Posts tagged ‘society’

Infographic – India expenditure data , rural

We’d earlier shared a set of infographics on per capita expenditure on various categories in urban India (https://escape-velocity-blog.com/2015/08/19/infographic-india-expenditure-data-urban/ ), and the trends over time therein (https://escape-velocity-blog.com/2015/09/22/infographic-india-expenditure-trend-urban/ ). This post shares similar data for rural India.

India MPCE - Expenditure data - Rural

The first point to note is that the average MPCE (monthly per capita expenditure) is much lower for rural India vs. that for urban India (Rs. 1429.96 vs. Rs. 2629.6 respectively). Hence, while the absolute value of expenditure on various categories may be lower in rural India, as a percentage of the MPCE it’s much higher. For instance, though the average monthly spend on food is Rs. 622 per capita, it is 48.6% of the total per capita expenditure ; this is closer to the proportion spent by the poorer fractiles of the population in urban India. One area on which folk in rural India spend much less than their counterparts in urban areas is housing, others are education and transportation. In almost every other category, the proportional spends (spending on category as a % of average MPCE) of rural folk are actually higher than those from urban areas.

 

  • Ravindra Ramavath

 

June 6, 2016 at 11:55 am 1 comment

English-Vinglish, and all that jazz

Read this article about the English Dost app via a friend’s Facebook feed and was reminded of a few incidents that I’ve witnessed during the last year.

On the day a friend left Mumbai for Singapore, among those who visited her house to say goodbye was her maid. The maid had brought her adolescent children along too, and I was amazed at the difference between the maid and her children. Had the mother not introduced me to her daughter, I’d never have guessed how closely they were related; the maid seemed like someone one step away from the ancestral village, while the daughter seemed a native of a big city.

While the mother wears a sari, cannot speak much English and is rather diffident, her daughter prefers jeans and a shirt, speaks good English and is much more confident. While the mother is uneducated, she’s ensured that her daughter got a school education and learnt English, and encourages her to attend college; even though the young girl has to hold down a part-time job in order to meet her education expenses at college ,she’s determined to obtain a college degree that will get her a better job than her mother’s and a brighter future.

A few months later, I was at Bodh Gaya for the sales and marketing module of a Cream training program. The participants comprised micro-entrepreneurs from villages in Gaya and Muzzaffarpur district of Bihar. They could speak some English, but not much ; hence classroom sessions were conducted in both English and Hindi, with constant translation of any English sentence by an interpreter. All our training material (slides , hand-outs, question papers) had also been translated into Hindi for the benefit of the participants. Yet we witnessed an amazing zeal to learn new English words that pertained to their businesses, as if they saw these words as currency for garnering status in the eyes of their peers (remember that these were all rural micro-entrep[reneurs). There were participants who’d stop us mid-sentence and ask us to spell out ‘negotiation’, ‘consumer’ etc. and earnestly write down the English word in their notebooks.

English learning appsNo wonder there’s such a huge market for English learning apps and so many of them available now. There’re generic apps like Busuu through which anyone can learn English ( or another of a set of languages) by having conversations with native speakers of that language. There’re English Dost and enguru, both of which use a game with real-life situations to help users learn English, these seem to target those joining the corporate sector in junior management roles. English Seekho by IMImobile and IL&FS Education & Technology Services limited target a very different audience – junior level clerks, traders, unskilled laborers, frontline staff, taxi drivers, restaurant waiters etc. There’s also the British Council site that has several English learning apps, podcasts etc., and even an app to help Taxi drivers learn English to communicate better with their customers ! Clearly there’s a ton of demand from a large number of segments.

  • Zenobia Driver

December 10, 2015 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

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.

Slide4

 

Slide5

  • Ravindra Ramavath

April 3, 2014 at 5:50 am 1 comment

Beauty ‘saaluns’ in villages – a sign of change

A few months ago, during a CREAM (Certificate in Rural Enterprise Administration and Management) training session for micro-entrepreneurs in rural Bihar, we enquired about the professions of each. Turned out that each of the three women taking the course aced at multi-tasking ; apart from managing the house, each held down two other occupations. My first reaction was amazement at the amount of work that they packed into their day, but later I was struck by the fact that two out of these three women ran beauty parlours (or as they pronounced it, ‘saaluns’) out of their homes.

We asked these ladies which treatments their customers went in for and it was more than just hair-cuts – facial, eye-brow threading etc. In villages in Bihar ! So beauty consciousness is increasing not just in urban India, but in rural India too.

This article from the Mint also mentions this trend, albeit in passing. This article, from the Mint again quotes Mr. C.K.Ranganathan, Chairman and Managing Director of CavinKare, “The rural consumer has become more beauty conscious and is willing to spend more on personal grooming.”

Wonder which are the companies benefiting from this trend ? and whether they are using these ladies who run beauty parlours from their homes as influencers ?

We’ll try to dig deeper into this topic with time, so keep visiting this blog for more information on the topic.

  • Zenobia Driver

February 11, 2014 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

The 1%: Decoding the Super rich

They go by many names; The Plutocrats, The 1% or simply, The Super Rich; but estimates regarding their riches and buying power have remained in the realm of conjecture. Until now, that is.

In the interest of those as curious as us about the lives and times of the super rich, we are doing an exclusive three post feature on the swish set. In this post, we shall try and estimate the magnitude of their wealth and influence. In the next two, we shall try and analyze their consumption habits and also figure out what marketers the world over are doing to cater to this segment and what are the opportunities that exist.

The Global Wealth Report published by Credit Suisse estimates that approximately 3.2 million people (0.7% of the world’s population) control 41% of its wealth. Contrast this with the 3.2 billion who live on only 3% of its wealth and the inequities at play become apparent. In Russia, for instance, 110 people control 35% of the nation’s wealth!

