Time for Indianised Bakery Cafes

It is a matter of common knowledge that the QSR market in India is growing at a rapid pace.  According to ASSOCHAM’s findings, the QSR sector in India was Rs.8500 crore in 2015, and it was expected to grow to Rs.25,000 crore by 2020. The finding was reported in October 2015. This is natural considering the maturation of globalisation in India, which has made a plethora of Indians develop a craze or even love for foreign origin products like burger and pizza.

QSR Growth

The significant growth in disposable incomes in select but sizeable pockets of urban India during the last decade-and-a-half and the huge number of nuclear families in urban India having less and less time to cook at home have also fuelled the demand for QSRs in India’s food service industry, during the recent years. This is reflected by the huge popularity of multinational QSR chains like McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza in India.

McDonald’s entered our country in 1996, and today there are about 300 outlets across India within McDonald’s brand ambit.  In 2015, India became the second biggest market for Domino’s Pizza, with only the US market for Domino’s Pizza being ahead of us.

Domino’s Pizza also was introduced to India in 1996 and till 19th January 2018, there was a network of 1128 Domino’s Pizza restaurants across 265 cities of India.  Jubilant FoodWorks & its subsidiary operates Domino’s Pizza brand with the exclusive rights for India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd. launched Dunkin’ Donuts in India, in April 2012, in Delhi. Till 19th January 2018, Jubilant FoodWorks had 43 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants across 12 cities in India. 

In a report of PTI in 2017 it was stated that Pizza Hut envisaged to almost double   its store count in India from 360 to over 700, within the next five years. During the recent years, many brands have entered India’s QSR market, which is another indication of the popularity of QSRs in the country.  Carl’s Jr., Burger King and PizzaExpress are only some of them.

The huge market potential of QSR outlets selling burger, pizza or patties or croissants can give a fillip to India’s bakery business. There is no denying the fact that QSR market in India is brimming with huge potential. The market presents a lucrative opportunity for the new entrepreneurs to enter. However, many of the local players with limited resources at their disposal may find it difficult to counter the onslaught of multinational giants in this area.

One of the pragmatic approaches for the new entrepreneurs to enter India’s QSR market is to Indianise their burgers, pizzas and patties. But that is already being initiated by multinational players like McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, etc. with considerable success.

However, the QSRs and bakery outlets or bakery cafes in India can easily fight off the challenge of the multinational players by specialising in our age-old baked creations. This would give them a different market niche, a different identity.

Yes, our own bread pakora, kulcha, and naan and kathi rolls, if packaged well, can be the answer to the burgers and pizzas.

A Different Market Niche

Yes, this writer has many times seen huge crowd during office hours at a tiny outlet in Connaught Place, selling yummy bread pakoras and other goodies. Its bread pakoras are a craze. There are many such outlets across India. The point is, we may become globalised, but still by and large, the palate of common men and women in the country is rooted in our culinary traditions. 

In the unorganised segment of India’s food service industry there are numerous outlets and roadside kiosks across the country selling bread pakoras, kathi rolls and kulchas, but there are not many players in India’s organised food service industry which are specialising on awesome variety of bread pakoras, naans, idlis and kulchas.  There are some players in India’s organised food service industry which are into kathi rolls, but their numbers are also quite less. Their market range in India is also quite less as compared to many multinational QSR players operating in the country. This needs to change.

So I am quite confident that a bakery café chain specialising in bread pakoras and different types of aromatic tea options at affordable prices can soon garner huge popularity in India. Yes, to cater to the non-vegetarians, our imaginary café chain (let us name it as café C) can present bread pakoras in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian formats. One form of bread pakora can have the filling of potatoes and paneer, the other form can have the filling of meat and chicken.

Of course, these outlets would have other bakery products too, but their specialisations should ideally be on one of the very popular Indian bakery products like bread pakora, kulche, naan, etc. 

Similarly, there can be sleek cafes or QSR outlets specialising in naans and kulchas, accompanied with chickpeas or minced meet or minced chicken, complemented by lassi, filter coffee and an array of piping hot aromatic tea options. Naans stuffed with minced meat or potatoes can also be delectable options for bakery cafes. Naan and kulcha are Indian flatbreads whose popularity is time tested.

An Untapped Market

I am sure a QSR chain or a bakery outlet specialising in delicious keema naan or keema kulche can compete with multinational burger and pizza chains and carve out its own niche, in the Indian bakery industry.

Similarly, there is a strong market need for cafes serving oven baked idlis with coffee in south India and also in other parts of India. Players can come up with QSRs of baked idli chain to make a fresh inroad in India’s bakery and confectionery business.

The bakery cafes or QSR entrepreneurs  in India can also tap the market by merging the indigenous with the exotic. Examples of such creativity are idli manchurian and pizza dosa among others. This writer still remembers having wonderful pizza dosa at Hariji’s stand-alone bakery cafe in Kerala.

Succinctly, we need to Indianise our stand-alone bakery outlets and bakery cafes, rather than Indianising the foreign bakery products; a trend which is already getting common. 

The concept of Indianised QSRs also needs to be fostered in India’s food service industry, which would help many new entrepreneurs in the industry to find their respective niches without stiff competition, constant threat of extinction, and without long gestation periods.

These type of outlets selling our indigenous bakery and confectionery products can easily widen their base in tier-II and tier-III cities, and rural India too, provided they can keep their prices in check.

Décor and Desserts

Of course, the ambience and décor of these QSRs or bakery cafes or stand-alone bakery outlets would also need to be quite different from the typical QSR outlets, bakery cafes, and stand-alone bakery outlets, so as to strengthen their market positioning. They should be inherently sleek but with an outward rustic charm. Ideally, they could have reflections of local culture as part of their interior artworks, as part of their décor.

For example, artwork representing bhangra dance can be apt for a Punjab-based bakery café chain specialising in keema naan, bread pakora and lassi, and artwork representing BhartanatyamMohiniattam, Kuchipudi, boat racing in Kerala, etc. can be apt for an idli café chain based in south India.

It would be wise if the dessert offerings at these very desi bakery cafes or QSR outlets or stand-alone bakery outlets specialising in indigenous bakery products are Indian sweets like rasogulla, rasmalai, and gulab jamun , and not exotic muffins, macaroons, and tiramisu. This would facilitate them to get a defined market identity.

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