently.   Education infographic - ASER 2013



In addition, for viewing this data by state, click on this link to view the enrolment data, and on this link to view the data on arithmetic ability. If interested, you can also view the changes in these parameters over time.

  • Ravindra Ramavath

May 15, 2014 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

Micro-entrepreneurs and Math

Our last post focussed on literacy levels and the availability of schools in a few focus states. This post is anecdotal in nature and contains some observations about the various ways in which the lack of a quality education hinders micro-entrepreneurs from developing necessary business skills and attaining their full potential ; the next post will share some quantitative data on the quality of education available to children currently.

While interacting with adult learners at the Cream training programmes offered by Tree Society to rural micro-entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed that they struggle with basic math and/or with the application of basic math. Yet, the adults undergoing CREAM training are not illiterate; all of them have attended school for at least a few years, most are 10th or 12th pass, and some are graduates from a local college.


There are those who know the calculations – can manage division, decimals, percentages etc. – but struggle to apply these in real-life situations.

[  A simple example : The owner of a small business may know what percentage is and even how to convert a percentage to a value; i.e. he knows that 10% of 200 = 20

But he may struggle when faced with a question in words. ‘A business sold goods worth Rs. 4000 this month. It expects a 10% increase in sale value next month. What will be the value of total sales next month ?’ ]

I have also noticed another phenomenon – even when they learn how to apply a formula and use it, any change in the structure of the problem or in the way they need to apply a formula leaves them slightly confused as algebraic manipulation is a skill not taught to them. For example, even if they understand a formula for profitability and its application, they are unable to rearrange and apply the formula to a problem where desired profitability and costs are known, but selling price and revenue are to be calculated.

Then there are some adults who seem to have learnt hardly any Math beyond counting and addition in childhood. They struggle with sums that involve simple division and cannot interpret decimals or fractions correctly. They are fazed by basic calculations such as margin or profit %, growth rate etc. As a result, the micro – businesses they run are inefficient and fail in adopting well-established processes such as setting the right selling price for their product, or estimating the right amount of raw material based on a sales forecast, or making a reasonably accurate sales estimate in the first place. The experience of teaching this set of micro-entrepreneurs made me start wondering about the state of primary education in our country and the implications on the supposed demographic dividend (or liability) for our future.

In fact, as data from Pratham’s ASER survey shows, it’s no surprise that so many of the adult learners struggled with division; even today, only 25% of children in class V can solve a division problem, and this proportion rises to only 46% of students in class VIII (wait for our next post for more information and some interesting infographics on this).

  • Zenobia Driver

May 13, 2014 at 4:47 pm 3 comments

India’s Demographic Dividend and Education

In this post last year, we’d looked at the composition of the increase in India’s population from 2001 to 2026 and seen that nearly 50% of all births between 2001 and 2026 will be in 7 states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. One of the points we’d wondered about in that post was whether good quality education is and would be available to these children. The infographics that follow share some basic information about the supply of education; we’ll share information on the quality of available education in a subsequent post. Till then, to whet your appetite on the topic of quality, here’s a link to a article from the Mint on the available infrastructure and quality of education in Bihar.




  • Ravindra Ramavath

April 3, 2014 at 5:50 am 1 comment


In Jan of this year, we’d written this post about the implications of India’s demographic dividend.

One of the things I’d wondered about in this post was the supply of quality education for young children, especially in the 7 states where almost 50% of the births during 2000-2025 will occur. This article from the Mint gives us an idea of the current state of education infrastructure in Bihar, one of the 7 states.

One of the implications of the change in India’s demographic profile is the change in the age-profile of voters across the country. Recent data released from Census 2011 shows an interesting trend. Read this article from the Mint to see why first-time voters are a critical constituency in all states. As the article mentions, ‘a whopping 47% of eligible voters in next year’s national election will be aged 35 or below’, a fairly significant chunk for any political party to target.

Collated by,

September 11, 2013 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

Some implications of the distribution of our ‘demographic dividend’

A Unicef report titled ‘The Situation of Children in India : A Profile’ tells us that India is home to 20 per cent of the 0-4 years’ child population of the world, which is significantly larger than the number in China even. The number of live births in our country is estimated to be 27 million, which again constitutes 20 per cent of the total number of live births in the world. Reason enough for this to be a really important market for any business that sells products or services to babies, toddlers or kids, whether in the mass segment or premium.

changes in India's popn pyramid A comparison of the change in the population pyramids of various countries – we looked at these in this post  a few weeks back – tells us that India will continue to be an attractive destination for such firms at least another 15-20 years. Though the decline in fertility levels means that the base of India’s population pyramid in 2026 will be narrower than that in 2001, it will continue to be larger than that of other countries for some time still.

The Census of India’s Population Projection Report has some interesting data on the composition of this increase in population. You can access the entire report here, some points from the same below (in blue font) :

  • 22% of the total population increase in India of 371 million during 2001-26 is anticipated to occur in Uttar Pradesh alone. 

