[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 10:05 GMT
Keeping up with the Jones
Indian shoppers
The malls are drawing big crowds
India's fast-growing consumer class has fired a competitive need towards over-consumption amongst people in the country, a leading psychologist says.

According to Dr Achal Bhagat, the country's economic boom has meant a new obsession has arisen amongst the middle classes to "keep up with the Joneses".

He argues that for these people, the focus of their life has become to acquire things.

"Life has become a comparative statement," he told BBC World Service's The World Today programme.

"It's the Joneses kind of story all over again. You are comparing your goods from skirts to mobile phones to houses. There is a rush on and there's a credit line that's always ticking."


Advertisers are now very keen to stimulate this huge potential market.

In particular, India's new middle class has been enthused about the arrival of shopping malls.

Some spend all day there, buying international goods and snacking on Western fast food, protected from the heat and haggling of the world outside.

However, Western environmentalists have begun to view this runaway consumerism with some alarm.

Polluted Indian river
There are concerns about the environmental consequences of rampant consumerism
Some fear that rampant consumerism among both the Indians and Chinese middle classes will be disastrous.

But this has infuriated many in India, who accuse Western countries of being greedy themselves and unwilling to share with others.

"Before the Indians learn they should not have the cars, the air cons, the fridges - because it's going to worsen the ozone hole and lead to climate change - the Americans and Brits need to be told equally that if everybody across the globe were to have an air con, this is what it would do," said Sunita Narian of the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi.

"So we all have to reduce our levels of consumption."

But Dr Bhagat warns of other concerns to do with the effect rampant commercialism might have on India.

He predicts falling values causing rising divorce, teen pregnancy, crime and depression.

However he says these are being overlooked in the rush for economic growth - something politicians, keen to capitalise on the "feel-good factor", fully endorse.

"The politicians are playing the same game as marketeers," he argues.

"Being sold this feel-good factor which at one level is non-existent, sold to believe we're better off than we were - that's no different from selling soap."

Dr Achal Bhagat
"The politicians playing the same game as marketeers"

India bets on election boom
23 Feb 04  |  Business
India's economy: Can the boom last?
07 Jan 04  |  South Asia
India debates 'racist' skin cream ads
24 Jul 03  |  South Asia

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific