parent trap

The class divide in Indian schools is growing and we need to talk about it

iPads, iPods and Yeezy sneakers: Should children get every thing they ask for?

Childhood is meant to be an accumulation of new experiences: some set us free, others bring us joy, and there are those that we dearly wish we had avoided. Think about that list of firsts, the first step, first ice cream, first poetry recital, first detention class... somewhere in there lies the kernel of an adult life lesson.

But never before, in our rapidly evolving history as consumers, have children accumulated material things quite like they do today. How did we get to a point where every demand is met with a yes? In Juliet B Schor’s book, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Cult, she notes that children’s toys began to serve as markers of social status in the 1870s. Now, children have begun to represent the family in not just in name, but also in the purchasing power they represent.

Indian parents are having fewer kids today than they were a few decades ago, and those kids are growing up a lot quicker, with the age of puberty falling in most parts of the world. On the other hand, with adults so openly worshipping at the altar of youth, the boundaries between grown-ups and children are blurring – our toys are rapidly becoming their toys, they want the same things we covet.

Gatekeepers of consumption

Parents may be the gatekeepers for their children’s consumption, but it is not easy to say no. A Mumbai-based mother whose 13-year-old son just returned from a school-organised ski trip to Switzerland, recounted the last five things she bought him: a PlayStation 4, a Fidget Spinner, Adidas Yeezy Boost shoes, an iPhone 6, and of course, platinum tickets to the Justin Bieber concert in May. In her defence, she said, she makes him wait a minimum of one year after his classmates first acquire these gizmos. (To wait any longer would mean he’d feel left out when the other kids at his school got together).

A father who recently shifted from Delhi to Mumbai shared a similar story. He has bought a smart TV and is saving up money to buy his ten-year-old a PlayStation 4.

“It’s the ultimate ice-breaker, when he’s in a room full of new kids,” he said.

The parental anxiety about whether his son will fit in socially takes other, equally expensive forms – he took his unenthusiastic son to the Justin Bieber concert, simply because he knew all the cool kids in his class would be going.

A Delhi-based parent said her young child wanted Reebok shoes and a Plasma television because her sentence construction at school in grammar class is thoughtlessly riddled with examples like “I am tying the laces of my Reeboks” or “I have got a new Plasma TV”. Most schools, however, are trying to keep it simple. A working mother in Mumbai blamed her own guilt rather than the school’s influence.

“She’s an only child and I’m away at work all day,” she said, by way of explanation. Her affection or guilt takes the form of six pairs of Converse sneakers, and more clothes than can fit into her 15-year-old’s wardrobe (who shops online twice a week anyway). Her child goes to a school that is strict by most standards – it maintains a no-mobile-phones-or-gadgets policy, has a strict uniform code – but get-togethers outside of school are where everyone cuts their social teeth.

Brand consciousness

A Mumbai-based couple had to refuse an invitation on behalf of their child, because the party was in Egypt, and they knew they would never be able to reciprocate an invitation at that scale. Even toddlers have begun to return from parties with return-gifts like iPads and iPods. Adrian Furnham and Barrie Gunter’s book, Children as Consumers: A Psychological Analysis of the Young People’s Market, proposes that children can identify products by brands by the time they are two – so there’s barely enough time to socialise them before brand consciousness sinks in.

Bangalore-based psychotherapist Tasneem Nakhoda doesn’t see a quick cure for this sort of pressure on parents and children. “The onus is on parents here,” she said. They are a child’s primary socialising agent and set the bar for the family’s spending. Often parents haven’t helped children develop the confidence to just shrug off the competition with classmates, to buy and consume more.

Cultural theorists have long argued that notions of childhood innocence versus adult appetite are nothing more than a projection of adult desire. We live in an age where our desires are souped-up by social media and digital marketing. We may have a good thing but enjoy it only until we want to upgrade it for the latest thing. Why should children somehow be exempt from this endless material greed?

It may be a good time to take a long hard look at ourselves as parents and role models, and see what gaps in family rapport and exposure need to be plugged. To put children in the driving seat when it comes to economic decisions is to take away opportunities for them to accumulate things that money can’t buy.

Sometimes, perhaps the best role a parent can play, is the ability to say no.

Karishma Attari is author of I See You and Don’t Look Down. She is currently writing The Want Diaries and runs a workshop series called Shakespeare for Dummies. Her Twitter handle is @KarishmaWrites

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.


The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.