Who is a millennial?

As I talk to friends and family about my research, I often get asked about the exact definition of a millennial.


To put it simply, the term ‘millennial’ is used to refer to people born between 1982 and 2004.


For anyone wondering why the generation begins and ends in these exact years, the answer lies in the word ‘millennium.’ Those born in 1982 would have been aged 18 in 2000, the dawn of the new millennium. And people born in 2004 are approximately 13 years today. While they’re not adults, they’re not really ‘kids’ either, given how fast children are growing up in today’s hyper-connected digital world.


How are millennials different?


Millennials grew up in post-liberalization India. Prior to 1992, India’s economy was socialist, and choices were limited. State-broadcaster Doordarshan had a monopoly on television screens, and people essentially had only one channel for entertainment and news. National telecasts and the color television were only introduced in 1982, when the millennial generation began. Today, young people can enjoy traditional content on over 1,000 television channels, binge-watch more unconventional shows on Netflix, Hotstar, or Amazon Prime, or enjoy specially-designed content for their mobiles.


Millennials are different because they have grown up in a capitalist economy. The 1991 economic liberalization shaped this generation more than any other event in Indian history.


While previous generations largely viewed the Indian civil services as the most desirable occupations for them to pursue, millennials believe otherwise. They are not attracted to the bureaucracy and its lack of merit-based mobility. Instead, they seek jobs where they can create the most impact. Technology, finance, and information services are where most millennials are looking to find, or even create, employment. Neither do millennials prize job stability or longevity. Always looking to rise up, millennials will quit their job if they find a more attractive opportunity elsewhere.


Another distinction between millennials and previous generations is their attitude towards money. Even if their parents had money, they did not have many avenues to spend it. However, today’s millennials view money not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. They can buy whatever they want from wherever they want – shopping malls, standalone boutiques, or the internet. Their next purchase is usually a click away.


Around the world, millennials are often dismissed as greedy or self-centered. This is also the case in India, but for a different reason: millennials have had childhood experiences very different from those of their parents, making it difficult for previous generations to understand why and how millennials behave the way they do. There’s more to come on this in my upcoming blog posts.


Why are millennials important?


According to the 2013-14 Economic Survey of India, young people will comprise a whopping 64% of India’s population by 2021. With a median age of 29, more than 6 in 10 Indians will be under the age of 35. It is hard to overstate how important these people will be to India’s economy, its security, its place in the world – and most importantly – its future.


They may be young, but in many households, millennials are already the chief wage earners. Often earning more than their parents, their income is almost 70% of total household income, according to a report from Morgan Stanley research.


Therefore, this research project comes at a critical time. In order to understand India’s future, we must understand its young people, and how they behave.


Stay tuned for more updates on my research. Follow this blog, like the Facebook page, and join the conversation on Twitter here and here!


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