Thursday, November 17, 2011


We need to develop our own concept of food parks!

Be it pav bhaji at the Juhu beach of Mumbai or kebabs at Old Delhi pavements, Indian palate has been encompassing and blossoming all across the country – growing at mercurial 30 per cent, annually. This unorganized industry is latently acting as the most important driver of the Indian retail (unorganized) industry which is pegged presently at $70 billion and forecasted to reach $150 billion by 2025! Out of 10 million street vendors across the country, more than 6 million are food vendors only! The eating out revolution in Indian cities is pegged at Rs.33,000 crores. Even though international food and beverage chains are doing brisk business, the street food still attracts the burgeoning Indian middle class. The fact that the organized sector consists of less than one fourth of total unorganized food market, signifies the importance of indigenous eating joints for the middle class consumers. A range of food items from starters to snacks to full course meals are available at a very affordable and competitive price. However, with increasing disposable income of the middle classes the street vendors are facing increasing competition from the organized retail chains, which has differentiated themselves with superior quality, healthy mediums, and better ambience! In short, the mushrooming organised food joints are eating away into this age-old market of India. Interestingly, while the organised sector remains less attractive due to location and budget, the major question for the unorganised sector remains hygiene. This gave birth to a third sector – the homegrown organized food chains! Not to undermine the potential of street food, Indian organized food chains serve the same specialized menu of the street vendors with much better hygiene, environment, and efficient management. Flushed with immediate success, companies are contemplating to expand a chain of the same restaurant in other cities as well. If budget is a factor for daily eating out, it has solved that constraint too by keeping it low, engineered by the fact that all the ingredients of these desi dishes are available cheaply! This is in contrast to the foreign chains which have the disadvantage of having to import foreign ingredients and sauces that are either not easily available or expensive!

The growth of eateries is mainly effected by new class of people, most of whom are migrating from villages or semi urban areas to the metros – carrying with them the taste of Indian cuisine – preferring Indian eating outs far more than otherwise! They might visit the western food joints once in a while but will warble their preference for gorging Indian stuff on a regular basis. That along with their pocket size ensures that Dhabas, street vendors, kiosks and carts are here to stay – along with it comes the well branded, differentiated, and reasonably priced home grown restaurants echoing penchant for Indian taste! It is imperative to upgrade and organize this food market. The charm of eating at road-side joint at New York or Bangkok is because of the way they have organized such chains. Our authorities should allot them a dedicated area with common sitting areas in lines with lavish food joints at Indian Malls. One such poor example is Delhi Haat in New Delhi, where not only one finds all possible street food (from across the nation) but also have choice of shopping locally made craft s. It is not about creating an enabling environment but also a matter of restoring Indian street food, which has a legacy and culture of its own.


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