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Passion for Gold Fades Among Affluent Young Indians In Urban Areas


In India, gold has traditionally been one of the most popular gifts at festival times. But young Indians are starting to cast aside the old favorite as rising incomes fuel more modern lifestyles. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi.

Hansika Misra's mother wanted to present her 23-year-old daughter a gold chain for the upcoming festival of lights, Diwali. Diwali is the most important festival in the Hindu-majority country - and gold jewelry has traditionally been one the first choice for loved ones.

But Hansika persuaded her mother to buy her an iPod music player in place of the gold chain.

"I am more fond of my iPods, or the flat screen TVs, or, you know, these latest gizmos like that," said Hansika Misra. "I don't fancy gold as much, none of my friends do, and we would rather have a good iPod, or the latest one."

Like Hansika, many young Indians in cities have cast aside the country's old cultural affinity with gold, which was considered a prudent investment.

Instead, as affluence grows, they are choosing to spend money on lifestyle products and luxury goods such as the latest mobile phones, plasma televisions and fancy cars.

Saloni Nangia of Technopak, a consumer and retail consultancy, has been tracking the trend.

"Tastes are changing," said Saloni Nangia. "The fact is while gold still plays a very important role in the life of Indians, there are a lot of other lifestyle products which are capturing the same share of wallet. The traditional items which were given out earlier, which were precious metals, primarily gold, silver, have been replaced by products which people are using more regularly."

This is the time of year when Indians celebrate a string of big festivals, and savvy producers are pushing their products hard. Technopak estimates that more than half the sales of consumer durables and lifestyle products take place at festival time.

However, gold is not about to be nudged aside completely. It still rules the roost (is the number one choice) outside the big cities.

The head of the World Gold Council, Ajay Mitra, says sales are rising rapidly in smaller towns and rural areas, where gold is still seen as a wise investment and flaunted as a symbol of affluence.

"Our information indicates that in the rural areas is where the gold buying continues to be the way it was over the last couple of hundred years, because there are not very many options for people in the rural areas to invest," said Ajay Mitra.

Jewelers are also trying to win back the hearts of the urban young by pushing more contemporary and trendy designs in gold jewelry.

They says they are confident that the deep ties Indians have to gold will never be completely severed, because the metal continues to be an essential wedding gift from parents to daughters or daughters-in-law. India still leads the world in the consumption of gold.

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