McDonald’s, America’s beloved fast food chain, has established stores around the world. In some of its new locales, McDonald’s has become accepted by the locals and become a permanent part of the cultural landscape. James L. Watson, for example, wrote an article that described the success of the fast food chain in Hong Kong.
However, McDonald’s has yet to gain popularity in other countries in Asia, such as India. According to Heather Timmons, McDonald’s has been in the Indian market for nearly two decades. However, the brand has not been able to gain much popularity.
Interestingly, middle class Indian youth, the primary targets of McDonald’s ads, have an obsession with Western brands. They, like adolescents in Hong Kong, believe that associating themselves with Western brands “sets them apart from their peers” and makes them cool and modern.
Indian youth often frequent fast food restaurants and coffee shops because they are looking for a place to hang out. As Watson points out in his article, McDonald’s became successful in Hong Kong because it provided youth with a place to socialize. In India, however, McDonald’s seems to have forgotten about filling this important niche. All of the corporation’s energy seems to be focused on making its menu vegetarian, so it can can attract the millions of Hindu vegetarians who live in the country.
Starbucks, who opened up shop in India in 2012, has similar concerns about its menu. Many people believe that the company will not do well because Indians usually prefer tea. However, this is somewhat of a misleading statement. Indians living in South India usually prefer coffee.
Watson’s article on the success of McDonald’s in Hong Kong demonstrates that, for the fast food chain to become a part of its host culture, it needs to transform from a global product to a local product. McDonald’s has attempted to make burgers a local product by changing their menu, eliminating beef and introducing Indian flavors like the McAloo Tikki Burger. However, these changes, while necessary, are superficial. In order to truly prosper, McDonald’s will need to tap deeper into India’s culture and find a cultural niche. It needs to give Indians a reason to eat fast food. Changing the menu simply makes it possible for Indian Hindus to frequent fast food restaurants but doesn’t give them an incentive to visit.