usindiamonitor true to its name has been monitoring in fascination the wild growth of fast food franchises, many of them American, in Indian cities. When I was a kid visiting or living in India in the 80s and 90s, American fast food was one of the things I missed the most about America. It was so vastly different from what was being served in Indian households and restaurants- of course, that food was healthy and delicious in its own right but something would be missing.
But fast food has gone gangbusters in India since that more isolated, innocent, idyllic time in India. McDonald’s India was perhaps the canary in the coal mine, even though the corporation has of late been mired in massive legal troubles with its local business partners. In the past we wrote a business case study about McDonald’s India on these pages. Now we also have Pizza Hut, Domino’s, KFC, Subway, and many other brands making deep inroads with Indian consumers. And this was to be expected. As we repeat every single day, American corporations MUST have an India strategy to survive. The market is too huge, and the economic growth is on too high a trajectory to be ignored.
One the one hand, it’s great to have access to quick, cheap, and admittedly tasty food for working Indian families. As with fast food in America and around the world, things have taken a decidedly darker turn though. India’s obesity epidemic is crushing the nation’s youth, with much of the responsibility falling on America’s food and soft drinks. And now, we have news that fast food companies are dumping saltier, fattier, and more calorific food on the Indian market as compared to the US market, with at times, MULTIPLES of the sodium and fat content of the exact equivalent food item in America.
This is just not right at all. It’s actually evil, and my bet is that the joints are trying to addict a new market of people with this salty behavior. WE CALL ON ALL US FOOD CORPORATIONS TO STOP OVERLOADING INDIAN CONSUMERS WITH TOO MUCH JUNK IN THE JUNK FOOD. Sure, we all know it’s junk food and we make the choice to eat it freely. But this targeted overload is an outrage and the Indian government and people should not stand for this highly unethical behavior. All that we ask is that you don’t make the Indians eat junk that’s junkier than the Americans do. You don’t have to trust me- just watch this video here. It should make you sick to your stomach.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
McDonald’s is a special phenomenon, and I know this from my own life experience as a lifelong customer and former employee. Every six months or so, I get a fierce craving for a Big Mac and french fries, or an Egg McMuffin with a hash brown, and it must be fulfilled. I’ve been hooked since childhood thanks largely to the Happy Meals, a bit of tasty marketing genius that evokes warm, fuzzy, fond memories both conscious and subconscious for millions of adults long after they have stopped craving cheap plastic toys in a colorfully illustrated box with their lunches. As children, no less. In my opinion, McDonald’s french fries are also far and away the best around; their formula for fries just works, and always has in my mealy memory. The consistency of flavor no matter where you eat McDonald’s is amazing to behold, especially when you consider that there are 34,000-odd restaurants in 120 countries and territories.
In 1996, just as I was toiling at my first paid, post-paper route job (minimum wage, $4.25 an hour) in a McDonald’s near Cleveland, Ohio, the first franchise in India was opened up by the restaurant chain in New Delhi. India is certainly a potentially huge market for fast food. However, the country poses a formidable challenge for McDonald’s, for several reasons. The company’s very vaunted brand is based on cow meat, the specific protein that a majority of Indians will never, ever put in their mouths. McDonald’s would also need to compete against a large variety of high-quality local delicious Indian
food that is generally more healthy, and packed with spices and flavor. Finally, some Indians are so proud of their heritage that they will always see foreign fast food chains as an affront. So, how is McDonald’s doing at beef-free year 19 in India amid the successes and challenges encountered thus far, and where is it headed?
As you can see, some Hindu activists are NOT amused.
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