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Indian Quick Service Restaurants Hungry for Market: Industry Set For Exponential Growth

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The food industry in India has been booming in the recent times, owing to the rising disposable income of the middle class. The Indian restaurant market was valued at Rs 20,400 crore in 2016 and is expected to grow to Rs 51,000 crore by 2021, according to industry body National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI). Quick service restaurants (QSR) like Pizza Hut, Burger King, Goli Wada Pav, Burger Singh, etc have been growing exponentially in the recent times and key people from these industrial leaders came together for The Economic Times Round Table discussion conducted in association with DuPont Nutrition & Health.

The competition of Indian and International QSRs, innovations in the sector, and the changing tastes and habits of the Indian consumers were some of the topics that were discussed in the event. Unnat Varma, MD of Pizza Hut (Yum! Restaurants India) spoke about the learning and unlearning what needs to be done to adapt to a market like India and said, “When global brands come to India they come with a concept that is working in a lot of countries around the world and the idea is to replicate the same. But consumers here may not be used to western food concepts. So you adopt a bridge category… if customers aren’t aware of my concepts, can I have something familiar within my new formats. Your concept can never be built on a local initiative and you can’t dilute that. You can provide temporary short term bridge products.”

Raj Varman, CEO of Burger King India, spoke about the talent available in the country and said, “India was a different challenge in the sense that when you come into India, you realize you cannot serve 80%of what you sell, and your core products. So we built the menu from scratch. Despite all the challenges and issues-the forward and backward integration I have not met a vendor who has said it cannot be done. They say give me some time I will get it done. So with the agility and flexibility of these people, and the amount of talent we have here, whether it’s chefs, food technologists, or people working on the lines, the future for QSR looks bright and beautiful.”

Kabirjeet Singh, co founder of Burger Singh and Venky Iyer, founder and CEO, Goli Vada Pav shared their experience of beginning their companies from the scratch in the Indian restaurant industry. Burger Singh sells burgers like Amritsari Murgh Makhani Burger and the Udta Punjab Burger and Goli Wada Pav has taken the staple Maharashtrian street food of Wada Pav on the national map.

“We wanted to build the model slightly differently. Indian food is popular around the world. Indians will not eat a burger everyday but they will eat dal chawal everyday and there had to be certain pull in that direction. We did the innovation predominantly on Indianising the product. We went absolutely crazy with it. We cut out the layers and innovated on the product and the packaging,” Singh of Burger Singh revealed. Venky Iyer spoke about supply chain, franchising and branding at the event and said, “We got a company making burger patties for bigger chains making vadas for us. Then we got chutney from people who make sauces. Consumers who ate our products became our franchisees.”

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Suresh Goel, CEO of Bikanervala said there was enough room for growth in India for both global and domestic QSR chains. “I don’t find any competition with other global chains. We are selling Indian ethnic food in India. They have a system a procedure on how to scale up the chain and the store. But, our products and our store formats differ. We want to have mechanization and a learning process and I hope they will not consider us competitors. We can all give the best quality food in the Indian market. There is a huge space to grow for everybody,” he explained.

Dr Yongjing Li from DuPont Nutrition and Health and Varma spoke about the need for innovation. “The innovation discussion is very valuable. DuPont is a science company and we have survived because of technology and innovation. The suppliers need to understand the formulation and processes of companies. DuPont has set up innovation centers globally including India. We want to be part of the innovation process here,” said Li.

Varma stressed on the need for suppliers and QSRs to innovate together. “In India we have the purchasing power of a third world country but costs of a first world country. To make the business models work, you have to have a good balance between the right prices, adequate transactions on a weekly basis and it is important to make sure your supply chain is world class. Supply chains and QSRs can innovate together. Process is the backbone of the scaled business. It is important for suppliers to come into our kitchens.”

Chef Sanjay Agrawal, founder Salad Chef had been at it for a while and said healthy eating is about passion and is not need based.“We have not seen competition for 20 years. There was no salad chain when we started. We have invested a lot to bring this concept in the Indian market and in the last4-5 years we are seeing some competition coming in. People are now thinking of fresh, non-processed food. It is a passion and quality driven client base.”

The event also honored various innovations and that were made in the food science and quality control industry with the DuPont NutriScholars Awards. The innovation competition welcomed ideas from university students from all over India and awarded the best and unique ideas for processing Indian traditional foods. Kolkata based Techno India bagged the first prize in Best Innovation in Local Foods Category for their idea, Frozen yogurt gems. The second prize was awarded to National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship & Management, Sonipat for development of ready to eat khichdi noodles incorporated with kodo millets and fortified with vitamin D. The third prize for Best Innovation in Local Foods Category was bagged by Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur for Vegetable based instant filler mix for stuffed paratha.

Women’s Christian College, Chennai won the first Prize in the Most Nutritious Food Idea category with their ready-to-eat protein fortified mint spread – Spread It. Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai and National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal stood second and third in this category for the ideas of Soyabean Rasgulla and Ragi Malt based long shelf-life ready-to-drink nutritive dairy beverage, respectively. The development of protein rich herbal traditional vermicelli bagged Bangalore’s Plantation Management the first Prize Winner in the Ultimate Health & Wellness Product category. Institute of Chemical Technology (Mumbai) bagged the second place for their Health Drink mix and School of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, DY Patil University, Pune won the third prize for Kohola-Amlaras.

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