New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) Global fast food major McDonald's says it survived and expanded in India by developing innovative menus to cater to the Indian taste bud, something it has not done anywhere else in the world. As it completes 10 years of serving burgers, wraps and French fries in India, initially against opposition from nationalists, the firm has major growth plans, to double its turnover every three years in the next decade.
Two joint ventures, Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt Ltd, which is responsible for northern India, and Hard Castle Restaurant Pvt Ltd, which oversees the western region, manage the company in India.
Both partners have so far invested around Rs.9 billion ($193.23 million).
The decade's experience in India has witnessed an international food company developing menus that Indians would relish.
'Initially we were here just like any other part of the world. It's after a year of business we realised that we have to change if we have to survive,' Vikram Bakshi, managing director at McDonald's India, told IANS.
'Seventy percent of our products have been developed to suit the Indian taste, something that happened for the first time in the company's 51-year history,' said Bakshi, 52.
'In India we have been extra careful not to offer beef or pork items keeping in view the country's cultural sensitivity.'
The biggest challenge the American franchise faced in India was how to reach the large vegetarian population of India for which it had to reengineer its products and yet maintain international brand value.
So in 1999 it came up with 'McAloo Tikki Burger' - a burger unheard of anywhere else.
'Today the McAloo Tikki Burger is the single highest selling product and is one of the first products to be exported to the Middle East due to high demand,' said Bakshi, speaking at his corporate office in Jor Bagh.
The McAloo Tikki has indeed won over numerous Indians.
Said Sulakshana Monga, a New Delhi-based fashion designer: 'I just love biting into Veg Surprise, and McAloo Tikki is my all-time favourite. They are the best.'
McDonald's now exports the Veg Burger and Pizza Mcpuff to the Middle East as well.
In India the company's sales have grown at the rate of 40 percent. It has entered into three alliances with the Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) to open outlets in its fuel stations.
'In India we constantly strive to do something new to maintain brand sustainability,' said Bakshi.
McDonald's has plans to open 20-22 new outlets, including one in Kolkata, which will be its first outlet in the eastern region.
'We are expected to invest around Rs.4 billion ($85.88 million). We hope to double our turnover every three years for at least a decade,' Bakshi said.
As part of its innovative marketing strategies, the company celebrated 2002-03 as the 'Year of Taste' in which the fast food chain brought out an entire range of unique items like Paneer Salsa Wrap, Chicken Mexican Wrap and McCurry Pan to cater to the Indian palette.
'For our young customers we brought out Happy Meals, which is a huge success.'
According to B