Posts Tagged ‘shift’

Upward Mobility is Changing Base of the Pyramid Consumer Aspirations

I’d observed earlier that upward mobility wasn’t simply about increasing incomes, but also a change in mindset, world view and values. Aspirational consumer behaviour trickles downward faster, as strivers seek to emulate the status signals sent by those they perceive as “arrived”.

The emerging middle class numbers may indeed be uncertain, as statisticians debate over the inclusion of the ‘floating class’ but regardless of their actual income (which in any case may be volatile, particularly if they’re part of the informal sector of the economy) people’s habits are certainly shifting towards more ‘middle class’ choices.

Kenyan news reveals some interesting trends. More people are using clean energy such as LPG for cooking, in the ‘slums’, than before.

In Mathare slum a few kilometers away, that residents are warming up to cooking gas is evident in the number of shops selling the commodity on the periphery of the informal settlement.

Prices for cooking gas are the lowest they’ve been since 2012, putting the smallest available size – 6kg- within reach of far more than before. LPG is an aspiration for both urban and rural cooks. A farmer’s wife in rural Makueni in eastern Kenya told me about her ambitions to cook with gas even though she was making do with firewood from the farm.

Even more interesting is this report on what the author calls the “reject economy” – the sale of seconds and damaged products. Its not so much that there’s an after market for these seconds, but the reasons for their brisk sale. Here are some selected insights from that fascinating article.

Well, the economy in Kenya’s informal sector has its own rules and the about 22 million people straddling the poverty line are masters at navigating it.

For instance, Ogola buys eggs with cracks or other tiny imperfections — known colloquially as vunjika — at Sh5 each; whole eggs retail at between Sh12 and Sh15 in middle-income neighbourhoods.

Korogocho, like many other slums in Nairobi, is also awash with charred or misshapen loaves of bread, which retail at Sh30 instead of the market price of Sh50.

“The people in the village buy these products because they are cheaper and they cannot afford mainstream prices. They buy them because, just like other people, they would like to watch the news and have the family gather around the TV,” says Ngala.

The article goes on to quote some salaried professionals offering expert advice to the poor to be cautious about these rejected or secondhand products but I suspect that those with less income have no false impressions about their challenges in life.

“We also deserve the good life just like other people, or what do you think” Ogola asks with a smile.

As the article ends, just because someone may not have 50 shillings for a loaf of fancy bread doesn’t mean he doesn’t wish to have bread with his tea in the morning.

Without something to aspire towards, we would stagnate in our current circumstances, fatalistically accepting our status in life.

Influence of global communications among the BoP audience

Recently, this call for action by Infodev was shared with me and I was pleased to notice that they’ve referenced one of my former projects – the Finnish BoP project funded by TEKES and conducted by Aalto University.  Now that was a challenging one to wrestle down into some kind of viable action plan but that’s a topic for another post. Here, I was reminded of the lens through which we finally decided to observe and understand the BoP consumer’s mindset for the Mass Communication section of the four continent study.

I remember struggling through this vast topic in a series of brainstorming sessions with our Project Manager, Arno Kourula (who was to travel with me to our first location in Kanpur, India). Which aspect of mass communications would be the most valuable to look at more closely? Since our first location was India, we finally decided that (in 2009) the greatest value would be to look at the impact or influence of the advent of global mass comm that had flooded the Indian market in the previous 20 years rather than simply looking at what was, out of context of history.

How had perceptions and mindsets changed due to the proliferation of information and easy access, particularly among the lower income demographic?

Chotu's shop, Delhi, India

One voice I still recall very clearly, though its been two years since we traveled and talked. Chotu is a paanwallah – he runs an open air kiosk at the corner of a busy neighbourhood market in urban Delhi and is family man with three sons in a private English language school. He himself has not completed his 10th standard nor did he ever study in English. I’d asked him what was the biggest change, in his opinion, for the aam admi (a euphemism in India that usually covers the majority of the BoP and politer to use in context than gharib or ‘the poor’) and his answer has stayed with me.

It was an empowering sense of having a voice that could now be heard.

Recall if you will that in India, as in much of the unevenly developed world, there is a vast disparity in income and lifestyle exacerbated by historic hierarchies. The common man tended not to get heard, if seen at all and certainly not when some injustice like a roadside hit and run took place and the perpetrator could drop names or spread wealth in order to escape.

Chotu said that now all this had changed. There were numerous TV channels blaring news 24 hours a day and they were ready to show up and shine the spotlight if a call was placed (with a mobile phone).  They were there when major accidents took place and counting the dead – gone were the days that the Government could get away with miscounts (due to the cash renumerations paid out to victims or the families) and everything could be brought out in the open rather than being hushed up.

Cable TV and the mobile phone had offered a way to empowerment. Had in fact given a voice to the voiceless. This was the biggest impact, in his opinion, of the changes that had taken place regarding the flow of information in the past couple of decades.

R.K. Laxman's Common Man or Aam Admi

Giving him a voice at last.