Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kentucky Fried disowns the chicken.

Economic Times reports:

Burdened with a name and an international legacy that's enough to drive away a third of Indian consumers who happen to be vegetarian, KFC is desperately repositioning itself as any other fast food chain serving "irresistibly tasty food" and not just chicken. Its research showed that nearly 97% of urban Indians eat out in groups of three or more, and at least one of them a vegetarian, would mind going to a place that specialised in non-vegetarian food.

I'm sorry, this makes no sense to me.

McDonald's stands for burgers and fries. Subway for sandwiches and Pizza Hut for pizza. These places can attract vegetarians by having separate cooking/ assembly areas. But KFC stands for chicken. You can shorten your name to KFC but the C still stands for chicken.

This is the very reason it's had to much success, in countries like China. A country where KFC is opening 250 outlets every year! As Time magazine notes:

KFC outlets outnumber Golden Arches by more than 3 to 2 in the mainland... Part of KFC's triumph can be attributed to its first-mover advantage. At the same time, KFC had something other than the novelty factor going for it—the main item on the menu was familiar to Chinese. "You don't have to be a genius to sell chicken in China," says Jim Bryant, who brought Subway sandwich shops to China.

Getting back to India. Yes, we have a lot of vegetarians. A recent CNN IBN-Hindu poll placed the 'veg' population at 31%. Another 9% will eat only egg from the non-veg list.

That leaves 60% of the population which eats non-veg. And chicken is a universal favourite.

I hear what the research is saying. But the idea of ordering veg pulav at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, according to a young colleague, is like asking a Demonic Resurrection fan about Ravi Shankar's cassette!

What's more, this guy has been a loyal KFC customer in the Gulf (he still salivates over their all-you-can-eat-for-20dhs offer). But he's none too happy with his Indian KFC experience.

"When you bite into the chicken leg you would expect a certain amount of meat to be seen, the white fleshy part but no, instead you hit the bone. THERE IS NO FLESH ON THIS ONE..."

There could be a pricing issue as well. 4 pieces of chicken, coleslaw and two cold drinks cost 275 bucks.

If I were KFC I would concentrate on this core audience. Nahin to woh murga bhi haath se nikal jayega...!

Because vegetarians like me are unlikely to walk in there and order that veg pulao. The big problem I have - which I am sure turns on chicken lovers - is the smell. So much fried chicken under one roof, with people going crunch-crunch-crunch does nothing for my appetite. Especially when there are so many other options!


  1. Anonymous2:24 AM

    Think the main reason KFC moved away from the 'unabbreviated moniker(!)' was to sell non-chicken foods as well (their core at one time). see their menu .

    Not a surprise if they want to entice non-core veggie lovers now.

    Food related, but not related to the above topic - Starbucks is planning to sell sandwiches/bagels in 200 locations in NY as a start..

    Experiments for profits with non-core-competencies!

  2. I deeply distrust anything said on CNN-IBN.

  3. It'll always be hard for KFC to expand in India, especially since their main item that is fried chicken legs competes with tandoori chicken..a much cheaper and healthier alternative. However, the novelty of the brand will bring in customers...but it will depend on how much adapt locally..concocting more indian versions of their items..like in McDonalds has done..

  4. I don't agree with you on this issue

    The problem for KFC to be successful in India is 2-fold:-

    1. KFC will have to serve vegeterian food because when you go out in groups to eat of 5-6(which happens most o the times), with a 30% veg population there will atleast be 1 or 2 vegetarians.Believe me I have myself had those problems so many times where I have been forced to skip KFC and move to some other eatery(which serves both veg & n.veg), so as to not starve my vegetarian friends.

    2. Indians love their spices. Unfotunately the chicken dishes served at KFC are too bland or for that matter too sweet for the liking of an average Indian. So KFC will have to spice up their menu a bit.

  5. Rashmi,

    While you might not walk into KFC alone, if you had two chicken eating friends with you, you might go there if they did serve something apart from chicken. And that is what I understood the management of KFC is trying to do.

    ITC's moved from Indian Tobacco Company to ITC but as you put it T still stands for tobacco. However, IBM has moved from International Business Machines to well, IBM! IBM has been fairly successful in moving from its original acronym to something more universal. And that is what KFC will be trying to do.

    McDonalds is known for its hamburgers worldwide but in India, vegetarians also visit their outlets to have their McVeggie-whatevers. I would attribute it to a fairly pro-veggie stance which they took up initially itself. Whether KFC will be successful in converting to a veggie friendly avenue is another question, but I certainly wouldn't fault their approach.

