Navigating Indian Gen Z: Balancing tech, tradition, and identity in a connected world

May 9, 2024 | Publications

Atharva Tulsi Idijyx Xipy Unsplash

A growing force

Generation Z, often referred to as Zoomers, succeeds Millennials and precedes Generation Alpha, encompassing individuals born roughly from the mid-to-late 1990s to the early 2010s. According to a recent article by Mint (Tandon, 2023), India boasts an estimated 116 million Generation Z consumers, with two out of every five urban Indian consumers aged between 15 and 55 falling into the Gen Z category. In comparison to developed nations, India has a higher proportion of Millennials and Gen Z individuals. According to Nasscom Report (2022) these younger generations made up 52% of India’s population, surpassing the global average of 47%.

Tech savvy with global awareness

The Indian Gen Z is a fascinating group to study, as they were born during a time of significant changes and technological advancements. With the rise of digitisation and social media, this generation has been exposed to unprecedented levels of information and entertainment. They have the ability to quickly embrace trends, staying constantly informed and entertained with just a swipe of their finger.

Born into this world of technology and convenience, they are overtly exposed, constantly stimulated, and incredibly well-informed. They navigate a landscape filled with glitzy lights and opportunities, where they aspire to own luxury brands that embody authenticity, integrity, and fun. When examining the Indian Gen Z, it’s important to recognise that they do not necessarily have the same privileges as their Western counterparts. Despite their affinity for luxury brands, these young individuals also value authenticity, integrity, and a sense of enjoyment in their pursuits.

Decoding the nuances

The popular pen-portrait of the typical Gen-Z (based on American data) may apply to some extent to the upper-class Indians living in large metropolitan cities. However, for tier 2 and tier 3 cities, there are unique differences in self-expression that may emerge.

Firstly, it is important to highlight the similarities that are relevant.

Gen Z demonstrates a pattern of “vertical defiance and horizontal conformity.” This means they often reject parental and societal constraints related to factors like caste, gender, and race, which contributes to their reputation for being more open-minded and divergent from the conventional norms.

As this generation is still in its early stages of development, they are actively shaping their identities and seeking acceptance from their peers, much like any young adult. This quest for acceptance is particularly crucial for them as they grapple with feelings of profound isolation more intensely than their predecessors. The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened their social situation, depriving them of valuable opportunities for social growth and experiential learning.

Embracing a connected world: Exploring the anxieties of Indian Generation Z

The internet has expanded the world significantly for the Indian Generation Z, enveloping their lives in layers of personal, economic, social, and existential ambiguity. The impacts of Covid-19, combined with concerns about climate change and experiences of personal and social isolation, have likely played a significant role in shaping this generation.

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Social media, therefore, serves as both a support system and a source of distress for them, helping them to connect with like-minded communities regardless of geographical boundaries, yet also raising the risk of excessive screen time. This heightened online presence can make them more sensitised to mental health challenges. Within their social circles, there is a greater acceptance towards discussing feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety.

Culture & tradition as anchors of certainty

Young people in tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India face important life decisions as they navigate the delicate balance between family expectations and personal aspirations. Unlike their Western counterparts, who often prioritise individualism and independence in shaping their identity, Gen Z individuals in smaller Indian cities remain rooted in traditional cultural values and customs. These values not only influence their self-perception but also provide a strong sense of stability and reassurance in the face of life’s uncertainties.

Their cultural values can be viewed as a double-sided sword. While they may sometimes conflict with individual desires and ambitions, these values also serve as a shield against the heightened confusion and uncertainty that often accompany their youth and the era in which they live. Gen Z individuals in India, deeply connected to these cultural and societal frameworks, find support in expressing themselves and navigating various aspects of their lives such as relationships, interactions with parents, personal and parental expectations regarding success.

Rather than manifesting their personal ambitions through their career paths, they prefer to explore safer avenues, such as hobbies and interests, to do so. In these pursuits, they opt to express themselves openly and authentically, free from the constraints of societal expectations.

Balancing individuality and cultural awareness: Brand strategies for today

The Indian Gen Z values authenticity and integrity in brands, placing importance on transparency and ethical standards. Alongside their desire for premium experiences, they also prioritise getting value for their money.

A deeper insight reveals that the typical Indian Gen Z maintains strong ties to traditional values and beliefs, especially when making important decisions like choosing a career. However, they also carve out outlets for self-expression through hobbies, interests, and casual interactions. This highlights the need for brands to recognise and reflect the delicate balance between tradition and individuality, showing empathy towards the challenges that Gen Z encounters while treading this fine line. Brands that grasp these subtleties are poised to connect more meaningfully with this demographic.

By incorporating traditional elements into their communication and products, brands can establish a sense of familiarity and connection with Gen Z. Respecting cultural boundaries while encouraging individual expression allows brands to create safe environments where Gen Z can freely express themselves and find their bearings.

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