Percentage share of states in total projected population increase during 2001-26

  • In fact, nearly 50% of India’s demographic growth during this period of twenty five years, is projected to take place in the seven erstwhile BIMARU states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand,Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal); i.e. of the projected increase in population  of 371 million in India during 2001-26,187 million will occur in these seven states.
  • In contrast, the contribution of the four southern states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, to the total increase in population size of the country during 2001-2026 is expected to be 47 million -13% of total demographic growth of the country.

This raises a few points relevant to companies selling age or life-stage related products. Those selling products for babies, toddlers or kids would do well to keep in mind that a large chunk of their market in 2026 will be in the erstwhile BIMARU states. They need to plan for building a good distribution infrastructure in those regions and for generating demand after understanding those customers, their sociocultural backgrounds, lifestyles and needs etc. This will be especially critical for companies aiming at scale and large revenues.

If however, they are strong in the southern states and intend to remain geographically focussed, they need to think about where growth will come from once the penetration reaches saturation level. The selected strategy could be in the domain of brand extensions / new products to existing consumer and customer segments, or targeting new consumer segments, but neither option has easy quick-fix solutions.

With due apologies to those that object to the idea of education as a business, another point to ponder over is the supply (or lack therein) of good quality education at every level. This is a service that has been in short supply all over India, more so in the BIMARU states, is this changing at all ? There is some anecdotal evidence I’ve heard of the student mix in colleges in the south changing as the percentage of those from the North increased. But for those at primary and secondary level, studying outside the state (and away from parents) is not an option. What options do they have ? But this runs into the topic for the next post on the topic, which will look at some of the sociocultural implications of this demographic shift.

  •  Zenobia Driver

January 24, 2013 at 8:14 am 3 comments

No country for young men

[Editor’s note : Coincidentally, two friends brought up the topic of the ageing of Asia recently. One gave the link to a World Affairs Journal blogpost on his facebook page, and another wrote about the ageing of Japan on his own blog after a visit to that country. This post is a reproduction of the latter (read it here) and is being run on the Escape Velocity blog with the author’s permission.]


Not that long ago, Japan was the cynosure of the world’s eyes – anxiously watched by the developed world, enviously admired by the developing.  It was, by all accounts, the center of technology innovation and hi-tech manufacturing prowess.  A whole cottage industry developed around Japan watching, and incorporation of Japanese principles into management.  What a difference a couple of decades makes!  At a conference the other day, someone asked a speaker “Is Japan the future of Europe?” That tone in his voice?  Closer to dread than envy.

The stagnation of the Japanese economy over the last twenty years is now a much discussed topic.  The demographic challenges of the country are also well known as one of the fundamental drivers behind the malaise.  I was as aware of the statistics as the next guy when I went for my first visit to Japan recently.  From the moment the plane landed in Osaka, though, the reality of the situation hit me as if for the first time.

If demographics is destiny, Japan is headed down a road to oldtown.  Let’s look at the statistics first.  In 2011, 23% of the population was 65 years or older.  By 2050, that proportion is expected to grow to 40%!  Two our of every five people would be over 65! The very young, i.e. less than 15 years old population is only 13%, the lowest of major countries.  And it is going down, not up.  By 2050, this proportion is expected to be only 9%.  The population pyramid of the country, which shows the distribution by age group, has been tagged by some as going from Pyramid to Kite.

japan's age distribution

This isn’t all with their demographic trouble either.  Apart from the distribution by age getting worse, the overall population of Japan, for all practical purposes, has peaked and has now started to shrink.  The population today is exactly the same as it was in 2001.

Now as I said, some of this was known to me, in broad brush-strokes if not in this detail.  But seeing it in person is a whole other thing.

Osaka is the commercial capital of Japan.  I have never been to Tokyo and I guess I was expecting the sparkling sights and bright neon lights of the capital.  The first impression Osaka makes though is not nearly as spectacular.  There are the obligatory tall buildings and well developed roads, but it all seemed just a little run down.  The hanging electrical wires, the mildly unsavory back alleys and the generally well aged buildings were my first clue that this wasn’t going to be the Japan I expected to see.

The more I looked, the clearer the images got.  This is not a country for young men (or women).  Most everyone around seems just a tad older than expected.  I took the subway a few times during my stay, and by my count, I saw no more than three kids over all my hours of subway travel.  Clearly, there aren’t enough children in this country.

It isn’t uncommon of course, for high income economies to have low birth rates.  Much of Europe is a case in point.  The way most countries end up solving that problem, is through more open immigration.  Invite more … let’s say fertile, citizens from developing countries, and you solve two problems at the same time – those of getting enough labour force for all the work of running a country, and of making enough babies to have a country in the future.  On this front, Japan seems maddeningly closed minded.

This is not a country that is very foreigner friendly.  I don’t mean the people are rude to foreigners.  Far from it.  In fact, I found the Japanese to be among the warmest, most helpful people I have ever encountered.  But somehow, the culture as a whole seems too … self-sufficient.  Too internally focused.  Closed.  All signage in the city are in Japanese.  Or almost all, at any rate.  If you don’t know the script, and have undertaken a foolhardy venture to explore the city by yourself, by subway, well – good luck to you!

