Gold, cars, and smartphones—India’s changing consumption pattern in six charts

Quartz india
Quartz india

The latest official consumption data on India, released by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) last month, shows a society that is growing in aspiration, exhibiting greater levels of consumerism and embracing modern shifts in technology. Perhaps most notably, rural India is now matching urban India in that transition. Based on 2011-12, the most recent NSSO data available, here are the most striking manifestations of changing consumer behaviour:

Urban India is hungry for gold, and rural India is hungrier

Between 2009-10 and 2011-12, the small percentage of Indians who buy gold have been devouring the yellow metal. Just 4.9% of urban families and 3.4% of rural families bought gold ornaments in 2011-12. Rural families spent an average of Rs 25,081 on gold ornaments—only 10% less than the Rs 27,855 spent by urban families. And as a share of its total spend on physical assets, the rural families easily outpaced urban ones.

Share-of-gold-in-total-spend-on-physical-assets-2005-2010-2012_chartbuilder (1)

Urban India covets new cars more than old houses

Urban families spent more on cars in 2011-12 than on any other physical asset. Back in 2004-05, this pride of place in the budget for physical assets belonged to repairs and maintenance of the house.


Yet rural India is the real growth engine for automobiles

Urban India might covet its cars. But it’s rural India that is posing the largest percentage increases in the purchase of cars and two-wheelers. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the ownership of motor vehicles increased at a faster clip in rural households than in urban ones. Although rural growth is coming off a smaller base, the point remains—rural India is trading up in personal transportation.

Households-with-cars-2005-2010-2012_chartbuilder (1)



Households-with-two-wheelers-2005-2010-2012_chartbuilder (1)

Mobile phones are part of the rural family now

A mobile phone has been an essential outlay for urban families for years—and now rural families have caught up. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the share of the mobile handset in the total physical asset budget of a rural family has increased 11-fold. Both urban and rural families now spend 4.4% of their physical asset budget on mobiles.


Radio is losing out, first in the city and now everywhere

The universality of the mobile, and the television, is sounding the death knell for the radio. While radio sets started dying out in urban households a few years back, it held on in rural ones till 2009-10—but no longer.

Households-with-radio-2005-2010-2012_chartbuilder (1)
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