Biryani Nation

posted by on 2007.09.13, under Humor, India, Travel

I have a confession to make. Today, for the first time in 18 months I ate a meal at McDonald’s. A last minute decision, after finding out that the only Mexican restaurant in town was closed, I chose the golden arches. Call it homesickness, wanting to see a familiar face, or logo for that matter, or the country music lovin‘ cowboy hat wearin’ Midwest side of me coming out, demanding to be a part of some form of globalization that I had not intentionally created, I dined with Ronald this afternoon. Truth be told, it was the only place I knew that I could grab a bite in 10 minutes.

It was splendid meal, to my surprise the service was unlike any Mcdonald’s I have been to. The meal came out to only $1.50 USD. I was shocked to see a woman in the restaurant requesting that an employee charge her cell phone while she ate her Chicken Maharaja Mac. They had no problem serving her request.

My meal consisted of a McAloo Tikka burger (Fried breaded potato & peas patty that is flavoured with a special spice mix,) , coca-cola (which is far inferior to the local Thumbs Up beverage), and french fries. When I finished, my table was cleared for me, and I left content, yet guilty of replacing my usual Biryani meal, a rice dish Hyderabad is world famous for. Biryani was also a product of globalization centuries ago, but instead of being from the Americans, it was the Iranians who gifted this meal to the folks in Hyderabad, and the rest of India for that matter.

With all the changes that the corporation decided to implement into their menu here in Hyderabad, they struck a right balance of incorporating the multinational brand here, with the charm that McDonald’s is famous for, while catering to the local taste of the people in India. An advertising agency, who’s name escapes me, recently coined the word “glocal” in their campaigns. (global + local)

McDonald’s even have created a different menu for locations in North India vs West India. My aunt’s husband, a successful businessman in Mumbai told me that McDonald’s success in the city, apparent by their many locations around the city, home delivery, and veg menu was contrasted completely by KFC. They are apparently perceived as being just another American company trying to exploit the exploding population with an American product, without changing it to fit the people here. They are not glocal. Driving home today, I saw a billboard saying that KFC was the best Chicken dinner meal in the World. They have failed to realize that they face a tougher competitor, Tandoori Chicken. If you have ever tasted yourself will understand that KFC stands no chance to becoming a widely adopted meal over here. There are just like Hollywood, who have failed at trying to promote their films in India for many years. , India, unlike other countries around, has not really adopted American movies into their lives, as Bollywood is far too popular over here, producing 3x as many films as the people in LA. Tollywood, slightly smaller but with just as loyal of a fan base, has also shown a strong presence, with actors that can split bullets in half in mid air, and other action-related phenomenons. In fact, 99% of revenue made in the film industry in India has been from Indian productions. The guys at Sony are finally taking a smart approach, by starting to fund movies made here, written for and produced by Indians. Can we expect to see KFC Tandoori chicken on the menu soon?

McDonald’s here is actually what seems to be a classy restaurant, in the most expensive part of town, offering something that the locals appreciate, and enjoy. The crowd was upper class, dressed well, enjoying the social gathering of the establishment. The only hassle with the experience was having to go through security to get in the place, due to terrorist threats at this time because of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival this weekend, and recent bombings in the city.

Many of you have seen me in my red Ganesh t-shirt – I will have the chance to wear this shirt while celebrating this festival in Mumbai with my family this weekend. I read articles today, saying how the idols were going to be bigger than last year, up to 15 meters in height, while the mayor of Mumbai request to keep the size of the idols under 8 meters, to try to prevent pollution in the Arabian sea. Speaking of which, the Tsunami warning was called off this morning, after the Earthquake in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, topped 8 on the Richter scale. I had an aqaintance in college that had the last name Richter, and used to tell women that they topped 8 on his Richter scale, in hopes to charm them. That line can’t possibly have any success in either Hyderabad or East Lansing, that one thing I am sure of.

My driver Satyam told me his wife is expecting a child in 8 months. There will be exactly the same number of years in age between his children as there are between my younger brother and I. I have decided to explore the possibility of writing a story about this experience with Satyam, and the conversations we try to have in our 3 hours together. He has told me about all the opportunities he has missed in his life which he wishes he would have taken, told me about how 15 years working a government job resulted in the branch just one day closing and him being out of work, after only taking the job because his mother was a servant for a government officer, and that seemed to be the best career path.
Perhaps it will be tale along the lines of “The Pursuit of Happiness,” and Satyam can come out ahead in the end. Maybe even I can have Will Smith play the role, filmed here in Hyderabad…..

Just this Monday , Satyam gave me a gift, motivational posters on success to put in my office. He told me he believed in the words on them, and that he wants me to do well.If you have any ideas or suggestions for a kind gesture I can offer him especially with news of a new child on the way, please post a comment. I finally realized this blog required registering to post such things. Really annoying, I have since changed that setting so you won’t have to deal with any hassles with such things going forward. (This is stuff I am working to keep off the site I am building)


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