In these unprecedented times, how do young Indians see the world?

To find out, MTV India Insights Studio recently conducted a survey of people aged 15 to 25 across 50 cities in India, as well as multiple types of qualitative research, such as expert salons, digital diaries, friend triads, and interviews with parents and subject matter experts.

Here’s some of what we learned from this research:

Young Indians are happy, but not as optimistic as before the pandemic. While more than 8 in 10 young Indians (82%) say they’re happy now, this percentage has declined since 2019, when it was 90%. Their sense of optimism has eroded as well. Today, 57% report feeling optimistic, compared with 65% in 2019. When they look ahead to the next year, they’re more likely to see some problems as getting worse rather than better – what things cost, political extremism, wars around the world, terrorism, and cybercrime.

Money has become more important. In the eyes of young Indians, money has made a comeback. In 2016, 44% agreed that they didn’t care about a meaningful life and their focus was to be rich and successful. This percentage declined to just 25% in 2019, then rebounded in our latest survey. Similarly, in 2016, 37% agreed that “money is all that matters”; this percentage fell to 21% in 2019 and rose to 46% currently. Today, 42% say they prefer stories about luxury and the good life, up from 25% in 2019.

They’re under pressure to succeed fast – and pivot as needed. Over 6 in 10 (62%) say they would rather taste moderate success in 5 years than wait 25 years to be extremely successful. However, they don’t feel like there is only one career path available to them – 70% believe that even if they make a wrong career choice, there is always an alternative one.

Traditional education no longer feels like a guarantee. Close to two-thirds of young Indians (64%) believe that relying on their college marks or placements to become successful will get them nowhere in life. They’re more likely to see smart work or street smarts as tied to success (29%) than academic achievements (8%) or going to a good college (7%).

Side-hustles can lead to success. Three-quarters of young Indians (74%) believe there are lots of undiscovered careers and ways of making money. Almost as many (70%) say that side-hustles are the real shot at success, fame, and identity. Additionally, 7 in 10 want to earn from their hobbies.