Monday, September 22, 2014

Food habits, traditions, trends and what sells in India

Some times I feel there is no logic in sales - especially in a country like India where everything sells from a Nano to Audi car! Being a foodie, I realize the same is true - there are enough number of options available in dining and still new and new food items as well as eating outlets keep springing up everyday in every nook and corner.

In last 5 years, more than 30000 students have attended our workshops and one of the exercise we do is on idea generation, where students are supposed to come up with their own ideas, and once they are excited about the why, they take ownership of the how (which makes our job of training them easy and fun). More than 30% of the ideas which come out in these sessions are related to a food business - whether a restaurant, catering service, website, growing vegetables or inventing an instant energy pill to replace food!

Personally, I am a late adopter in terms of food - being a vegetarian also does not help much (I turned a veggie by choice in 1996 after watching Maneka Gandhi's TV series). As far as I remember, the first time I had a veg manchurian was in 1999 (2 years after I went to IIT) when my dear uncle took me to Ambala. The next I recall having mushroom masala in Bangalore that was in 2001 when I had taken up my first job in Infosys. Modern stuff like enchiladas were alien and I had not even heard the names. In 2012, I had Momos for the first time - well I am told they have been in existence for over a decade all across Delhi. That was the first time I realized Delhi street food is awesome. And my current favorite is Soya Chaap - those rubbery protein stuff that I first time had in Amritsar when I had gone to GND University. The beauty of soya chaap is it tastes as good as non-veg, and looks nearly the same, so you can be happy and not guilty at the same time.

Well, as for food habits, I believe it takes 10 years to entrench themselves - so whenever you are making a food based business plan, be sure to have a decade window in mind. Mcdonalds took 10 years to establish in India, and today I am as used to it as having roti-daal. Same for Dominos and many other brands which made it big in India. Maggi had a patient journey before going for hockey-stick growth. And if you are a real risk taker - make something kids can have, and if they last it will be a lifetime business for you. Take the instance of KinderJoy - that small 2 toffees in a box with 1 small toy stuff - it sells for 35 Rs. I can imagine it must be taking 1-2 Rs to make. Rest is all marketing!

Healthy food and organic stuff may still be a decade away from becoming mass options, as per my thesis of adoption in India. It may take a new generation to adopt what the brands selling cornflakes, olive oil, sugar free etc are trying to sell.

Well, time for my lunch and lets see what we got! Till next time, be awesome and be healthy.