I stand in line at a station along with many other patient locals, waiting for my turn at the ticket machine.  I reach there finally, only to find that every single sign on the machine is in Japanese.  I can’t make out what buttons I am supposed to press to make a darn ticket pop out!  I exit in frustration, walk up to the ticket booth attendant to ask for his help.  Only to realize that he doesn’t know a word of English either.  We do some sign language, I show him the ticket machine, say the word ‘English’ many times, and he finally gets it.  He directs to another machine on the side.  This one does have English sub-titles.  There you go!  I am sure I am on my way now.

Except of course, I am not.  Turns out, the machine doesn’t accept cards (or doesn’t accept international cards, not sure which).  It needs currency.  And I don’t have any Yen on me, having left the hotel confident in the ability of plastic to get me around the city.  But what is it I see there?  An ATM!  That should do the trick.  We are back to the patient line standing business now.  Get to the ATM finally, to discover … yup, all Japanese.  Try to figure this guy out.  A helpful old (they are mostly old) gentleman recognizes my problem and signs me some help.  Not that it gets me far though, because the machine doesn’t accept international cards either, even though it prominently displays the Visa and Mastercard logos.  Finally, I find a currency exchange counter (also manned by a lady who doesn’t speak English), get hold of some Yen, and at long last get on the train.

Walking the street later that night looking for dinner, I am reminded again that this country would rather be just left alone.  I don’t think my vegetarianism has given me this much trouble in any country as it did in Japan.  The Japanese, bless them, have a well evolved cuisine of their own, and give no room for vegetarians in it.  And going with the general trend in other matters, there isn’t much in the name of international fare in the city either.

So yes, it can safely be said that this isn’t a country that is going to willingly or easily welcome a horde of immigrants to solve its aging problem.

My short Japanese adventure over, I am on my Japan Airlines flight back, flying to Bangkok where a familiar Jet Airways to Mumbai awaits.  My seat doesn’t want to recline, hard as I try.  I call the crew member.  An elderly Japanese lady arrives, recognizes the problem in one look, and nods knowingly.  She presses hard against the recliner lever while encouraging me to push back as hard as I can.  I do, and with a soft creak of protest, the seat gives up its verticality.  “It is a very old plane sir” offers the stewardess, smiling sweetly.

A few hours later, I am on Jet Airways, moving onward to Mumbai.  Some rows behind are what appear to be half a dozen screaming children, their noises melding into one another, till it is no longer clear whether their squeals are of protest, complaint, celebration or simply ticklishness.  We seem over-weight on our kids quota today.  Yes sir, we are flying back to India.

November 30, 2012 at 6:45 am 1 comment

Limitations of the SEC classification

This article in the Indian Express today mentions a proposal for better  identification  of  the Below Poverty Line (BPL) rural poor. The proposal suggests including classes like destitute, manual scavengers and primitive tribal groups  while excluding those who own telephone landlines, refrigerators, two, three or four-wheelers, tractors, farmers with Rs.50,000 kisan credit limit, those with income of Rs.10,000/month and more.

While discussions around accurate classification of BPL poor (whether urban or rural) are led by economists, sociologists and policy experts, marketers have also been discussing the need for an accurate scale that captures spending power (of various socioeconomic groups) and consumption trends. For instance, a leading marketer such as Rama Bijapurkar has mentioned here the need to calibrate the current SEC classification with respect to asset ownership.

But, let me give some background first…

Socio Economic Classification (SEC) is a common parameter used by businesses to understand consumption potential in the Indian population. The urban SEC classification is a combination of education level and occupation of the chief wage earner of the household. According to this system, the urban Indian households are split across SEC A1, A2, B1, B2, C, D, E1 and E2.

SEC Classification Grid

Although this parameter is very commonly used, it has its drawbacks. One of the fundamental drawbacks is – since the classification is based on education and occupation level only, it misses out on the fact that income levels within an SEC can be quite disparate. The grid simply assumes that higher education and better occupation leads to higher income and thus higher consuming potential, but this may not always be the case.

Take the case of a shop owner with only primary education (classified as SEC D) who may be earning more than a graduate junior executive (classified as SEC A2); therefore the shop owner may have the potential for higher consumption, despite being categorized into a much lower SEC.

The chart below clearly illustrates how the standard SEC grid misses out on the fact that income levels within an SEC can be quite disparate. This is especially true of SEC A, and to a lesser extent, of SEC B. While there is a fairly large chunk of SEC A (34%) that earns less than Rs.3 lakh annually, the rest is composed of fairly thin slices of varying income levels. The richest slice, 16% of SEC A that earns over Rs.15 lakh per annum comprises of people of widely divergent income levels and very different purchasing power and consumption trends.

Source: Indicus Analytics

Therefore, SEC is too simplistic a classification and cannot be used as a consumer segmentation variable on its own – it needs to be layered with additional defining criteria such as income, asset ownership, etc.

Perhaps this classification did work when India was a uni-dimensional, mass market. But, with growing product offerings, new brands entering the market, more players in the market space, increased consumer involvement in decision making and higher aspirations and needs – the consumer has evolved,  and so should the way of  classifying him/ her.


EV Team

May 19, 2011 at 7:03 am 16 comments

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