The food experience in the country is changing day by day. And it changed remarkably during last two decades. I remember giving a Vada Pav, a Melody (chocolate by Parle) or a Pepsi-cola for the birthday party while I was in school. Today, these items are more of an everyday snack than a party food. Nowadays, even school children throw their birthday parties in Pizza Hut. There are two striking features between the past and the present; one being the money spent and another the type of cuisine.
Analysing the Journey
Undoubtedly, today everyone is ready to try newer types of food as we have multiple cuisine restaurants. Earlier, such restaurants were either expensive, few in number or situated at premium locations. So, we avoided them and stuck with our typical menu of Shiv Sagar’s. On special occasions, we used to have Indianized versions of Chinese and Italian. Actually, we went to Shiv Sagar for special occasions. Indians were not used to dining out casually. Apart from that, I remember having Indian Chinese noodles by the roadside stall and Indian pizza on a smaller and thicker pizza base (of Monginis’). The McDonalds’ burger and Café Coffee Day’s (CCD) coffee were quite popular but expensive and thus unattended.
(McDonald’s first outlet in India was opened on 13th October 1996 in Delhi. CCD’s first outlet in India was opened on 11th July 1996 in Bengaluru.)
The Role of Television:
The first of its kind, Khana Khazana conquered the hearts of Indians, where Chef Sanjeev Kapoor presented his culinary skills on TV. Every region has its own cuisine and that nudged regional channels. Every regional channel then started showing cook shows. The concept got a massive response from around the corners of the country. People started trying those recipes and slowly developed taste buds for other cuisines. That’s how international cuisine entered Indian families. International dishes sometimes needed different ingredients which were difficult to find then. Now, things have changed. We easily get corn, oats, broccoli, kiwi and many other items even with the street vendor and local grocery shops. Apart from the taste and cuisine, health was also the main focus of these shows. TV chefs instantly took over dietitians. Another interesting point to note is that every such show focussed the ‘presentation’ aspect of the food which was never a thought for Indians. However, the next generation picked that up. Today, most of us love ‘good looking’ food and are eager to post food pictures. Thanks to the evolution of food shows!
(Khana Khazana was broadcasted on Zee TV. This Hindi channel was launched in October 1992.)
The Rise of Middle-Class:
Café culture also picked up considerably over last five to seven years. Today, there are more than 1500 CCD stores in India. Starbucks opened its first Indian outlet in 2012 and as of April 2017, it operated 91 outlets. Starbucks, a premium coffee shop was able to penetrate Indian cities successfully by expanding its operations each year. Here comes the next reason – affordability. People had money to eat something different, but expensive dishes. The standard of living improved considerably as there was a rise of middle-class in urban areas along with shrinking lower class. The nation witnessed a rise in women workforce and nuclear families simultaneously. Urbanisation was rampant succeeded by the suburban sprawl where the middle-class settled. We could see today that suburbs are not neglected by any restaurant chain or café. People now dine casually on an average of two meals a month (still lower than Singapore where it is 40 meals a month).
Office parties and get-togethers had a huge impact on the earnings of restaurants. There are corporate discounts and special arrangements between companies and various restaurants. Commercial hubs, business parks and economic zones made these relationships stronger. Employees (who otherwise would not afford to eat at such places) relished five-star restaurant experience which was possible only because of company’s welfare activity. Companies were willing to spend due to major shifts in human resources (HR) policies.
Technology has transformed this entire journey and leapt it to another level. Right from restaurant and menu selection to reviewing and recommendations; everything is possible within a few seconds. Zomato and Instagram are the two major apps used for these purposes. Our food choices depend mainly on how attractive the food and restaurant looks, the services provided, the songs played, ratings, etc. Food photography and blogging have increased manifold. Apps like Food Panda and Swiggy can deliver food from your favourite places at your doorsteps. Hola Chef could deliver home-made food while Big Basket could deliver all fruits and vegetables.
A Common Thread
There is one common cause behind each aspect of this journey and that is the New Industrial Policy of 1991. Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, LPG – a common jargon used in economics, played an important role in transforming our culinary experiences. Various MNCs set up their offices and factories. Indian companies faced competition and the net beneficiary were consumers and job seekers. The country grew rapidly for last two decades. McDonald’s, private TV channels, the rise of middle-class, suburban growth and shift in HR policies (major reasons discussed above) were the natural fallout of LPG. As we embraced foreign capital and technology, we also imported their culture – food, drinks, clothing, corporate culture, etc. Nonetheless, LPG transformed our lives. Today, this industry is valued more than Rs. 75,000 crores with the average annual growth rate of 7%. There is an intense competition and the rule of survival of the fittest aptly fits the sector.
So, this is it. The tale of our changing food experiences. What do you feel about it? Which other factors might have contributed to this change? Which cuisine do you prefer? What do you look into a restaurant? Share your delicious food journey on econGully now!
– Swapnil Karkare
- NCAER Report on households earnings