The key trends that define India today are being formed in the chai tapri's (tea stalls) of Ludhiana and not in the pubs of South Mumbai, according to a recent study, 'The Bunty Syndrome' by advertising agency Euro RSCG.
- report in Business Standard
Yes, there is a lot of energy and desire to consume in tier 2 and 3 towns. And that is something relatively new for India.
But to recognise the rise of small town India as a 'trend' is one thing. To stretch that point into small town India is a 'trendsetter' (as BS declared in its headline) is quite another. It's not clear whether that's a leap the sub editor has made, or whether the Euro study has actually used the term in its report.
A trend is defined as a 'general direction in which something tends to move'. Or a 'current style'.
A trendsetter, on the other hand, is 'somebody or something starting trend: somebody or something that starts or popularizes a new trend or fashion'.
And I don't think new trends are being started in small towns. They may be ready to jump up and embrace trends but the action originates elsewhere.
Take Ludhiana. Till very recently there was not a single decent theatre in that town, let alone a multiplex. The happening folks of Ludhiana did all their shopping in Delhi. If they felt like visiting a classy restaurant, the closest option was Chandigarh.
(How do I know? I visit Ludhiana every year. That's where my husband's side of the family is from :)
Sure, they have this thing for Mercedes S Class (as the Euro study notes: Eighty out of every 100 Mercedes S Class sold in India are sold in Ludhiana). But that's because it's a really wannabe city.
The equivalent of the exporter in Ludhiana who buys a Mercedes S class may be a Mumbai yuppie who's happy with a Honda Accord. It's like Lokhandwala/ Juhu new money vs South Bombay old money or investment banker profile. The former is intensely attracted to brands which shout "You have arrived".
The Ludhiana guy will always look up to Mumbai, Delhi, London and New York. Large cities which allow individuals freedom to think differently and experiment with their lives are the cauldron which produce 'trendsetters'.
And that's why Buntys and Bablis will continue head there. Despite bade shehron ki dukaan aur aisho aaraam heading to their doorstep!