Sunday, July 19, 2009

Globalizations: Pillsbury Doughboy™ takes on a Desi (South Asian) Avatar in America

This month I have been traveling across cities in Anytown, USA more than my usual quota. It is for an interesting consulting engagement we are doing for a client in Houston that also has offices in Cincinnati, Ohio. While on the road, I try to keep my culinary urges in check, preferring to go for known brands of chains, generally large fast-food brands. I am vegetarian and it is interesting how large chains have at least one or two good entrée for folks just like me. Given my South Asian/Indian heritage, I also like the occasional Desi (Indian) dinner.

After a busy day of meetings I don’t always want to head to a sit-and-eat restaurant I prefer to pick up some Ready-to-eat Indian food at local Indian grocers in Anytown, US. I guess I am not alone: an entire micro industry of Indian Ready to Eat cuisine (both of frozen and pre-packaged variety) has taken off in the past decade catering to both the Indian Diaspora, Non Resident Indians and also busy working-couples in India. Even with the limits on H1, L1 and works visas and Green Cards being issued by American government, sufficient number of Indians, Indian Americans and South Asians seem to be criss-crossing the continents to make the business of Ready to Eat cuisine viable.

What is really interesting about the pervasiveness of Asian/Indian Ready-to-eat food is that global giants like General Mills have taken their uniquely American brands like Pillsbury Doughboy™ east, to India, built market share, and are also "importing" back some local hits. For instance, General Mills in India has been expanding their Pillsbury wheat (Atta) brand into the pre-cooked, ready-to-heat-and-eat rotis and Naans (Indian breads). These brands, including the frozen variety are now being “exported” back to Indian grocery shops across North America and Europe.
While this would make an excellent case-study or white-paper on globalization with a mix of supply-chain management and cross-cultural sensitivities, for now I am content to sample and enjoy the by-product.