Global Wealth Pyramid

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been credited with bringing this issue to the masses with their revolutionary slogan, “We are the 99%”. In recent times, there have been major protests in the west regarding the magnitude of compensation received by the CEOs of banks and other major financial institutions. Governments have been trying to resolve these issues by increasing taxes and introducing such concepts as Wealth Tax and Property Tax to re-distribute income but the Super rich are only getting richer, and smarter.

Wealth-X, a research and consulting firm dedicated to the super-rich defines the UHNWI (Ultra High Net-worth Individuals) as anyone with a net household income more than $30 million, excluding the value of the individual’s current place of residence. According to the World Ultra Wealth Report published by Wealth-X in association with UBS, the net worth of the UHNWI  is estimated at a whopping $28 trillion. This values the combined wealth of these 200,000 people at more than the combined GDPs of the US ($15 trillion) and China ($7 trillion). Thus, 0.04% of the world’s population controls approximately 12% of its wealth!

India is home to 7850 of these UHNWIs, worth approximately $935 billion (~60% of GDP) and has registered the highest increase in the number of dollar millionaires over in the last year among the BRICS. It is also home to the largest number of female millionaires in the world (1250) worth approximately $95 billion. A city-wise analysis shows that more than 90% of India’s UHNW population lives in top 10 cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Gurgaon and Jaipur. Mumbai and Delhi, however, dominate with more than 50% of the country’s UHNW population based in one of these two cities.

We will talk about the spending power and consumption habits of these super-rich individuals in our next post.

  • Rahul Sharma

December 17, 2013 at 6:35 am Leave a comment

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.]

elderly_japanese1

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

From the mouths of babes and sucklings – technology and toddlers

My five year old nephew was chatting with me during a journey once, bubbling over with curiosity and a million questions about everything. Instead of entertaining myself by warping his mind with made-up answers the way Calvin’s dad does (for examples, see this link), I tried to answer his questions as simply and logically as possible. However, reality is often stranger than fiction, and some answers related to geography and astronomy sounded far-fetched to him. So the young man turned his gimlet eyed gaze on me and warned me, “Are you really sure ? Don’t lie, ok. We can go home, open the laptop and check on googil too.” Once kids relied on older and wiser ones for information, now we’re redundant since there’s good ol’ googil.

Another young 3 year old – a friend’s son, gave me the next anecdote for this blogpost. He gets confused reading books because once he’s done reading the page he swipes his finger across to get to the next page – the way he’s used to doing with pics on the iphone; needless to say, that doesn’t work at all with a book and it leaves him confused, frustrated and cranky.

While on the topic of young ones and technology, there’s an interesting anecdote in this blogpost – as an aside, you should follow the link and read the whole post, interesting example of communication going awry due to incorrect assumptions. The comments on that post are also worth reading.

But I digress, the anecdote follows :

Setting, San Francisco, where some friends recently told me how their five year old went up to a framed picture in their living room and started pinching at it with his fingers, the exact same gestures one would use on an iPhone to zoom in and out of a picture. “Broken, broken” is all the five year old said after that disappointing experience.

How much and in how little time technology is changing the reading and viewing habits of this generation of toddlers ! Paraphrasing the headline of this Forbes article, does this change herald just the death of print or will it also eventually lead to the death of reading too ? I fear that it may be the latter. What’s your point of view ?

  • Zenobia Driver

November 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm Leave a comment

Moving with the times – Tag Heuer

I often wonder about the longevity of watches as a category and whether they will eventually suffer the same fate as the humble typewriter, either in a few years or a few decades. Two close friends of mine have already stopped wearing a watch on a regular basis – their logic is that they carry a phone all the time and can see the time on their phone. What’s worse – for the global watch industry, that is – they find the watch doubly redundant when at their desk in office where they can also see the time on their laptop.

Undoubtedly, the trend towards wearing a watch as an accessory will extend the category’s life-span, but for how long ? And does the watch industry have any other tricks up its sleeve or will it fall prey to marketing myopia in a decade or two ?

[Note : We’d mentioned marketing myopia once in an earlier post; the subject of this post is somewhat similar – an attempt made by a firm to adapt to a changing market, though in this case it’s early days yet and the market verdict is not  clear.

Marketing Myopia : The term refers to the short-sightedness that leads companies to focus on their own organisation and product – line rather than on customers’ needs and wants. It leads to reluctance to change, and a failure to adjust to a changing market environment.] 

 

In this context, I felt that the launch of the Tag Heuer Smartphones by the luxury watch brand was an interesting experiment (you can read articles about the launch here, here , here and here). Tag Heuer started retailing luxury mobile phones in India from 2008. It has since launched three such devices – first the Tag Heuer Meridiist and Link, and recently the Racer. The Tag Heuer Racer Smartphone (pics on extreme right in the image above) was the one launched a few months ago; in keeping with the Tag image, the phone looks top-end  – really sleek, it’s supposedly styled after race cars. Buyers can customize their phones’ cases in a variety of materials, from rose gold to titanium,  just as they would a TAG watch. They can even add Calfskin-leather trim, or a sprinkling of diamonds, for good measure.

One fly in the ointment could be the fact that while consumers buy a watch for a lifetime – or at least to last for many years, they tend to change their phones to the latest model fairly often; at the price tag of a Tag Smartphone, that’s a bit heavy on the pocket. Will be interesting to see how this pans out. Meanwhile, kudos to Tag for not burying their heads in the sand, trying to adapt to changing consumer habits and being bold enough to experiment. A good effort, for sure.

  • Zenobia Driver

October 31, 2012 at 9:00 am 5 comments

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