October 1, 2006

A few days back, I was having lunch with some friends at Pizza Hut. While my friends were busy deciding what to order, my eyes decided to scan the buzzing restaurant. A rough mental calculation showed that around 50% of the customers present were chirpy college goers (either dating or just killing time), 35% were executives who had dropped for a quick bite, and balance 15% were general junta who had come to enjoy the once in a while outside food or to enjoy a birthday treat or something like that. Well, this was at 1 PM and the composition might have changed drastically in the evening hours.

But I was not at all concerned about composition. I was wondering why we Indians madly run behind these Mcdonald, Pizza Hut, Subway, and the ilk. What is so special about them? Why not the same rush and enthusiasm for our desi food stuffs? Why no organized peddling of our desi khana in India and abroad. And why the entire world can have a chain of thousands of outlets of Mcdonald and Pizza Hut and not even a single international chain of desi khana like samosa, chola bhatura, litti, vada pao, idli, dosa, uttapam, etc.?

After a little mental gymnastics and some soul searching I realized that there are essentially two reasons for this:
  1. We Indians have a subconscious intimate love for anything from the land of goras (read America and Europe).
  2. We Indians still lack the critical mass of entrepreneurship required to establish Internation food chains like Mcdonald, Pizza Hut, Dominos, etc.
The next question that popped up was: WHY?

Why we have a soft corner for Made in USA and Made in Europe? To me it seems that subconsciously the urban Indian is dictated by the western way of living. So anything the west does, becomes fashionable and worth showing off in public. So eating Pizzas, Burgers, and drinking Coke and Pepsi becomes de rigueur while eating samosa and drinking nimbu paani is considered not so cool. It has more to do with the mental conditioning that west represents richness and aping the west will give me an outward expression of richness. It’s more about feel good factors and display of one’s westernized self. Similar logic explains the seemingly absurd westernized spoken English of some ostentatious youth in the super metros. And similar logic explains why the Omkara type curse words are considered filthy and derogatory while the western equivalent of the same is rampant and publicly displayed by the ultra westernized youth of today. So it’s cool to use F*** as an exclamation in every sentence one speaks but it’s so derogatory and uncivilized to use the Indian equivalent of the same. I don’t understand why this double standard; a curse word in any language is after all a curse word. Do we, urban Indians, wear some kind of mask?

Now coming back to the original issue, why is it that we lack globally scalable entrepreneurship particularly in the ready-to-eat segment? Because we are still naukri seeking people. In the Indian society, if you say you are an entrepreneur, people assume that you didn’t find a decent job so you are doing small time business. Moreover, for ethnic food items people who set up shops are basically thinking of running a family and sustaining the grind of life. The daily drudgery is perhaps so overpowering that hardly anyone thinks of exploring national or global expansion. These joints get confined to a city or a region and build a reputation good enough to flourish where they operate. But the primary reason for lack of scaling up of the ethnic foods is the typical mentality majority of us have regarding entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship doesn’t generate as much respect as an IIT, IIM, IAS, AIIMS type pedigree generates. As a result, young people who may have the ability to turn these ethnic foods into globally scalable businesses are doing their 9 to 6 jobs and happy with a cushy salary that gets deposited in their bank account every month.

So, if you want to see Samosa King in New York or London or Melbourne or Paris just like the ubiquitous Mcdonald then start promoting,
  1. Supreme love for Indian culture, language, food, attire. In short, promote anything that is Indian.
  2. Entrepreneurship and view entrepreneurs with same respect that you bestow on engineers, doctors, IAS officials, economists, professors, and any other respectful profession.


  1. Better Tomorrow For India // October 2, 2006 at 11:39 AM  

    Well, dear Mayank, till the fixation with fair skin remains strong, nothing is going to change. With the fixation with fair skin comes the fixation with everything western.
    Try to seek the reasons for lack of “Dark and Handsome” cream. If not in India, this should be marketed in Europe.
    Till then, drink Coke and Pepsi and forget about Ganne ka ras and lassi.

  2. Ajit Chouhan // October 4, 2006 at 1:26 AM  


    You always have some exceptions ...and they will be the real inspiration for many to come.

  3. Dew_Drop // October 4, 2006 at 3:25 PM  

    Well....i dont agree...with what "better tmmorow for india" says... dont we go and order lemonade (nimbu pani)...@ pizza hut....well i can qoute instances....wherein our desi khana...is selling like hot cakes... in cities...like Ahmedabad...which has much heigher...population of NRI's....but then...the trick lies...with making it quick..and hyginic....

    eveyone of has concerns...that god knows..what they put into...PAv Bhajji...maybe buccha kuccha subje..and loadsa oil.....so...there in lies the probelm...

    Also....to get a standard taste in Indian food is quite difficult...( i meant something like a mcdi...burger always tasting the same).... cuz u put in like hundred masala;s but...u cant weigh them everytime...everything depends...on the cook...so thats also..a issue...we nee to tackle...