With the opening up of the economy circa 1991, I have been privileged to be a part of a generation that has seen many firsts!
During the first Gulf War, we were privileged to see CNN for the first time and what a boom it led to! Today we in India have so many channels – though when you really sit down to watch some TV, you don’t see anything interesting, but at least we have the choice!
Cars – I remember the time we Indians only had the Ambassador, the Premier Padmini and Maruti! Today – Bentleys sell in India! The Japanese and Koreans auto makes are vying with each other to make inroads in the market. We have BMW and Audi showrooms in our cities. You would be surprised to see quite a few Ferraris and Porsches on pot-holed Indian roads!
Shops – There was barely any choice in India – Now with the retail sector opening up – We will soon see the Walmarts, the Carrefours and the Tescos of the world trying to tempt the great Indian middle class.
What drove this great Indian Middle class revolution?
Opening the Economy and the IT and the BPO/ITeS boom
Once the economy opened up, it was just a matter of time that corporates across the world began to discover the college educated English speaking droves that passed out our colleges every year!
Thanks to the Y2K issue – the IT boom really hit India – So many Indians were recruited in India and flown to the US to help Americans get ready for the doomsday scenario that never really materialized! That was when the floodgates opened with the BPO boom – What the IT boom did to Engineers in India, BPO did that to the rest of the country! BAs (Bachelors of Arts) who had no scope of jobs earlier – suddenly woke up to jobs that were paying Rs. 8000 ($ 177) – Rs. 10000 ($ 222)! So suddenly every kid who passed out of college had money to spend! MNCs woke up to this disposable income and started to vigorously target these kids with products never before seen in India!
Impact on family life
What impact did all this money have on Indian family life? Children started earning salaries that their parents barely heard of! Children began to move away from parents, workplace romances began to bloom because of the weird hours these people began to put in (Call Centers actually work American or European timings, which is night time in India). Kids suddenly had credit cards at their disposal and started splurging without either understanding the impact of the usage of the cards or the payment schedule! Debts of each household began to increase!
Impact on marriages
At around the same time, workplace romances began to bloom, a lot of people got married to their colleagues. This increasingly led to marriages on the rocks because of the pressures of the job, bad timings, and last but certainly not the least, competition with the spouse at work, which spilled over at home! Marriage counselors suddenly are in huge demand in a country where a divorce is still looked down upon! Offices began to employ counselors where employees can go and get things resolved!
Materialism has now become all pervasive and to satiate the urge of shopping, both spouses started working, started to delay having children – even led to an acronym (DINKS – Double Income No Kids)! A lot of couples started working American timings or one of the pair worked in the complete opposite shift – it was as if one of the couple was in India and the other in the US! With both the spouses working, children are increasingly being taken care by either parents or nannies! This is leading to the parents having to spoil children by giving them stuff, to satisfy the guilt of not having the time to spend with their own children, makes me question the whole concept of having children!
What disposable income?
While salaries went up, most of these people don’t realize that the effective disposable income remained the same because they are paying for the child's needs, the child’s education, mortgage on the house, the car and then their whole lifestyle, what they earn is already accounted for! By the time the 20th of a month arrives, the couple begins to tighten their belts, and wait for the salary to get credited into their account and the vicious circle continues…
Chimera: Work - Life Balance
I am 30 now and if I want to retire by the time I am 45, I conservatively estimate that I will need to have a nest egg of, at the very least, Rs. 3-5 crores ($666,666 - $1,111,111) for me to continue to have the lifestyle that I would have gotten used to by the time I am 45! A salaried person or couple will never make that kind of money in India – They will need to supplement the salaries with an additional source of income that is far more lucrative than a job! My parents will, in all probability, pop a few blood vessels when they read this!
So I have given up the thought of work-life balance – I want too many things in life for me to stop now!