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Anjana Nayar, 42, a freelancer in Kerala’s movie industry, took a solo trip to Delhi last year for three days. She needed some ‘me time’ away from everyone including her two children aged 1 and 5. This year, she took a longer break and travelled to Bhutan for 12 days. Nayar’s decision to take off without her husband and children met with a range of reactions. Some called her selfish. Some were disbelieving—how can you leave such young children behind? Some admired her—How did you manage? We want to do this too.

Nayar’s behaviour is unusual for many reasons. Nayar is not a millennial (defined roughly as those born between early 1980s and the early 2000). People of her generation are not known to put self before family. It is the millennials that have been called out for their self-focused or individualistic nature.

They are demanding, assertive and known to save less and spend more—think fashion, travel, food, fitness, beauty and grooming. They are constantly seeking new experiences, instant gratification and approvals—think selfies, social media and rise of the experience economy—Uber, Ola and Airbnb. It is the generation Me. One of the most vilified and analysed generations. There are roughly about two billion of them globally, of which 400 million are in India alone (mgstn.ly/2tq5tDq), a large demographic influencing and shaping market trends and our economies.

But that’s not all. They are also influencing non-millennials—people younger and older to them (bit.ly/2sexvSU) who are picking up their tricks and traits. The millennial mindset is contagious. They are usually the first point of contact—the early adopters and influencers. From them the trends quickly expand to a broader audience—their peers, friends and families, most of whom are on Instagram and Facebook.

Some of Nayar’s besties are single and unmarried women who are younger than her. She planned her Bhutan trip with two such women aged 29 and 32. Nayar likes to describe these women as having the same mindset as her. Nayar’s behaviour, when looked through the millennial lens, is somewhat understandable.

Today, age is no bar. When people say 50 is the new 30 and 40 the new 20, there is some truth to it. It reflects an attitude. This can be seen in fashion. “People keeping asking me, ‘What’s your TG (target group)?’, but I say that time has gone. My father and brother wear the same things—my dad is 60 and my brother is 24," Rhea Kapoor told Mint (bit.ly/2qy5ve0) in an interview earlier this month during the launch of a new collection for her brand Rheson.

Across markets, traditional markers like age, geography and even classifications according to lifestyle and income are becoming less relevant. With mobile penetration and data connectivity, there is not much difference in the aspirations of the rural and the urban consumer. Or, for that matter, an Indian and his global counterpart. In fact global brands like Heineken, with its ‘Open Your World’ campaign, has a homogeneous, global advertising strategy because aspirations are now similar worldwide.

Building brands no longer requires deep pockets or huge budgets for distribution and advertising on print and television mediums. Start-ups incubated in the digital world have made quick inroads with a tech-savvy generation interested in asserting its own unique way of self-expression. As a consequence, some of the world’s largest and most loved consumer products companies like Unilever Plc, Procter and Gamble Co. and Nestle SA have lost more than 3% market share in five years since 2011 to start-ups (econ.st/29BioLu).

Till about 20-25 years ago, going out for a drink socially even in India’s large metros like Mumbai would be frowned upon. Alcohol consumption is considered a vice in India. But that’s fast changing. Today it’s not unusual to see a father and son step out together for a drink. Increasingly, married and single women go out together on girls’ night out and likewise for men, it’s boys’ night out. These outings are not about being married or single, young or middle aged. It’s about reclaiming individuality.

“The generation gap is being bridged. The trends are getting mixed and merged," says Ryan Tham, director, Pebble Street Hospitality, who has a pulse on Mumbai’s social nightlife with outposts like Koko, a gastro pub and Trilogy, a nightclub. Being a millennial is no longer just about the millennials but also about people who have the millennial mindset.

Shop Talk will take a weekly look at consumer trends, behaviour and insights.

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