Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Millennials in small towns mimic big-city cohort

Aspirations on careers, looking good, keeping up with trends are getting similar

In its festival sale held between 10-15 October, e-commerce platform Amazon claimed it saw more than 80% of its customers come from small towns. Large appliances saw phenomenal sales with more than 50% coming from tier 2 towns and below. Even in fashion, 63% of the orders came from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Amazon delivered to customers in locations such as Malda (West Bengal), Angul (Odisha), Havelock (Andamans), Hapur (Uttar Pradesh), Tinsukia (Assam) and Dumka (Jharkhand).

Clearly, the millennial consumers in the tier 2 and 3 towns are mimicking those living in tier 1 cities as far as online shopping is concerned. Millennials refer to those born between 1981-1996 or those aged 22 -37 in 2018. According to Kishore Thota, director, customer experience and marketing at Amazon India, the age group between 25 years and 35 years is among their biggest customer cohorts. He says millennials in tier 2 towns have the same aspirations as those in metros. “We sell the same iPhone in the remotest part of India. We also sell high-priced beauty products in tier 2 and tier 3 towns. In cohort to cohort comparison, where affordability is not a concern, their purchases are similar," he says. He cites the example of the American sports apparel brand Under Armour—selling exclusively on Amazon—that did well not just in the metros but in smaller towns too. “Of course, the basket size in tier 3 towns may be slightly smaller," he adds.

The similarity between millennials in big and small towns does not end with online shopping. This cohort in tier 2 towns is also open to eating out. Especially, if he gets to experience the same pub and restaurant brands that are available in the metros. A recent report in Hindustan Times said that tier 2 cities are developing a taste for big-city dining. Restaurants and pubs from the metros are now opening branches in tier 2 towns—so there’s a Farzi Café in Chandigarh, The Flying Saucer Café in Lucknow, Mocha in Raipur and a restobar called Hoppipola in Ranchi (which is also present in six other cities, including Mumbai). Most of these outlets are frequented by consumers in their twenties. There are several reasons behind their proliferation. For starters, a small-town consumer is aware of all these brands, thanks to social media. This has also fast-tracked the process of food trends reaching tier 2 towns quickly.

Clearly, the lifestyle of the non-metro millennial is increasingly resembling that of the metro millennial. According to V.S. Kannan Sitaram, venture partner at Fireside Ventures (which has invested in several consumer product companies), there are several similarities between small-town and big-city millennials: both are tech savvy, and smartphones give them access to the same content (movies, music, sport) and shopping opportunities via Amazon, Flipkart and others. “So no longer do the guys in tier 2 towns have to go to big towns to buy stuff. Aspirations on building careers, looking good, keeping up with trends are getting similar," he says.

Like their tier 1 counterparts, consumers in tier 2 and 3 cities are also watching entertainment on digital platforms. According to findings of the media research firm Pixights, the over-the-top (OTT) video streaming consumer in tier 1 and tier 2 towns is equally discerning. Millennials in big and small cities say that they get more variety on OTT than on TV. OTT allows them the freedom of time to watch content that can’t be watched with parents but can be accessed in private on their phones. This cohort is inclined to eschew linear TV in favour of digital viewing.

According to Ashwini Sirsikar, executive director and head of qualitative research at Ipsos, millennials are in their own echo chamber. Tier 1 and tier 2 millennials are digital natives. Instagram is their most preferred social media platform. Facebook is now passé and perceived to be for the older generation.

Millenials also like to experiment with food. Food delivery start-ups like Zomato and Swiggy have made ordering convenient and cheaper for this generation. However, access to brands, new trends and fads are seen more in larger towns. The smaller town millennial may be a bit behind but is catching up. “Interestingly we have noticed that across towns the millennials are very much responsible, goal-oriented, focused and conscious about their duties towards their family, busting the myth around this generation being self-centred, irresponsible and bothered only about themselves," Sirsikar said.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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