India seems determined to take over the world bit by bite. So we should not take with a pinch of salt Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath’s remark at a recent reception for British and Indian business leaders that the iconic brand McDonald’s may need new ownership from India. Now, some may think that the minister has bitten off more than he can chew. But his statement is an indication that Brand India is the flavour of the season. We are now used to Indians taking over a variety of global giants in sectors ranging from aluminium and champagne to paints and Scotch. But McDonald’s means something a little more than that. Like Coca-Cola and Levis, McDonald’s is the exemplification of the American way of life that lesser mortals aspire to. It has inspired learned treatise from such experts as the inimitable Thomas Friedman who proferred the theory that no two countries that have a McDonald’s outlet ever fight a war with each other. We presume people are just so preoccupied with standing in queues to sink their teeth into a McBurger that they couldn’t be bothered to take up arms.
If an alien were to survey our planet, chances are that he would mistake the ubiquitous ‘golden arches’ as a symbol of earthlings. When millennia from now, archaelogists dig up ruins, they might stumble upon the remains of McDonald’s joints and think them to have been temples of a lost civilisation with Ronald McDonald as a God. So for Indians to take over this would amount to a reverse coca-colonisation for the Yanks. Already India has made a dent in the McDonald’s brand by forcing the chain to abandon its traditional cooking medium and Indianise its menu. If the British are hoovering up the ghastly chicken tikka masala in pubs, the day may not be long when steak-loving Texans are biting into burger Chettinad or burger tandoori. Yes, variety is certainly the spice of life for us and sooner other monocultures like McDonald’s understood that, the better.
In fact, Indian ownership might also bring about a change in the whole McCulture of the giant. As things stand, the hapless customer in the US is allowed no more than 40 minutes to wolf down his burger and fries so that the next victim can be served. None of that eat and scoot for us Indians. So we could well see that the old Indian adda might spring up in between nibbling at burgers thus civilising fast food culture. Now that is food for thought. Mr Nath, not one to mince his words, is clearly on the right track. At the pace with which India is gobbling up companies, what we have seen so far is just the starters. The main course is a bit away, the meal ending with McDonald’s on our plate. Is this all wishful thinking? There are no patty answers.