June 10, 2012 by Dan Swinhoe
The future belongs to Generation Y. Known as the ‘generation born with a chip‘ they [including this writer] are coming of age and becoming a global force. In the next few years the earliest members of Gen Y will be the majority of the workforce and how they work and interact will, and has already started to, change how businesses function and the world communicates.
India’s next generation
More than half of India’s population is under 25, and around 65% younger than 35. While the majority of the population still reside in rural areas, city populations have risen. Exploring how India’s youth live and work is essential in trying to understand the country’s future.
Definitions of Generation Y are more blurred than that of Generation X or the Baby Boomers, but generally are classed as those born between 1982 and circa 2000 (discussion between academics about Generation Z/AO are still raging and even harder to define). Dates may be fuzzy, but the details are crystal clear. Mass ownership of digital devices, including computers, laptops, phones and music players are common, usually in combination. Internet use is ubiquitous, and often email, texting and social media are the main forms of communication. And apparently they also talk to their mums more than their parents do . How sweet. On the flip side this generation is also known to switch jobs due to inflated expectations, and often suffer from an over-reliance on search engines and shorter attention spans due to the internet’s instant gratification.
A study from Tata Consultancy Services looks at India’s Gen Y and their relationship with digital devices and social media. Surveying over 12,000 students aged 12-18 from 12 cities; the study found the younger generation is more connected and mobile than ever. When compared to a similar 2009 study the company conducted the results underlines the general consensus that Asia is a region of growth.
Laptop ownership has almost doubled, while home computer numbers have remained level. Games consoles have also seen a dramatic rise. Using these devices online is the norm as internet access at home has shot up from 58% in 2009 to 84% today. 70% of Gen Y own mobiles, with around 40% using their device to access the internet (Up from 12% in 2009). Clearly smartphones have made major inroads in recent years, and those figures are almost guaranteed to rise in the next couple of years. Voice calls are still a common way to communicate, but texting is also popular, more so in the Metros.
Social media is massive, 85% of Gen Y use Facebook (which has exploded from around 15% in 2009), while 44% use Orkut and around 30% are on Twitter. How people use them differs however; nearly 38% in Metros use social media the most for communication while that figure is halved in the Mini Metros. Email is far more popular in the Mini Metros, with 55% using it the most. While connectivity may be different, it’s clear talking over the phone may be under threat from alternative forms.
Being the hardworking bunch that they are, research for school is the most cited reason for accessing the internet (73%), while chatting (67%) follows as the second most common reason. Access to music (50%) is third while email is fourth (44%). This reinforces the general view that the internet has created a generation unable to use or understand libraries, and often over rely on search engines to quick-source their information. But at least they are studying right?
Out with the old, in with the new
How this generation interacts with information is changing too. Only 1% said that television was their favorite device. Whether this was due to the passive nature of TV they preferred streaming and watching on the go isn’t clear, but perhaps this is the beginning of the end TV’s reign.
Tablets are also set for a major boom. While there were only 390,000 sold last year (worldwide sales reached 65 million) in the next five years that number is expected to hit 9.6 million. Tablets have made more of an impact in the bigger cities (Metros) and a recent study shows that Indians are more willing to splash out on the bigger brands than opt for cheap and cheerful. The publishers of the report put this down to a desire for greater functionality, saying that the predicting “An enhanced user experience, seamless connectivity options, and localized content will drive the media tablet market growth.”
Looking to the future
An interesting point to note is how a career in IT is the most favored by Gen Y. Both the 2009 and the new study showed that IT was a popular choice, but it has shot up in popularity, overtaking engineering. This could mean a mass influx of workers in the sector in a few years, and for companies and the industry as a whole it may be worth addressing where there are skills shortages and directing this enthusiasm towards filling those holes.
These studies reinforce the trends of Generation Y across the globe. The young are mobile, completely connected and constantly communicating with each other. They interact with each other and the information presented to them. Explaining the implications of the study, TCS’s CEO, N Chandrasekaran, said, “As significant employers of India’s talented youth, we need to understand how to leverage these social trends to create engaging careers for tomorrow’s professionals.” How big IT stacks will get, or what the long lasting impact will be on industries and how people work are yet to be seen. But it’s clear that passively sitting is no longer an option.