In recent years, or perhaps not so recent years, there has been a heightened global interest in understanding the Indian – be it the consumer, the political animal or any other. This, of course, is no coincidence. It strongly correlates with India’s rise as a huge consumer market and a rising global power. But just as our own political parties have always known, the Indian can be as inscrutable as the Sphinx, and can defy typing of any kind.
For some years now, Nielsen, the television ratings experts, have been telling us the Indian consumer is the most confident, when compared with scores of other countries. The telling finding first emerged when most of the world was reeling under the Great Recession of 2008. Given the relatively low impact of the financial crisis on India, it helped us somewhat understand, and accept, the buoyant consumer mood. However, Nielsen surprised itself and many others when the Indian continued to remain an incorrigible optimist, ignoring the country’s own myriad problems, not least of all corruption.
Now Gallup, the global opinion poll specialists, has painted a completely different picture of the Indian.
Gallup’s composite Indian ranks a low 71st among 124 countries in “well-being.” This Indian believes he is “struggling” or “suffering.” What’s worse, he is a gloomy animal, even when compared with the Pakistani across the border. Gallup’s Pakistani is inexplicably a lot happier, ranked 40th in the survey, despite being engulfed by terror and war-like conditions.
So, which of the two is the real Indian? Nielsen’s eternal optimist or Gallup’s distressed Indian?
The contradictions are somewhat resolved when considering the demographies the two firms have targeted in the survey. Nielsen has focused its surveys on the urban, Internet-surfing, and consequentially, young Indian consumer. The results, then, are not as surprising as you might think, given the upbeat mood of the young urban Indian. Presumably, Gallup’s is a broader survey that assessed the mood of the older urban Indian as well as the rural populace. Besides one could argue that “consumer confidence” and actual “well-being” are different and it is no contradiction to be positive in one and negative in the other.
Still, what curiously defies explanation is this: What on earth makes the Pakistani happier than the Indian?