There are two different stores for organic food in the 2 km radius around my house in Mumbai. There are more sprouting in Chennai, Bangalore, Pune and more. From Vadodara to Vizag – there are murmurs of local entrepreneurs looking at organic foods as a business opportunity.
Really? Firstly, what is organic food? In India – there is no regulatory body such as the USDA that certifies food as organic. In absence of clear and widely known standards of organic food, there is little agreement on what is considered organic. More importantly, who cares?
For the Indian consumer, his/ her real worries are contaminated / sewage water used for irrigation, high level of pesticides used on the crop and perhaps genetically modified crops (ever since I read about porcine genes used for making fleshy potatoes—I am spooked!). The danger of bringing a foreign concept into India ‘as is’, is this: you can completely miss the real opportunity and can spend decades trying to educate a consumer rather than cater to their specific needs.
The so-called organic food industry would do well to call themselves ‘pesticide-free’ or ‘toxic-free’ rather than trying to force a nation to learn the meaning of organic.
For decades, the industry’s insistence on using the word ‘yoghurt’ instead of ‘curd’ or ‘dahi’ was mystifying. In the last few years, dairy brands have stumbled onto the incredible concept that consumers will be more responsive to the familiar!
But this learning does not seem to extend to the use of the word ‘pro-biotic’. What is it really? Every Indian knows that curd is good for digestion and curd rice is the easiest thing to digest – for babies to seniors. Would not a ‘super dahi’ or a ‘curd plus’ kind of nomenclature demystify this category?
Category after category—we see a rush to bring in foreign categories/ products/ brands to India—with barely a nod to local needs. But imported concepts do not translate into market successes and remain peripheral brands. To grow truly big— in a country such as ours—the answers need to be local. McDonald’s, Domino’s, Lays and others have all learnt the lessons of localisation with local flavours and cuisines becoming part of the local offering.
For others, the global dictates are so strong—that local opportunities are completely lost. For eons now, Harpic has been the overwhelming market leader in the toilet cleaner category. The closest challenger Domex is a distant second. It