  6. What a piece of Bull crap !!! This seems to be classic case of someone who can't compete with the local chains offering far better fare for substantially less price. KFC seems to be conveniently turning an issue of offering value and quality to it's customers into a Veg/Non-Veg issue. Ever heard of a Non-Veg place closing down in India becoz they can't get enough customers ? Very wierd !! All the restaurants (Veg/Non-Veg) are packed whenever I visit and restaurants which have non-veg fare also have plenty of veggie options anyway. KFC should just plainly state that they can't compete with the delicious IFC (Indian Fried Chicken) and just get the hell out !!!

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  9. Hey rashmi,
    pretty nice blog. What u said about KFC is totally true.
    Though at first i myself was skeptical as to how KFC would suit the taste buds of we Indians, who are so used to the spicy butter chicken and chicken tandoori of the Punjabi dhabas, but i must say KFC is juat as good.

    Btw, I would be interested to write for JAM-MAG. i have already written for it once, in the "You know u are in..." column about my college. You can visit my blog to get an idea of my writing style. What say? Contact me on tvamsee@gmail.com

  10. I have tried KFC at 2 places: India - Pune, Dubai UAE. Unfortunately, mu taste-buds arent sensitive enuff to diffrentiate between 2 variants of a foodstuff. So i cant really say which one's better. Frankly, for me, they both suck! they r way too bland for indian taste; almost as bland as iranian food (Ostadi, Bur dubai)
    Are shawarmas catching-up in India? they r quite popular with the non-veg eating indians here. I once had 1 during ramzan at pune camp. i heard dere r a few joints in andheri-lokhandwala and khar.

  11. I have never been there!!!
    I am vegetarian as well.

  12. Anonymous11:45 PM

    your colleague is SO right. i checked out the Bandra KFC when i was in bombay.
    it's weird. the chicken was too thin and not good, and they didn't serve any buns. in fact, when i asked for buns, the woman just stared blankly at me, then offered rice instead.
    rice at KFC!!! it's so bizarre. but then i guess it's cos i'm so used to the ones in dxb. cos people out there seemed to find it ok.

  13. Haha.. Interesting Reading. But hey, here are my views.

    If you could have vegetarian tomato omlettes why not vegetarian KFC. I would seriously suggest fried eggplants in a similar batter or an entire branch of cauliflower dressed to look like a drumstick for the truly veggies. You can of course have pulao instead of coleslaw. So you do have an authentic vegKFC. And for those of you that cannot stand the smell of bubbling chicken, I suggest coin operated Oxygen mask whiffs in every KFC to help you live through the experiance.

    That bearded fellow at KFC must be wondering what he'd do without my help.

  14. Mc Donalds and KFC are budget places in the US. You can have a cheese burger for as low as 99 cents. I don't understand why they charge 300 Rs in India for a burger.

  15. Rashmi,

    I think its a brillian opportunity lying in wait for the entrepreneur with execution skills - a Vegetarian fast food chain in India. It is sure to do amazingly well. The TAM is 100% of the new burgeoning middle class willing to spend on fast food. The great thing about India is that even non-vegetarians have a primarily vegetarian consumption (except perhaps the Keralites) with occasional nonveg consumption. So the addressable market is 100%. All an enterprising guy needs to do is to offer great vegetarian food at a decent price. Value at a good price and standardised.

    The closest thing that we have at present is the chain of Sagars and Upahars in Bangalore. They are the budget equivalent in India of McD and KFC in the US. But there is more space in this segment and even a slightly upmarket segment.

    In fact, one more reason the KFCs and to some extent McD didnt do as well in India is that (like Dr Darwin pointed out above) they are just not the budget eateries in India that they are in the US. They have to understand that with the stupid unreasonable prices that they charge, they leave out a huge potential market in India (except Bangalore where even attrocious prices retain customers)

  16. Not being a huge KFC fan due to their propensity to undercook the actual chicken inside all that batter, I must admit that it is the actual "crunch crunch" that takes people back for more.

    Once again, you've hit the nail on the head. KFC in India is a far cry from KFC in other parts of the world. Maybe the Indian chickens have less hormones injected into them, hence the lack of meat after the first bite? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

  17. not only KFC- any self-proclaimed fast food lover would complain for MC Donalds doing the same- using indian masalas in their burgers and indianizing their menu- which many people i've spoken to say upsets them- because they go to these places for a western feel- which is another reason why KFC is so successful because they stick to their roots whilst others change according to the places they go

    lovely blog- keep it up!

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  20. Anonymous9:47 PM

    dont bout how it is in india but here in US Subway and Macdonalds or for that fact any fast food chain or rest. do not have a seperate cooking area for vegetarians. That info is not right for the most part since when i was in india and i was at macdonalds there werent any seperate aread for veg or non veg.


  22. I like the way u writing

  23. If i am not wrong

    KFC food is not good at all

    Please check and let me know about this

    The chicken they use is from some chemical

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