Fear of India being invaded by foreigners looms large in the mind of all Indians. Darius from Persia came to India probably in 518 BC, since then we have been invaded by various countries, Greece, Scythia, Central Asia, Mongolia, Iran, Japan, British, China and hopefully no one else. In the last 65 years we have been content with a few wars with our neighbors. All this conquest, change of rulers and the constant fear of invasion has left an indelible mark on the Indian psyche. We do not trust foreigners and more importantly we do not trust foreigners bringing their goods and selling them in India. It is perfectly alright for us to go abroad and bring hordes of foreign goods and walk through the ‘Green Channel’.
India behaves abnormally whenever the government opens our market to foreigners – especially with food. Fear of foreigners taking away our jobs and livelihood looms large in the Indian psyche. Logic is thrown out and quickly replaced by high pitched emotions. Coca cola is one great example – all debates in and out of parliament around the seventies revolved around how to throw out Coca Cola – instead of one it became two four letter words – a symbol of tyranny by USA. People cried hoarse, coca cola is actually CIA in a bottle and so on. Years later, all the rhetoric one observed, looks foolish and outdated. Then came the flood of fast food chains in the late eighties – KFC, MacDonald’s, Pizza Hut. The whole nation once again went on an overdrive and cried wolf. What will happen to our eateries – the local samosa(fried pastry with a savory filling) will die - cried the North – South refusing to be sidelined said aiaiyyyoooo – what about our idly dosa. Bangalore too went ballistic and joined the fray and lamented about what would happen to ‘Vidyarthi Bhavan and MTR Dosa’ – Brahmin café Idly’ and so on. It’s now over twenty years and nothing has changed – all are co existing peacefully. I distinctly remember Mr Vithal Kamath the founder of ‘Kamath’ chain of hotels rubbishing the threat and saying, “What are you talking about fast food invasion – we are the original fast food people – you order a thali (A South Indian combo meal served in a plate) and it will be delivered to you in a jiffy with twelve items in it. Only the public have benefited with the variety available today.
Almost for forty years the ‘Bangalore Mysore ‘highway had only one food outlet - ‘Maddur Tiffany’. With the entry of KFC, MacDonald’s and our own ‘Café Coffee Day’ - the driving public have been spoilt for choice. Cleanliness and efficiency have improved due to competition. All the restaurants stand up and take notice of the customer. I am scared to recall the chaotic conditions that existed when Maddur Tiffany was the lone outlet. Today we have Two Kamaths, MTR, Adiga, Barista, Café Coffee Day, Mac, Pizza Hut and others. Somewhere in our psyche it has been etched that we are good people and the rest of the world is not. It is perfectly all right for Café Coffee Day to venture abroad. Cafe Coffee Day has started mare than 20 outlets in Karachi, Vienna, Dubai, Cairo and Prague.
Now it is our turn to cry all over again. This time it is about ‘Wal-Mart’. In 2004 my son joined ‘Fabmart” probably the first on line store in India – we ordered vegetables, provisions and everything else on line from Fabmart out of sheer loyalty to our dear son. This lasted for a few months and we were back to good old Venu Stores across the road. Venu stores include instant home delivery, payment at the end of the month, personalized service, free return policy and finally a bit of chit chat with Johnny, the delivery man. In the long run, Wal- Mart will survive alongside all the Kirana shops. Both will survive the competition as they service different clientele. In spite of Reliance Fresh, Namdhari, Hopcoms and the like, the local vegetable vendor who comes home every morning with his cart is still alive and kicking. Similarly there are a number of vendors who will continue to sell their wares at the door step. When we were kids, vegetables, fruits, the exchange of utensils, the sale of old news papers, old clothes and many more things were carried out at the door step. In Bangalore, even today this practice is still in vogue. So relax and take a deep breath – Wal – Mart will not upset your apple cart.
Figure 5 - Do not worry about melting
Figure 6 - At your door step
Figure 7 - Fresh Vegetables