India Consumption Story – 5. The Hindu Way of Living

(Image used for illustrative purpose only)
The third most followed religion of the world, Hinduism, is hotly argued as a way of living rather than a religion. With nearly 1.2 billion Hindus living in the world and constituting over 80% of India’s population Hindus live a that life driven by four Purusharthas, or the proper goals or aims of human life, namely Dharma (duties), Artha (prosperity/earning), Kaama (desires/passions) and Moksha (liberation/freedom/salvation). The Karma (or action/task/consequences) keeps them motivated to do things that they do. At the risk of over-simplification and ignoring the regional deviations, I peep into an Indian way of living with specific reference to the spending patterns.

Dharmas or duties are very important to Hindus. They consider it as their duty to ensure their family ‘owns’ a decent shelter, all children get education, all children are married, all children get ‘settled’ in their lives and also that they die richer than when compared to when they were born. It is also your duty to take care of your parents, in-laws and needy family members particularly if you are financially better off! Hindus save and spend majority of their life’s earnings on buying their home and their children’s marriages. All that is outwardly and may impact on family’s status within society. Every year, there are over 100,000 marriages with a spending of over Rs. 10 million each in four largest cities of India alone! Marriage is everyone’s business – wedding halls, flower merchants, caterers, fashion designers, cloth brands, jewelers, car/two-wheeler makers, builders, furniture, kitchenware, tour operators and dozens of other categories. The purse-strings are loose and atleast a third of Indian companies listed on Indian stock markets are in business, directly or indirectly, during a wedding season. The story of ‘owning’ a house as a status-symbol in society is also a peculiar one. No one lives in rented premises out of choice in India.

Another peculiar expenditure is the religious tourism. It is every son’s dream to send his parents to a religious yatra. Most elderly Hindus would desire to do one such yatra before they die. Many Hindus prefer to visit their village deity atleast once a year. Religion indeed seems to be the opium of Indian masses!

The spending by Hindus during many many festivals, on childrens’ education, on parents’ well-being, on food, etc. are among the other expense accounts in a household budget. From a society that saved a large part on income not long ago to a consumerist spending now, a few of the patterns have indeed changed. What has not changed is the culture of majority of spending only when it is required to protect family’s ijjat in the society.

The Hindu way of living has a severe bearing on the Indian Consumption Story. Irrespective of what Trump does to world economy or whether a cricketer or army is ruling our neighbors, or the detrimental tactics that developed nations are deploying to stay afloat, the Hindus would continue to stick to their Purushartha.