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India’s young tech-savvy ‘Zippies’ want it all, but what they really need is Jesus Christ

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EDITORS’ NOTE: “That All Peoples May Know Him” is the theme for this year’s season of prayer for international missions in Southern Baptist churches across the country. Starting Tuesday, Baptist Press began five days of feature stories and photos highlighting the challenge of reaching the masses in India with the Gospel. The national goal for this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $150 million. The International Mission Board relies on the Lottie Moon Offering for 51 percent of its annual income.

BANGALORE, India (BP)–While his American corporate client sleeps many time zones away, Allen works 12, 14, sometimes 16 hours a day. Whatever it takes to get the job done — on time and on target.

“He gives me work in the evening” via computer, says Allen, one of the tens of thousands of digital globetrotters in Bangalore, India’s 24/7 capital of information technology. “When he comes back in the morning it will be done, for a very low cost and with very high quality.”

Allen, a 20-something college graduate, works for a major IT company in Bangalore’s “Electronic City,” a mile-long stretch in the sprawling south Indian metropolis. There you can find sleek office complexes housing Oracle, Wipro, Intel, IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

Allen’s brother, Finney, also a college grad, works on the most visually impressive IT “campus” in town: Infosys. Spread over 260 beautifully manicured acres, it reportedly trails only Microsoft’s U.S. headquarters in sheer size. The pristine complex features work stations for some 10,000 employees — plus a gym, recreation center, resort-style pool, palm trees, ponds with paddle boats, restaurants, convenience stores and an open-air amphitheater for concerts.

“People who work here don’t want to leave,” says one proud staffer.

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But when each shift ends, long convoys of company shuttle buses wait to take throngs of educated, motivated workers home, making room for the next shift.

Infosys can afford the perks: The company reached $1 billion in sales during the spring. It held a huge outdoor celebration on campus and handed out $23 million in employee bonuses. “We’re still partying,” a company official said days after the bash.

See, the “Zippies” of India like to work hard — and play hard.

Who are the Zippies?

“A young city or suburban resident, between 15 and 25 years of age, with a zip in the stride,” explains Outlook, an Indian magazine. “Belongs to generation Z. Can be male or female, studying or working. Oozes attitude, ambition and aspiration. Cool, confident and creative. Seeks challenges, loves risks and shuns fears.”

They are the first generation of Indians to benefit from modern economic globalization. Allen and Finney make more money fresh out of school than their well-educated father ever dreamed of making. But they still command only a tenth of comparative American salaries.

Is it any wonder that U.S. companies outsource jobs to the Zippies in a competitive global economy?

When it comes to spiritual things, however, many Zippies are living on bread and water — just like many “multi-tasking” Americans. Shift times change frequently. Pressure mounts. Competition stalks.

“They make themselves so busy that there is no time,” says Allen, who is a Christian. “You go to work and after that shopping, and after shopping you get ready for tomorrow’s presentation. It’s so packed that you don’t have time to think about someone up above taking care of you. They believe in ‘Me alone. I don’t need anybody’s help.'”

Even all-important family ties are fraying. Indian parents traditionally exert huge influence on their adult children’s decisions — education, career, marriage. That still applies to the Zippies. But the challenges and temptations of city life can be overwhelming — particularly for someone from a village family experiencing freedom and disposable income for the first time. Young men start looking for thrills. Young women trade modest saris for tight jeans.

“It’s so difficult,” says Rachel, a Christian who recently graduated from college in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India’s largest city. “Drugs, sex, it’s all over. Going to parties and discos. They say, ‘C’mon, you can do it. Your parents aren’t going to know.’ You have to do it or you’ll be out of the group.”

For a generation leaping from rigid Hindu tradition to moral chaos, there’s only one answer, according to Rachel: “The Lord is my God. He’s the only one. I just know that the answer is Jesus.”

Getting that message to India’s up-and-comers ought to be a priority for Christians with a heart for this vast nation. By Outlook’s estimate, six out of every 10 Indian households have at least one Zippie.
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Want to help reach the “Zippies” of India for Christ? Write [email protected]
Erich Bridges is senior writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.