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Understanding the Indian young consumer: by G. C. Mathur, Binty

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  • karmayog.org
    17.10.2013. This is a printable version of the lecture Shri G. C. Mathur gave at the “1st Stakeholder’s Dialogue: Empowering Young
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26 7:16 PM
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      This is a printable version of the lecture Shri G. C. Mathur <gcmbinty@...gave at the “1st Stakeholder’s Dialogue: Empowering Young Indian Consumers, organised by GIZ, a German social welfare organisation working in India under some agreement with the government of India in the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The programme was held at New Delhi on October 15, 2013.
                  The brief was, “Understanding the Indian young consumer:” Who are the Indian youth? (a brief description of their diverse demographic profile and their differing needs and problems) What do they consume and what are the challenges they face as consumers? How are consumer organizations promoting their involvement in consumer protection?

      Dear Friends,
      I thank GIZ for organising this programme and for inviting me to speak appreciating my concern for consumers and as the one who looks at the Indian youth as future activists who could, and I call upon them from this platform, to replace the aging ones like me in the movement.
      Dear friends, I am not an orator like any academician or public speaker, but it is my commitment to the cause I am going to speak for, vis-a-vis the youth as consumers, from the core of my heart, with thirty years in consumer protection at my back.
      The youth is one who is still in early stage of learning life competing for space on the world stage. A youth is as much a consumer as any who purchases goods and services against certain consideration. As you know, consumers constitute the largest constituency of electorates irrespective of gender, caste, economic status, religion, region etc. and you can imagine the power the youth among consumers carry.
      As you all know, the youth represents diverse cultures, languages, religions, regions, economic status and economic needs – ranging from basic food to visiting discos. They have different tastes, values, circumstances, and environment that influence the attitude as consumers as also the consumption pattern. Well friends, I am not competent to define what the youth consumes. But what is common in this diversity is disconnect among the youth as also in relation to the politicos and business community. 
      When there is a stress on ‘youth’ here, I say they hardly understand the dealings in a market place as they are mostly carried away by the peer pressure though at 18 years of age they are legally major to cast votes and at age 25 they are ready to fight elections but, yet, not understanding the dynamics of politics in the governance of the democracy. These ages is only an instinct for the thrill to enjoy life at the cost of their parents, or, are equally worrisome to earn bread for the family. The youth constitute literates and illiterates who are quite confused when dealing with a market situation or the grievance redressal.
      So, we need considering how to train youth to present a mature reaction when in the market, have verve to lead, understand market concept, appreciate value for money, and know what the negotiation of a transaction means though, I believe, that all this come along with the responsibilities the age confers.
      Another concern with the youth, I observe, is that they hardly use reasoning when stepping up for any civic or civil action because they are carried away by attractive sloganeering and peer following, without pondering over the overall attitude within the government, politicians, and the citizens at large
      This is my understanding of the demographic profile of the Indian youth.
      Remember, consumers (the youth here) are on the one side and the business/trade  on the other side of the sales counter and that there is no meeting point being opposite and parallel to each other. The meeting point exists on the other two sides of the counter to enter into a dialogue with providers of goods and services for seeking fair business practices.
      Along with the two, politicos and the business community, there is another community known as bureaucrats who have to be involved in the dialogue while sitting on the other two sides of the sales counter. This community of bureaucrats who purport to be the custodians of the policies and procedural matters, which are different at Panchayat, Block, District, States and Central levels, with whom the youth has to deal in the course of any dialogue, cannot be avoided. They are the people that are no less difficult a lot to be manoeuvred being facilitators. I do not know whether the bureaucrats could be taken as one of the stakeholders, but are definitely an important link between the seller and the purchaser and must be given due position with respect.
      For creating a connect, the youth among consumers need creating a platform with leadership, moral with courage to rise and face the challenges with honesty, fairness and justice, where they could get the knowledge and professional competence in consumer protection, and learn how to conduct themselves and behave in the consumers’ society besides being loyal. They need to understand the meanings of the call, Jago Grahak Jago.
      But when it comes to defining the challenges, I would like to say from my personal experience, some of these are:
      1.       Understanding Market Imperfections and Consumer Issues;
      2.       Understanding application of Taxes on Sales to consumers, including pre and post VAT regime;
      3.       Strengthening of Consumer Protection Councils, provided in CPA, at District, State and Central levels as these are the ‘Parliament/Assemblies/Municipal Councils of Consumers’ where they can discuss and take decisions on the issues concerning consumers e.g. refund of unclaimed and un-refunded consumers’ money; industrial, commercial and financial policies and procedures that affect consumers; shortcomings in grievance redressal mechanism provided in the CPA; amendments needed in the CPA; undertaking various studies needed to protect consumers’ interests; so on and so forth;
      4.       Mobilising the youth to present a united front to get justice inside and outside the judicature; And,
      5.       Having a federation of consumers and consumer organisations, that is free from business and political influences, who could speak for consumers.
      Moving on to how consumer organizations are promoting their involvement in consumer protection, please, be informed that they are variedly involved with the consumers including youth especially when they are still in the academic stream, before stepping on to any professional occupation. One of the most important means initiated by Binty is via the Consumer Clubs in the academic institutions where youth along with their teachers meet to talk about consumer protection related issues in a playful and informal manner launched on 24th December, 2003, as a component of the National Action Plan of the GoI Ministry of Consumer affairs, Department of Consumer Affairs, CWF Scheme, pioneered with schools of Delhi. This is face to face information communication methodology where seminars, workshops, debates, street plays, etc. are the norms.
      Some organisations do use Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, like, flyers, folders, etc. while some do it via the organisational website. Some VCOs like Binty do use All India Radio, IGNOU Gyan Vani, DD Televisions phone–in and vartalaps programmes. I have as yet not seen any VCO using Information Educational & Communication Technologies, which include radio and television as well as digital technologies such as computers and the internet – intra and internet linkages – that have universally proved very powerful tools for change of consumers’ perception of the market behaviour in the present day of digital knowledge apps ―Learning to Lear  i.e. the acquisition of knowledge and skills that make possible continuous learning over the lifetime, as the illiterate of the 21st century, according to futurist Alvin Toffler, will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn & relearn concerns over educational relevance and quality co-existing with information and communication technologies (ICTs). We need Information and Communication Technology application in Education as a curriculum for consumer clubs programmes of teachers and students which needs to be pushed.
      G C Mathur
      Convenor-Trustee Treasurer, Binty
      ( A Voluntary Consumer Organisation)
      Regd. Office: H No 9-B/9, 1st Floor
      Kishangarh, Vasant Kunj Post Office,
      New Delhi: 110070
      Tel: +91 11 26136232, 26132420
      Email: gcmbinty@...

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