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BW Businessworld

The Making Of The Indian Millennial Man

BW Businessworld speaks to Prathap Suthan, CCO, Bang In The Middle, who helps us unpack the Indian Millennial Man

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According to the Economic Survey, by 2021 India will become the youngest country in the world with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group of 20-35. The Indian millennial man is supposed to be more gender sensitive than the older generation of Indian men. We spoke to Prathap Suthan of Bang In The Middle, who helps us unpack the Indian Millennial Man.

Can you describe the Indian Millennial Man?
I certainly think there are two extremes within this lot. The first is the kind that is extremely aggressive, competitive, and ruthless. He has no fear of geography or any other border. He is also aware of the fact the he operates in an economy that's very promising, and gets the complication of our India's political, religious, social, ethnic and linguistic differences without having to think. It's a reflex for him, and he knows that understanding has great value. He is detached from family and works his life around networks and other business relationships.

The other variety is the more passive of the two. This man is less aggressive and far more genteel. But he is equally successful. However his bouquet of success is differently defined and certainly more floral. He is influenced overtly by global trends of fashion, entertainment, gender equality, softer skills, tech fluent, and active among his social circles and social media platforms. He has more hours in a day. And goes out of his way to engage in work that brings value to the society at large.

He is more of the typical Indian son, and is very strongly moored to family and relationships. Both the variants of Indian Millennial Man are a departure from the older generation. They are both products of an empowering world of technology, better education, more opportunity, and a wider global consciousness.

How important is gender equality to him?

I know for sure that he is far more evolved than the previous genre. Where success, leadership, and achievement were seen as masculine traits. This man is definitely more at ease with women leaders and women as equal colleagues. Very open to the idea of double income at home, and also very supportive of their wives pushing their careers.

In a leadership role, this man is not led by older values. He gives space to women employees, finds their contribution equally or more valuable, and the really inspired leader would even want to find more space for women in their organizations.

Women are a lot more focused, far more intuitive, certainly more responsible and loyal, and they bring in a point of view that truly reflects the perspectives of half the population. This is a growing reality and truth in many urban offices of India.

This especially today, as many men tend to be guided missiles all fired up to rocket towards start-ups.

Would this be the broader emerging picture of India?

Of course not. This is definitely the overall feeling that I get when I look at the new offices and new companies of this rising new economy. A very urban phenomenon. Largely seen in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Gurgaon, Chennai and Pune.

But the larger India and its smaller cities are still a generation or two from reaching here. Certainly a few more decades need to go by before things will show appreciable change. As a nation still caught up with traditional conservatism and much skewed gender inequality, the shift towards equal opportunities for women is possibly the slowest and least visible change.

That doesn't mean women aren't changing, or women aren't breaking out. They are. But they are caught in this very vicious grip of a cultural shackle that's been there and still pushed by small minded old men, and an equally obstinate older generation of mothers-in-law who think the status quo of a male led society and women's roles have to stay.

What might work for gender sensitizing men in India?
I'd think unlike the west, the work for this needs to start at the grass root levels. By that I mean from within homes. It's a huge traditional bias and myopia that's been embedded into the DNA of life. Along with age old customs like dowry - which essentially underlines a wife and woman as a liability than as asset. Plus female infanticide, sexual taboos, invisible abuse, lack of employment, religious customs, social norms, punitive action against molestation, lack of educational opportunities for girls, and so many more.

A major cleansing has to be put in place, and new ideals and new ideas have to be seeded. There will be resistance and bigotry, but these changes have to be made more mandatory than suggestions. Laws and implementation of the laws have to be done without compromise and enforced socially. A whole new cultural revolution has to occur.

We are on the cusp of that. It's not that things haven't been discussed or debated in multiple forums. But there needs to be even more effort and a combined all-party political will put in place. Along with these, education needs to address this head-on. There needs to be more occasions to talk and talk openly. Good examples need to be publicized and glorified. Bad examples need to be punished. Politics and policing need to work together.

However within urban India's gleaming spiffy offices, the change is evident, and equality is getting healthier. But many men are still rough and jagged around the edges. They are still fresh imports from small India. This is not to say that city bred men are any different. They maybe more polished but they need to open up more. They are still years from knowing what not to say, and what not to do. They are a lot better than they were years ago, but they need counsel.

What isn't the process gathering speed?
There are two broad reasons. I would request offices to have an overall listening mechanism to spot and correct unwanted behaviour and attitude. I don't think too many offices invest in HR to specifically understand and monitor general office decorum. Some offices have this in place, and some don't.

This is as important as anything else deployed in HR to build camaraderie and teamwork. With even strong corrective measures built-in and even showcased publically. Once the Indian man is defanged publically, he seldom grows it back.

I know it's not the best thing to do, and while you can expect parents to instil the right values during childhood, in-office gender bias and gender unequal behaviour ought to be dealt with a strong open condemnation and correction by the leadership. I have seen this happen, I have done this myself, and I have seen self-enlightenment happen as well.

The other is an equally important layer that's remains undiscussed is the role of women in this change process. Considering that there are equal number of women from smaller towns, who by their sheer upbringing have learned or have been conditioned to keep quiet and let things go.

Much like bullying, many women do not strike back. They most unfortunately and timidly ignore the issues and eventually become under performers.

I would urge more women in our offices to step out, and take on these aberrations. Desperate times need desperate measures. Women can help in making these changes happen faster, by catalysing this change.

I would push the women employees to be bolder. I would encourage them to speak to their leadership. In fact I would want them to step on the gas.

They should be more vocal and take on these men. Besides, they will have a lot of support from others in the offices. Nothing works faster and more efficiently, than a woman who can stand up to these oafs. The Indian man is no exception to that rule.

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