Many multinational companies have realised that they need to tailor their products to local conditions to be successful in India. Bhakti Chuganee reports on their experiences.
hen the American cereal manufacturer, Kellogg's, entered the Indian market in 1994 and launched its breakfast cereal here, it presumed that the Indian market would be a cakewalk. And why not? Kellogg's was a well known global brand needing no introduction. However, Kellogg's initial euphoria was short lived. It hadn't taken into account the breakfast habits of Indians. The breakfast menu varies from region to region and even between towns and villages. The market for cornflakes was just not big enough, as Kellogg's learnt to its dismay. This summer, while the cereal maker is globally riding piggyback on the Star Wars theme, to coincide with the release of Star Wars-III, in India, Kellogg's has decided to come closer to Indian tastes. It has latched on to the subcontinent's favourite summer fruit by introducing mango-flavoured cornflakes. Apart from Kellogg's, many multinationals like fast food chain McDonald's, US auto major Ford, Finnish cell phone manufacturer Nokia, Dutch consumer electronics company Philips and the Korean chaebol LG Electronics have successfully tried to understand both, the Indian market and its consumer. McDonald's in India is a joint-venture
company managed by Indians. Amit Jatia and Vikram Bakshi are the local partners responsible for running McDonald's in India. While Amit Jatia's company, Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. owns and manages McDonald's restaurants in western India, Vikram Bakshi's Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. does a ditto with McDonald's restaurants in northern India. In India, which has a very strong vegetarian culture — and where eating beef and pork is proscribed by the Hindu
and Islam faiths — Ronald McDonald has developed a menu with vegetarian selections in accordance with local tastes and culinary preferences. "McDonald's does not offer any beef and pork items in India and has re-engineered its operations to address the special requirements of a vegetarian menu. The separation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food products is maintained throughout the various stages of procurement, cooking and serving," says Amit Jatia. Additions to the menu are a regular
feature. The product development team works on innovations in products, which are based on consumer insights and feedback obtained through extensive research. To date, McDonald's India has introduced 14 products to suit the Indian palate. "Currently, nearly 60 per cent of our products are totally vegetarian," says Jatia. Ford India's $380 million plant is situated at Maraimalai Nagar, about 45 km from Chennai in south India, and manufactures up to 50,000 vehicles a year. In a
PRODUCTS MADE FOR INDIA, CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The Nokia 1100, a special vegetarian McDonald’s burger and the Ford Ikon
A GLOBAL MAJOR GOES LOCAL TO WIN CUSTOM: McDonald’s Amit Jatia
crowded market with almost all the major marquees present, Ford India was the first subsidiary of a multinational car manufacturer to launch a car designed specifically for the Indian market. It was the mid-sized Ikon, which was launched in October 1999, and has since taken the market by storm. According to Vinay Paparsania, Ford's VP, sales, marketing and external affairs, "The Ford Ikon is today India's leading mid-size car with over 190,000 units sold, including exports." An adaptation by Ford India for the Indian market is the Ford Fusion, "a combination of an SUV and a luxurious sedan in one model." Changes for India in the Ford Fusion include an allnew air-conditioning system for the hot and humid tropical climate. The car also meets stringent Ford requirements of water-wading for India and was subjected to tests for varying terrain like highways, semi-urban roads,...