Saturday, March 12, 2011

Worry drives the world!

In Freakanomics Steven Levitt writes an analysis on parenting, and asks a very valid question – if parents were not constantly worried about their kids, who will buy all those millions of ‘must-have’ products that are being made?
I’m convinced that the driving factor for the whole world’s economy is ‘worry’. Unless people start worrying and start being afraid for things which were normal till then, the economy does not move forward.
Worry about mosquitoes has resulted in Good Knight and All Out becoming ‘Consumer validated SuperBrands’! Worry about hairfall and dark skin is now the driving force behind our personal care industry. Imagine if no one were worried about getting fat. Where will all these companies go? If we were not worried about ‘pesticides in our food’, our burgeoning organic food industry would be dead fish! Worry is the actual reason behind people thronging our places of worship like never before. And worry is what our finance minister is counting on when he forecasts a 9% growth rate for the coming year :)
Take for example the proliferation of mobile phones. While having a mobile certainly made sense for people who are on the move, the sheer number of phones and connections being sold every single day is absolute nonsense! We are worried about our existing provider not having signals at a certain region and hence we take in a second SIM card – with a dual SIM phone – or two separate phones! We are worried about the whereabouts of everyone at home, and we keep buying phones for everyone at home till all plug points are occupied with dangling chargers. And then come in accessories. Some intelligent guy discovered that he could goad people into buying radiation deflecting chips, and there came an industry. Worry about the phone falling out of the pocket and cracking has resulted in an ancillary industry making pouches and screenguards! The list is endless.
worry2But then, this has not happened overnight. If Darwin were around, he would certainly have published a paper on this – the complexity of our worry is directly proportional to our intellectual evolution. Monkeys only worried about food. Early men were no different. Then they started worrying about their friends and family, and society was born. Worry about safety led to homes, worry about public opinion led to clothing. Worry about knobbly knees made wheels, and the rest is history. In the vedic times people worried about evil and the result was righteousness. Worry about religious identity resulted in catastrophic global wars – and in today’s terrorism. Worry about Bin Laden resulted in George W Bush.
I am also convinced that the sole purpose of the advertising industry is to identify and propagate new breeds of worry. If parents are worried that their kids might not do as well as the neighbour's, they buy Horlicks. If we are worried that our ankles will give out in sixty or seventy years, we buy Nike. Worry about upcoming diabetes results in sugar-free sugar which is ten times more expensive, and worry about the cable TV conking off while watching cricket sells more satellite TV connections.
Stephen Levitt is absolutely right! We grew up fine without diapers and all those terribly costly baby products. But we won’t think of not buying them for our kids. Now we have Mamy Poko Pants, which are twice as expensive as Pampers, but nah – nothing but the best  for our little bundles of joy! Worry.
If everyone stopped worrying for a month, Wal-Mart and StarBucks would be out of business, and we would be thrown into the great depression – worldwide this time!
I wrote this only because I was worried that I haven’t written anything for a while.

1 comment:

Raji said...

aah!... thats a good post. Agreed on - worry is the cause of intellect evolution!