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India 4.0


— In India Technology Reaches the Countryside

Technological brands now don’t simply and generally aim at the young ones, but at the young ones from the smaller towns. Because in India a great number of young people live in the smaller towns, and with the spreading of the internet and the smartphones the “non-urban youngsters” are becoming an interesting market segment.

A few figures: video game and OTT services users increased by 200% in the first half of 2020, with a significant amount of users coming from small towns and rural India. For the OTT platform AltBalaji, one of the most relevant on the Indian market, 60% of its traffic after April 2020 didn’t come from the 8 bigger cities.

And there’s more. Figures say that average time spent using smartphones has increased by 25%, reaching 7 hours per day, significantly rising the mobile expense with more and more young people willing to make transitions, interactions and online purchases. This is why many Indian brands decided to take advantage of this trend by offering more and more services even in less densely populated areas.

Above all there’s the Urban Company salon, which in the smaller towns recorded 5 as many requests for “male grooming”. And while until a few years ago people from smaller centres had little choice for shopping or entertainment, now brands are racing to digitally fill this gap.


— Transform an Ancient Icon into Green Transport

The rickshaw and its acrobatic moves in New Delhi’s traffic is one of India’s most famous icons.

Today, this international symbol of Indian design decided to become sustainable. SMV Green Solutions, a social enterprise based in Varanasi, has begun to convert rickshaws into electric vehicles, trying to reduce carbon emissions and support the people who manage them. This action was launched as a response to the difficulties for lower income classes in accessing bank loans and the general struggle towards new technologies, both great obstacles to electric mobility.

In 2020, 1,038 electric rickshaw owners have been allowed to transport people, and carbon emissions were reduced by 2,076 tons.

SMV Green Solutions is also thinking about the government’s aim of reaching the goal of 100% electric vehicles by 2030: since 14 out the 15 most polluted cities in the world are in India, companies now have great opportunities for innovating as well as making some good to people and the environment. Making one of the great Indian design icons become green.


— “White Is Beautiful” Hasn’t Been Overcome Yet

Unfortunately, even in 2021 dark skin prejudice still alive in Indian society, influencing the way people perceive each other and their potential success, but most of all damaging physical and mental health. It’s an old heritage coming from back in time: “colourism” dates back to colonial times and has been empowered by beauty ideals coming from pop culture, in advertising and social media. The “white is beautiful” prejudice is very common in Indian and African society, in which a lot of people still believe that skin nuances can determine their value and potential.

During our workshops we discovered that colourism affected not only people’s confidence, especially women, but also their relationships, their marriage and even their job” says Kavitha Emmanuel, director of non-profit Women of Worth.

Nevertheless, despite the social and psychological damage, the pressure to stick to a pre-existing beauty ideal means that whitening skin products are still on the market and a significant number of Indians still use it. Research showed that out of a sample of 2.000 people in Mumbai, 37.6% used skin whitening products, going towards short and long term potentially toxic side effects.

So, how can brands that were longtime allies of colourism fight this kind of discrimination? Some brands started taking over greater responsibilities on products and communication.

First came L’Oréal and Unilever, announcing they will withdraw and reposition some product lines. Will this be enough to eradicate such an old and anachronistic prejudice? And how long will it take?