A cool breeze from the majestic Hudson River was blowing gently into the balcony of our West Village, Manhattan apartment. Mara, my friend from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, who is very bright and full of curiosity, was visiting me. I had just returned from India after having spent many weeks with my software engineers, who were developing apps. Mara and I were sipping a cup of piping hot tea while she barraged me with questions about my trip to Pune. In my living room, all three of my visiting grandchildren either read books or used computers while lying on the living room carpet. The youngest, a five-year-old, was engrossed in watching and drawing dinosaurs from a series of dinosaur cartoons on my computer. He loves almost all the dinosaurs. He knows all their names and how to spell them.
Mara asked about the people in India. I told her I really didn’t feel qualified to talk about people at large from India. India is a huge country and has a variety in every respect you can’t imagine. I can provide some statistics about some social issues. She asked if she wants to rent a car after arriving in India, how would that work? My answer was, for God’s sake don’t drive in India. Anyone who can drive in India can drive blindfolded almost anywhere in the world.
You can see that India has a huge population the minute you step out of the aeroplane.
You don’t need to know all the statistics. People are everywhere. No matter where you go, every single place is crowded. The streets are crowded with cars, two-wheelers, and any other vehicle that can take you from one place to other, including a few camels, horses, and elephants, depending on where you are. With all the crowded and confusing traffic at any hour of the day or night, you might expect to see many casualties from traffic accidents. But you don’t. To grasp the miracle of how few people are killed, you have to compare in amazement and disbelief of the percentages of all types of transportation on the street, the upkeep of vehicles, and the condition (or decay) of the streets.
I used to ride a bicycle in Pune while I was in college and at the University. By the way, I was one of the very few girls you could count on tips of your fingers almost fifty years ago on the streets of Pune riding a bike. I don’t even dare to cross any street in Pune now – let alone ride a bike – now that I have lived in Europe and the US – and on top of it, the Pune traffic has grown unbelievably many times more. Mara came back with another volley. “How big is India’s population? And how big is the middle class? Isn’t it the middle class, the consumers, who keep the economy of the country aloft? Almost everywhere?”
In order for her to realize how big India’s population is as compared to other countries so that she could relate to it, I returned her volley with statistics of populations of other countries, such as Germany, Japan, Russia, USA, and China as compared to India. I said to Mara, according to the census records of 2016 India’s population was 1.324 billion. About 25% is middle class, which amounts to 331 million people. That means the middle class alone in India is slightly bigger than the US population and is a bit less than the combined populations of Germany, Japan and Russia.
Mara only exclaimed “Wow – that is BIG – unbelievable”.
I came back with my pet peeve, Big Data. I answered that the same BIG middle class is creating BIG data too. The middle class includes the people who buy homes, cars, motorbikes, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, mobile phones, toasters and other utensils, furniture, clothes, medications, food, and everything in between. The majority of them use the Internet. In the majority of the middle-class households, both husband and wife are gainfully employed out of the homes. As a result, they don’t have much time to do shopping in stores. Some of these people buy in brick and mortar stores only what absolutely has to be bought by “touch and feel.”
Their online shopping is growing by leaps and bounds at the cost of shopping in brick and mortar stores. The middle class on four wheels of consumerism of almost any society of the world gets you from point A to point B of the vehicle called commerce. Mara, the ever-curious person asked, “Are they buying stuff online just like we are buying in New York City?” My rebuttal was “Of course they are. Take a look at some of the retail websites that are busy selling stuff online in India:
“A newcomer to this scene of online shopping, who I believe is going to gobble up every other retailer in India, is Amazon. Two big factors that are in Amazon’s favour are that they take cash (so do some others) because, in India, cash is queen. But returning merchandise to Amazon is much easier and not expensive.” My grandson was always on the computer with his dinosaurs, getting very excited by the fights of these monsters. But when he heard the word Amazon, he had to pipe in calling:
“Aji (Grandma) – I was never in mommy’s tummy. She ordered me online on Amazon”.
Mr Bezos “Are you listening? You are growing your consumers from the age of five onwards – or even earlier than the age of five. Did you know that?” I am sure you are going to say “Well that is my plan”.
Shaku lives with her husband on almost three subcontinents (New York City – Blue, Santa Cruz- Blue and Pune- India)
East of the US – Blue: The West Village of Manhattan, New York, the east coast of the US, almost a subcontinent.
Middle of the US – Red: Heartland of the US. West of the US – Blue: Santa Cruz, California, the west coast of the US, almost a subcontinent. Pune, Maharashtra.
One of the states and almost a subcontinent of India: Blue, partly red, and partly confused based on the statement
“Whatever you say about India is true and also the opposite”