McDonald’s has completed a decade in India this month and has some good results to show for its journey so far. Amit Jatia, MD and JV Partner, McDonald’s India (West and South), informed that despite being an international brand, there was much that had to be done for the brand to make a mark and then grow further in India.
Elaborating on the larger picture and the tenure in India, Jatia said, “McDonald’s is the world’s leading food service retailer with more than 30,000 restaurants in 119 countries serving 47 million customers each day. McDonald’s success has been attributed to the ‘Think Global, Act Local and Sell like a Retailer’ philosophy. McDonald’s followed this international mantra while opening doors to the Indian subcontinent. These 10 years we have worked on building a successful foundation in India. We believe a lot in localisation and that was the core property.”
Jatia believes that as the brand is celebrating its 10th anniversary in India, a network of 93 restaurants across the country and 36 (in the west and south venture) is something to take note of. “McDonald’s serves 2.5 lakh consumers across the country every single day and moving from strength to strength,” he asserted. “Its unique cold chain has brought about a veritable revolution in food handling, immensely benefiting the farmers at one end and enabling customers to get the highest quality food products, absolutely fresh and at a great value,” he added.
The Indian Brand Journey
Speaking on the beginning of the brand journey in India, he observed that the starting point was to clearly change the consumer perceptions from ‘foreign’, ‘American’, ‘not knowing what to expect’, ‘discomfort and new/different’ to ‘Indian’, ‘values families and culture’, ‘comfortable and easy’ – in short a ‘friendly place where families would love to enjoy and have a special time’.
“However, the onus was to consistently build and protect the brand while persistently committed to fundamentals of QSC&V (Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value). The first step for the brand was to establish itself as a familiar, comfortable place,” said Jatia.
Elaborating on the different levels of communications that the brand undertook in the country, Jatia said, “Taking a cue from the Indian family values, the year 2000 saw the first ever McDonald’s ad aired in the country. A child, who is unable to recite a poem and suffers stage fright, but when he enters McDonald’s, he easily recites it when in the comfortable familiar environment of McDonald’s.”
“Working on the insight – similarly when his family moves into a new place, the child misses all that has always been so familiar and dear. He then has the comfort of something that is dear and familiar to bring a smile to his face. McDonald’s was successful in creating an image of a warm and comfortable ambience through its ads,” divulged Jatia.
However, somewhere the general brand perception of McDonald’s in India was that of a place for kids following this communication. The brand itself had campaigns in the past, targeting kids, but McDonald’s recognised the fact that it could not always depend on the kids’ niche.
“When kids move up the consumption chain, there is a possibility of losing out on consumers,” Jatia explained, adding, “Moreover, the family outings with children only happen over the weekends and holidays. It was imperative to rope in adults who would patronise the brand over the weekends.”
Consequently, the next series of campaigns were targeted to drive in adult traffic to break away from the perception.
The next milestone in its brand journey was to establish McDonald’s as “affordable”. “While we had built the brand as a comfortable place, it was imperative for us to get consumers to view us as an affordable brand. We achieved this through our branded affordability campaign of ‘Happy Price Menu’.”
Some of the other India specific initiatives saw McDonald’s India, with its brand philosophy of ‘Forever Young’ modify its strategy to cater to the contemporary market requirements. Keeping with its philosophy of respect to cultural sentiments, McDonald’s does not serve its most popular product, the BigMac (a beef burger), but also developed an egg-less mayonnaise for the first time in the worldwide system.
“To suit the Indian palette, the McAloo Tikki burger, Veg Pizza McPuff and Chicken McGrill burger were among other offerings that were formulated and introduced using spices favoured by Indians,” noted Jatia. “Furthermore, each restaurant kitchen was designed to maintain separate vegetarian and non-vegetarian food counters. This is one of the most important initiatives in India.”
As for the future plans, he said, “McDonald’s is focusing at expansion across the country while not losing focus on our USP – Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value.”