Quick food outside the home or workplace has become an essential part of lifestyle in India over the past decade. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, and Nirula’s fast food chains have outlets in every nook and cranny of large cities. They efficiently serve burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, sandwiches and drinks to the busy person who doesn’t have more than five minutes to spare for his meal. Fast food has also rapidly gained popularity among the youth ever since its emergence. It is the youth’s idea of a quick and tasty lunch on-the-go.
Why fast food? It’s tasty, economical and only a drive-through or phone call away.
The fast food culture emerged as early as the 19th century. During the Industrial Revolution, a large workforce was required to work for 10 to 12 hours a day. With so much work to be done, fast food was the idea of a quick and easy lunch.
In India, fast food culture emerged in the decades after independence, starting from the 1950’s. Eating at home used to be a significant aspect of Indian culture, so the change was gradual. Over a period of time, with a growth in the number of nuclear families, economic growth and increasing per capita income as well as globalization, fast food culture gained prominence. Women were shifting from their conventional roles of managing the household and taking care of the children. With growth in literacy, they started joining the workforce in large numbers. Fast food became a time-saving alternative to cooking for them.
Similarly, children resorted to fast food to fill their stomachs in school and college. Their exposure to global urban culture and Western cuisine accelerated their want for cheap and delicious fast food.
Moreover, fast food costs less than traditional long meals commencing with appetizer and concluding with dessert.
Nirula’s and Pizza Corner – India’s most popular domestic fast food chains – gained rapid popularity during this period. Though the fast food culture originated abroad, these domestic food chains could create a perfect blend of international food with Indian ingredients. Paneer pizzas and aloo tikki burgers were indeed able to satisfy Indian taste buds.
With the liberalization of the economy in 1992, new multinational fast food giants started dotting India with their outlets. Burger King, Wimpy’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, and KFC outlets can be seen today in nearly every shopping mall and other public areas. In fact, these multinationals have given their domestic counterparts a run for their money. They are growing at a much faster pace than the Indian chains.
The emergence of the fast food industry has, to an extent, transformed urban food culture in India.
It is common knowledge that too much fast food is bad for health and may lead to obesity. An essential component of most fast food is fat – the kind of fat that in excess can lead to artery clogging. In large quantities, fast food may lead to obesity as well as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart diseases. Even certain types of cancers have been observed to spread due to lack of safety standards in some sectors of the fast food industry.
There are also several environmental problems associated with how fast food outlets process and package their products. Food packaging is done using plastic, Styrofoam and other synthetic products which are not biodegradable. In recent times, many fast food outlets have switched to paper bags. Though paper is biodegradable, at the large quantities in which paper waste is generated in India, currently paper is seen more as a pollutant. Metal and glassware would be more favorable to serve food, but they destroy the whole purpose of consuming food on-the-go. The need of the hour is a law or regulation that forces these outlets to recycle the paper, plastic and foam they use everyday.
India’s fast food industry is growing at 40% per annum and generates over Rs. 4800 crores in sales. The multinational segment of the industry generates over Rs. 7000 crores.
Fast food has, in a way, impacted the Indian economy by creating jobs. Outlets require a large number of unskilled workers who are willing to work for low wages. On the one hand, this generates widespread employment. On the other hand, some analysts feel that it weakens the economy by forcing people to take up jobs in which there is little room for advancement.
Fast food industry has been very successful in India, both in financial terms as well as in popularizing its quick service culture among the population.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/lifeontheedge/2349924429/sizes/m/]