How Booming is Foreign Chain''s 'Go Desi' Menu-Mantra?

Short Description
The American and Italian joints have realised the need to Indianise western cuisines and develop a local range to blend with their originality and bring in profits
  • Nusra Deputy Features Editor
Restaurant India

Customer’s orientation towards takeaway and home deliveries coupled with their greater disposable incomes has triggered the growth of the fast food segment in the country. To cash in on this trend and to make profit margins higher, most foreign fast food majors are opting to Indianise their menus. From McDonalds' masala grill burger to Pizza Hut’s Nimbu Michi-Chicken Achari pizzas, international brands, in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) region, are talking the local language of food to hit the right chord with the Indian consumer. 

Do Pyaza Tandoori Masala Pizza, Aloo Attack, Subz (I) Burger and Mac Aloo Tikki are some of the desi versions of Italian and American counterparts which are highlighted in the menus of international fast food chains like Pizza Hut, McDonald's, etc. Apparently these versions do not appear on the American and Italian menu. 

Talking about this aspect of Indianisation of fast foods, Manoj Bali, General Manager, Nirulas, says, “It has been there for many years. Most of the Indian restaurants have always modified and come up with innovative recipes adjusting with the local tastes. The competition arrived with the arrival of American and Italian joints. But even they realised that in order to survive in India, one needs to develop a local range to blend with their originality.”

Reducing costs is an ongoing effort for these players, so most of the joints have started sourcing raw materials locally. Bali further adds, “French Dairy major, Danone – famous for its flavoured yogurts – has launched lassis in India. The company is focusing on Indianisation to double its growth in the country with its customised products.” 

Indianising Western cuisines runs counter to the very principle of "international" food chains but experts say the shift is worth it if it gets brands even a fraction of the Rs 7,000 crore QSR space in India. Harish Bijoor, Brand Strategy Specialist, says, “One needs to pay enough to understand the Indian consumer. Indians might look for a foreign label on everything from food to clothes and accessories, but they would ultimately settle for something they are accustomed to.”

While the international players have Indianised items to lure the customers, their Indian counterparts are not lagging behind. They have come up with innovative value for money items like the Subz burger introduced by Nirula’s for just Rs 10!

Along with brands, marketers too are working on the concept. Advertising agency Leo Burnett, which is the creative agency for brands like Thumbs Up and McDonald's says that with multinationals going to the rescue of local flavours, the basics of advertising too have changed from catchy jingles to content-rich messages as they are understanding that it is the customer that ultimately sells a product.

So a gradual shift is reflected in the brands’ Indian imagery in advertisements to hit the right chord with the Indian consumer – moving from McDonald's cramming-food-into-your-mouth advertising to 'Kabhi kabhi baat paison ki nahi, dil ki hoti hai' advertising. 

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