MILLENNIALS RISING

BY VIVEK MENEZES

Millennials in India are the largest single generation ever produced by any country in the history of the world. There are upwards of 450 million of them (there are somewhat varying ways to tabulate exactly who fits in this demographic category), already exerting an overwhelming social, cultural and economic impact on the nation and planet beyond.

Together, these young Indians comprise around a third of the overall population, but over half its workers, who combine to contribute an astonishing 70% of total household income. All this signifies huge change for every aspect of society, as decisive power shifts inexorably younger.

Take a long look around this 49th edition of the International Film Festival of India, and the ongoing social revolution is writ large in plain view. At the time of writing this column on 21st November, well over 50% of registered delegates were in the narrow age group between 18 and 36. In many crucial ways they constitute by far the most important jury, with much more far-reaching impact than their enshrined celebrity seniors. Wherever they swing, social media and big money will follow immediately. To the extent the 21st century media landscape is unrecognizable from what existed just a decade earlier, it is entirely due to the millennial impact.

Who are these wildly influential youth? According to Wikipedia – their own favourite reference source – “Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, are the generational demographic cohort following Generation X [those born in the 1960s-80s] and preceding Generation Z [born in the 21st century]. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years…the generation has been generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.”

For those who make their lives the cinema ecosystem, two glaring facts about Indian millennials stand out above all. The first is their rapid convergence with peers across the planet. Where previous generations existed in something like mildly globalized isolation, these young lives are dramatically different. Besides connectivity, ccording to the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs, the national per capita income has risen an impressive 522% since 1990 (from $1,134 to $7,055) and is expected to keep ticking upward for many years as “the fastest growing economy in the world”. This means unprecedented participation in the international marketplace, with huge spill-over effects in every sector.

The other salient attribute is the millennial affinity for multi-screen existence. By all accounts, 2020 will formally mark the prodigious transformation already underway, as India will become the youngest country in the world, with its billion-plus population featuring an average age of 29, and – statistically speaking – smartphone penetration will reach effectively 100% of the millennial generation. This almost unimaginable scenario is right around the corner, with an impact that cannot be accurately predicted. But marketers are racing to catch up – over the past five years, digital advertising in India has soared over 30% compounded annually, with even higher growth expected in the immediate future.

If history has taught us anything, it is that young people are changeable, and things become different with the onset of adulthood. That will surely prove true with the millennials as well. This vast cohort of youth used to be regularly castigated for being fickle, anti-establishment, entitled and lazy. But as they grow older more salient values are emerging: idealism, industriousness, tolerance, community-mindedness. It is their overpowering support for LGBT rights that has toppled legal discrimination around the world.

Millennial distaste has killed entire industries. They don’t like diamonds, so high-end jewellery receipts are plummeting worldwide. Because they prefer to rent everything, home-ownership and car sales are taking a dive. But as the IFFI 2018 turn-out indicates, this empowered generation of young people still loves the movies, except they might turn out to consume them in different ways than their parents and grandparents are used to.

Disclosure: Team Peacock is almost all millennials -nearly 80% – but The Perch is written by a member of Generation X.

Nishant Saldanha is an animator and comics artist. You can see his work at instagram.com/nishantsaldanha

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