Exposure to newer things, a desire to have everything and greater purchasing power are what is driving this pursuit of happiness.
Ravish Sharma has just returned from an East African holiday and can’t stop talking about the “amazing” experience he had there. A disc jockey, Sharma spent a few days with a tribal family and the rest in a luxury tent in the middle of the Maasai Mara jungle. “I spent nearly four months of my savings on the trip, but it was worth it as I thoroughly enjoyed myself,” says Sharma, 27, who is originally from Assam. “I have never been a wildlife fan, but this trip turned me into a nature lover.”
The mantra that most people follow today is work hard and enjoy the good things that life has to offer. “After all, we work to lead a good life,” says Anuroopa Banerjee Gupta, a Jaipur-based entrepreneur. Not too happy with her traditional marriage ceremony, Gupta decided to remarry her husband in style on her 10th wedding anniversary. “The first time, it was more about fulfilling expectations,” she says. “So, we got married again to have some fun, and organised a red and white theme destination wedding at Thailand’s Ko Samui island.”
She is not an exception. Gupta belongs to an ambitious and assertive new India that draws happiness from flamboyant lifestyle choices, driven more by aspiration than necessity. So, an SUV gets the thumbs up over a car, villa overtakes a small apartment, foreign shores become more exciting than native tourist spots and appliances that offer personalised service are preferred to basic ones.
The design renaissance that Indian kitchens have seen in the past five years is an example of the upgrading lifestyle choices being made by people, says Parushni Aggarwal, owner and creative director of interior design store Studio Creo. “Once considered a luxury, modular kitchens have become a necessity and a regular feature in almost every household,” says Aggarwal, 29. Splurging on chic wall art and innovative furniture designs has also become quite common.
Another indicator is the housing segment, says Manju Yagnik, vice chairperson of luxury real estate giant Nahar Group. “Earlier, most people bought homes in the later part of their life,” she says. “These days, 70 per cent of urban first-time home buyers are in the 30 to 40 age group. Interestingly, you see most of them upgrading to a bigger property within the next five years. From top-notch landscaping to posh location and world-class amenities, when it comes to lifestyle, people don’t want to compromise on anything nowadays.”
Exposure to newer things, a desire to have everything and greater purchasing power are what is driving this pursuit of happiness. That is why you see service apartments finding favour among buyers, interior luxury consultants doing brisk business, and the emergence of hi-tech homes, complete with WiFi connection and automated building security and surveillance system, a concept that tech aficionados call ‘internet of things’.
Earlier, most people lived in a joint family that had one or two earning members. So, the focus was on fulfilling the needs first. But with the emergence of double income nuclear families, people now have more spending capacity and the will to fulfil their wishes, says Shalini Verma, a Delhi-based entrepreneur. “It was my long-cherished desire to drive a BMW SUV because every lush lifestyle choice makes you feel empowered and happy,” says Verma, who recently bought a BMW.
According to a study by the industry body Assocham, the luxury market in India would be worth $15 billion by 2015 end, which is almost 100 per cent growth since 2013. Another study shows that youngsters’ lifestyle expenses have gone up fourfold to Rs6,000 a month in the past ten years.
“Because of the marketing blitzkrieg, society judges you on the basis of your lifestyle,” says Pratiksha Prashant, a Bengaluru-based architect. “What you wear, drive and where you live matter a lot. So, if you walk into a meeting in a designer garment, you feel the difference—people are nicer to you.” Prashant recently added a designer sari worth about a lakh by fashion designer Gaurang Shah to her wardrobe. “Besides, what is the point of earning when you cannot spend on yourself,” she says. “Thinking of tomorrow is important, but not at the cost of your present happiness.”