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CASE STUDY: McDonald’s in India: Risk & Opportunity

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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

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Yes Ronald, that’s cow shit on yo face (pic courtesy tntmagazine.com)

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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