When people think of franchising, the first thing they think of, almost anywhere in the world, is McDonald’s. So I was pretty keen to have a look at how McDonald’s operates in India, given the exploding market there, as well as the country's varied ethnic identities.
McDonald’s opened their first store in India in 1996. India, while a huge market, posed many cultural challenges for McDonald’s. Hindus, by far the largest religious group in India, are traditionally vegetarian. On top of that, they treat the cow as sacred (for instance, there were four cows tied to a tree outside my hotel in Mumbai and they would sleep every night on the street). At the same time, there are also 133 million Muslims in India, who do not eat pork. So McDonald’s, before they even opened their doors, were at a quandary. Is a McDonald’s without a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder really a McDonald's? Bravely, they removed all beef and pork products from their Indian menu and created a number of meals to satisfy the Indian palette.
But problems have occasionally flared up. When McDonald’s revealed in 2001 that they cooked their french fries in beef fat, there were riots outside Indian restaurants. They seem to have gotten their cultural sensitivities in line though, and based on my own eyewitness evidence, their urban restaurants are thriving.
The McDonald’s I have documented below is in The Fort area of Mumbai. It's the traditional business area of the city and throughout the whole day, it is a hive of activity. There are many beautiful Victorian buildings in this area. McDonald’s is in one of them actually, with a nicely-designed interior with outdoor picnic-style seating along the street. The menu might be the most diverse of any McDonald’s in the world. You can get veggie burgers, hot cheese (paneer) wraps, and even something called a McPizza Puff.
The McDonald’s in The Fort was packed the evening I visited, as was the one I passed by in New Delhi a few days later. For the generation of wealthy young Indians, McDonald’s, remarkably, has a reputation as a healthy, vegetarian-friendly restaurant. Also, they offer delivery, which is an exciting frontier for McDonald's. It seems as if the Golden Arches have a great future in India.
This is a photo of an advertisement outside of the McDonald's at The Fort. There are some menu items to the right and in the background you can see the umbrellas for outdoor eating. The warm climate in Mumbai makes India perfect for outdoor eating.
This is outside the door of McDonald's. The most interesting thing here is that they are advertising their delivery service. This is pretty unique for McDonald's. Obviously, they feel they need a delivery option to compete with Mumbai's many other food services.
Here we have a closer look at some of McDonald's food options. Notice the Veg Pizza McPuff and the ice cream at the bottom.
Here's an interior shot of the restaurant. You can get a sense of how the distribution works. All of the eating takes place outside, as far as I can remember. The store was strongly air-conditioned, as well.
This is the outdoor terrace created for eating. There are no tables inside and the place was packed on an early Tuesday evening
Here's a look The Fort McDonald's as the sun goes down. Note the McDonald's sign in Hindi. McDonald's is the most recognized franchise in the world and it was interesting to see so many Mumbaikers flocking to it.
You can read our earlier post here
on franchising in India. Keep an eye on the blog over the coming days for further insight on Indian franchising.