Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ethnographic research in North India

Our ethnographic research took us to Siyana a small town located at 3.5 hours from Nizamuddin railway station. We were staying at my friend’s place whose parents live there. From the roof top of the house we could see the green belt that delimitates the town.

Most of the people in Siyana have small businesses; one of the main businesses was agriculture. Electricity comes few hours a day only. People who have better standard of living can afford to have invertor or generator to keep the machines and fans running. Of course, no one uses air conditioner as that would be too expensive. We had a walk around when we reached the town. We were not accompanied with any local fellow. People were looking very strangely at us since they understood we are not from the town. One person came and asked us where we are from? As we started speaking with him more people joined with 1000 of questions. We had to run away as our presence was generating traffic jam in the market. Still we had a nice visit and enjoyed interacting with the local population.

We started with our research the first day itself. The family who received us were very helpful in introducing us to people around. Being in a small town it was easy to reach a large diversity of profiles from business people to employees, teachers, workers, farmers, etc. In Siyana, people hardly get opportunities to speak with outsiders. So, they were very much interested to speak and know about us. Many a times it happened that youth guys came up to asked me to speak about my country. This made our work pleasant but longer since we had to establish trust and build relationship with people before starting any interview or field observation.

The first interview we did was in a small village around Siyana that caught the interest of everyone. Ayan the person we interviewed was comfortable in speaking in front of everyone. This type of interview shared with the community had an advantage.
It helped us in understanding the difference between individual motivations and what is commonly accepted by the group. More than anyone else, villagers need to justify their behaviour to the community they belong to. Ayan considered himself as a rich person since he worked for a corporate company for a couple of years. He explained to his community the social necessity of having a fashionable lifestyle working at ICICI Bank.

Villagers were explaining us the interest and necessity of having multiple sources of income in the family. Ayan cannot think of closing his business even if he gets a permanent job at ICICI Bank. “Job is a short term solution; you never know how long the company is going to run”.
Villagers have 4 to 5 regular businesses they pass on to each other as time and opportunities come. Basically, more you go at the bottom of the pyramid more the source of income is diversified. Since many people have lost their faith in the corporate world the small business thinking gains the interest of the overall population.

Middle class behaviour is quiet predictable in towns and villages. Being at the edge between modernity and tradition, middle class are pushed in developing strong ideas about what is good and what is bad. Mostly, they are well informed and leave less space to subjectivity.

At one evening we had the great pleasure to attending a party given for a new born baby. There was nothing traditional but Bollywood music, food and drinks… we all had great fun. Coming back home was an adventure since there was no light anywhere. We had to walk in queue behind uncle’s torchlight till we reached home.

After interviewing 34 people in towns and villages we went to Ghaziabad, New Delhi and Gurgaon. My wife Melina felt in love with Gurgaon shopping malls. The most happening place she found in India so far.

In towns and villages people’s lifestyle evolutes in a linear way. It is always a kind of compromise between tradition and modernity and the whole family follows a similar pattern with different level of understanding.

But in New Delhi people follow a pattern that is much more based on their individual life experience. People’s lifestyle is the fruit of a long process of individual liberation where personal reflection matters a lot.

“I have reached this level of thinking because of…”
“I had to change something about myself and I did it…”
“Knowledge is painful you can never stop rethinking the world around of you”

People have no fear in experimenting themselves to access to a better way of being. This long process for discovering the “Who am I?” is very much influential on their way of living.

Kovent’s North India consumer trends will speak about how the “Who am I?” attitude influences consumption pattern in North India. What are the keys factors to implement innovation and respond to consumer’s aspirations? Innovation always question consumers; our next report will provide you the right question for the right user group.

Family continues to occupy a central role in people’s pre-occupation. But, there also we found new behaviours in all layers of the society. We used a set of pictures representing Bollywood actors and actresses in different roles and personality. It is interesting to see how people reinterpret family values in today’s society. How they project their role model from the past to the future.

Our North India trip was a wonderful experience. We interviewed 83 peoples with 62 hours of recorded interview. There is a report available on

1 comment:

muthu said...

Thanks for ICICI Bank Job postion information. aganin thanks for regular updates....