Made for India: Succeeding in a Market Where One Size Won’t Fit All

by Dave

India Knowledge@Wharton

While consumers across the world are seeing a growing number of “Made in India” labels on the goods they buy, Indian shoppers are witnessing a more subtle change. Increasingly, multinational companies are selling products that are not just made in — but that are made for — India.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in food preferences and habits. Across most of the world, NestlĂ©’s Maggi is known best as a soups-and-sauces brand. In India, it has become the generic word for instant noodles. The product sold in India, though, bears little resemblance to the ramen of East Asia. It was introduced in 1982 with a masala (spicy) flavoring and, over the next 25 years, NestlĂ© continued to launch variants that would appeal to local and regional tastes.

McDonald’s took note of that as far back as 1990, when it began establishing local supplier partners, six years before it opened its first restaurant in India. Working on its first no-beef, no-pork menu, the company ensured that suppliers respected the beliefs of its future customers. Vegetarian products are prepared with dedicated equipment and utensils and, in some cases, by a separate workforce. All food is cooked in vegetable oil, and the mayonnaise and other sauces do not contain egg (considered a non-vegetarian food).

Within three years of its 1996 launch, Pizza Hut opened its first vegetarian restaurant in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, a state with a large Jain population. Not only did the outlet serve no meat, it also offered a selection of Jain toppings. (The Jain religion proscribes all meat and root vegetables, including ginger, garlic, onion and potato). There are now three all-vegetarian restaurants in India, the only such Pizza Hut outlets in the world.

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