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What Kind of an Indian Are You?

Arun Jagannathan, CEO, CrackVerbal
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Arun Jagannathan, CEO, CrackVerbal
He is the Founder & CEO of CrackVerbal, a competitive exam preparation platform. Arun is a MCA from Gujarat University, and B.Sc – Physics from The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Prior to CrackVerbal, he was the Senior Manager - Consulting Services at Talisma Corporation.

India is going through generational shifts too, but nobody is talking about them. A person born in 1974 is very different from a person born in 1994. We know this, but we cannot put our finger on what the differences are. Let us take a look at some of them –

Work Horses: Born Before 1960

You were born to the era when Independence was still fresh, and you had a lot of pride in ‘nation building’. Working hard was a virtue – everything else be damned. You probably believed that you had a duty towards creating an India that would stand on its own in the world. You were possibly a graduate and really that was the ‘edge’ you needed to have over others. Having ‘honours’ degree was a big deal, and perhaps you got a job in one of the Nehru-vian PSUs or a nationalized bank. You were destined to work for the rest of your life in the same office.

Sporting a HMT watch, you rode on your trusted Bajaj scooter to work. And on returning home in the evening, watched Doordarshan on your black-and-white TV. You never made any investments except for your Provident Fund (PF) and savings bank account (of which you religiously updated the passbook). You probably did not see a ‘landline’ phone and were conversant with the term ‘trunk call’. For you, communication meant inland letters, and for anything urgent – there was always the telegram. In general, you were okay waiting for a few days or a few weeks for anything because you were happy it was at least happening in the first place!

Traditionalists: Born Between 1961-1985

You were born to a ‘Work Horse’, so in some sense hated that life. But you were born and brought up in a culture that celebrated frugality. You were always told the virtues of saving up; so at a subconscious level, that got embedded in your brain. You were the quintessential ‘middle-class’.

You wanted to do something different – being a graduate was no longer ‘safe’. So you got into an Engineering/Medical college). This was the mantra of success. Hard work was still very important. The ratio of the number of qualified people to the number of seats in top colleges was very high. But you also valued the element of luck in major life decisions. You probably took the GRE and went on to do your MS abroad. There are entire neighborhoods in Chennai that have only aging parents left, because their children settled abroad in 1980s and 1990s!

If you did not end up going abroad, you still had ample exposure to the western way of life. You probably got hooked onto English songs, thanks to the Walkman someone got from the U.S. You collected books with lyrics from popular songs from the ‘Billboard top 100’ in the U.S. Right from wearing bellbottoms to baggy jeans – you copied all the trends that were set in the U.S. Doordarshan started airing more serials than before, but it was still the standard fare. You prayed no important politician died – else you’d have to endure a week of Shehnai!

For you, employment options were not restricted to ‘government jobs’ anymore. There were a lot of private sector companies that paid a whole lot more (relatively speaking that is). You used inland letters and postcards, but that was usually reserved for occasions such as festivals, birth, or death.

Liberals: Born Between 1985-2000

Perhaps the biggest shift happened in the post-liberalization era in the 1990s, which saw a hyperinflation boom hit India. The parents realized that all the money they had painstakingly saved was ‘wasted’ because a rupee now isn’t worth as much as it was ‘back then’. So they encouraged you to spend. No matter what your background, you were a little more liberal in opening the purse strings.

But your parents were either traditionalists or workhorses; so yes ‘hard work’ was still the mantra. But along with that, there was another factor – the facilities and privileges you were provided. So now, your parents were okay to spend more to send you to a better school, and did not baulk before getting you your first bike in college. You had the option of working in a high-paying job in the booming Indian IT industry, which your parents did not. The onsite opportunities meant you could experience life abroad without going through the student route.

Your life choices were dictated by technological disruptions and forces of globalization. This was the era (late 90s) when India really saw the benefits for technology. For the first time, people started owning mobile phones and PCs. For a large part of your life, you have seen a mobile phone; so you don’t really remember a time without it. But you surely don’t miss the Indian Postal Service or the landline phone.

<>b>After Google: Born After 2000

Simply put, you did not know the world before Google. You parents were definitely traditionalists who witnessed the post-liberalization and post-globalization boom. They realized that what worked for them is not going to work in this world. But they don’t know what is going to work – so they have pretty much given up even trying to guess!

You need ‘instant gratification’ and cannot imagine waiting for anything to be delivered. ‘Same day delivery’ was practically invented to cater to you. It is super hard to impress you, as you constantly ask if there is an ‘app’ for it because the mobile is your world.

You probably will not get into engineering if your heart is not in it. From social media to UI/UX design, your interests are all over the place. You yourself are sometimes unsure of what you want. You know that you will be working in a position that is probably not even ‘invented’ today! Who would have thought that ‘data analyst’ would be a hot job even 10 years ago?!

However, you also have a problem; with all these notification buttons craving for your attention, you find it hard to focus. Sure, you want everything online and everything now; but you also enjoy sitting with friends in a coffee shop, cracking jokes and checking your phone. Yes – you cannot really try to go cold turkey on Whatsapp, can you?

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