AMEERI BADAO: Lalita of the Surf ad fame has given way to Bill Gate’s iPhone. The iPhone is the same phone which comes up with new models every year at steeply increased prices.

By Rajan Narayan

You no longer see advertisements of mass consumer products for common use like Ashirwad atta or Postman oil. You don’t even see ads of Fair & Lovely or the dozens of creams and moisturizers of Lakme or the host of cosmetic companies. Now you only see either the political ads or ads for smartphones and super smart cars….

TWO decades ago the front page of our daily newspapers carried some memorable advertisements like the Surf advertisement, for example, featuring Lalita-didi. Giving competition to multinational soft drinks was our very own Rasna. Then there were the Fair & Lovely ads till the names changed. Feminist women won their battle against Hindustan Lever for implying that only fair women would get married. Even a decade ago the most prominent ad was Aashirvaad aata ad. It is not widely known that Aashirvaad atta is manufactured by ITC. ITC decided to diversify since cigarette advertising was banned.
Most of the ads we saw related to any number of mass consumer goods were purchased by aam aadmi and aam aurat. Lux soaps competed with Hamam soaps. Similarly, various edible oil brands competed to lure customer patronage. Interestingly, the most publicity was for toothpastes. All these ads were the symbol of the healthy middle class wallet or perhaps a restorative lower middle class wallet. However, now the concept of the middle class has changed with only those on the way to becoming rich being called the middle class.

EVEN in the case of the lower middle class, the attitude is changing. Ratan Tata decided to build the Nano car because he was very unhappy to see an entire family of papa, mama, son and daughter, travelling on the same scooter. So he built an affordably cheap Rs1,00,000 car. But he miscalculated the psychology of the poor and the middle class. They were proud of owning a scooter but did not want to buy a cheap car.
Interestingly in all these video-shot films which are become so popular, the Bolero car is described as for lower class. A car that only people in villages and dehati people bought in contrast with the Wagoner which has become the symbol of the present upper middle-class buyer.
If you look at the television media and read newspapers you would imagine that the middle class has just about vanished. The only ads you see on the front page are those of smartphones or fancier and fancier new television sets with flat LED screens and other features costing a lakh or above. Luxury cars like the Mercedes Benz, one of which was involved in the recent deadly Banastari bridge accident are widely advertised. So are the SUVs manufactured by Mahindra.
Most of the upper crust middle class, the bold and the beautiful, prefer foreign branded cars. There are also a lot of advertisements for tourist destinations and five-star hotel holidays. All this is beyond the range of the genuine middle class of old.

IN the Modi era the biggest advertisements are of the government and they appear not only on pages 1 but 2, 3 & 4 and most are Narendra Modi ads of the various schemes the BJP government has started. Modi’s fame is followed by Yogi Aditiyanath’s fame and he keeps boasting about building expressways in Uttar Pradesh. In the last few days, Madhya Pradesh has been boasting about what it has done for women and children. Nowadays it is all about political ads boasting about Central and State government achievements.
There are practically speaking no consumer ads for daily goods ordinary on the street need and consume. The only exception perhaps are the Amul ads which are getting smaller with every day of the year.
Who buys all the smartphones that are so widely advertised? Who buys the fancy cars and the fancy houses? Who admits their children in the fancy schools where the fees can be Rs10,000 per month? Who goes to fancy hospitals where you may have to pay RS10 lakh for a knee transplant? Clearly, it is the new rich and the powerful and the bold and the beautiful.
Many of those who can’t afford it fall into the EMI trap. You can buy an iPhone on zero down payment and EMI for the rest of your life. In fact the people who the TV videos call “bhikaari” have got addicted to the EMI and finance companies are laughing all the way to the banks. You can go to Bajaj Finance and take a loan for a scooter and drive away with it. No security is demanded. The vehicle is the security. If you don’t pay the installment the goons will come and take it away. There are EMIs on everything from furniture to pressure cookers to washing machines to refrigerators.

WE are increasingly becoming like the American economy. We have all the mod cons in our homes but everything including your house and car is mortgaged. You are paying off and it may take you half a lifetime or more than that till your dying day. You are only a temporary owner of your i-phone which you are so proud of. What the Modi government has done and is doing rapidly is destroying the middle classes of India. There will be only rich class and poor classes in Bharat that is India.

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