As of November 05, 2011
The first time I went to KFC was in Hyderabad (the Veg Zinger is far better then McVeggie!!!). I don’t remember the date but being outside Gujarat for more than two years, I had shunned the inhibitions of having vegetarian meals in a non-veg environment. While the fast food chain had restaurants all over India, except for Gujarat till October 2011, the idea of having a KFC in Ahmedabad always excited me. Given the cultural bend and the food habit of the state, which is completely different from the rest of the India, opening KFC (where the name itself has hard-core non-veg element in it) would probably be the greatest challenge the fast food giant would have faced in India.
However, eventually, KFC opened its first outlet in the state on October 15th, at AlphaOne Mall near Vastrapur lake, albeit along with protests from Vastrapur Residents Association on social grounds. With large proportion of Gujarati population being vegetarians, especially Jains who are hardcore veggies, the protest was expected. Technically and legally, there is no hurdle for KFC to open the store. But the resistance from the vegetarian Gujarati population is expected to pose significant risk to the American non-veg giant’s success in the state. However, the owners of both, the mall and KFC, are firm and confident about introducing KFC in the state and making it a success. While there are two different school of thoughts, it is tricky to say which one is correct. Taking a cue from TOI’s View-CounterView, I have presented them both.
View – things that disturbs and taints the culture of the society shouldn’t be tolerated
KFC, by name and by nature, is a hardcore non-vegetarian restaurant. It is responsible for killing of billions of chicken and other animals, which is strictly against the culture and belief of Gujaratis. Approximately 70% of the Gujarati population is vegetarian. One of the largest population sets in Gujarat consists of Jains, who are hardcore vegetarians and strongly condemn animal killing to feed stomach. The locality, Vastrapur, where KFC set up its outlet, largely consists of Brahmins, Patels and Jains who are strict vegetarians. Opening a KFC outlet does hurt the religious sentiments of the people. It also sends wrong signals in future as the penetration of non-vegetarian food increases, especially among the youth of Gujarat, which will drive them away from their unique culture and food habit. Therefore, forces like these that threaten and disturb the unique culture of Gujarat, should not be allowed in the state.
CounterView – It is up to individuals to make decision on what they want to eat and what not
KFC is not the only fast food chain in Gujarat that sells non-vegetarian food. The protest has been drawn more from the name rather than the nature. McDonald’s and Subway also provides wide variety of chicken options in their burgers and sandwiches respectively. However, they have been operating successfully in the state since many years. Moreover, there are thousands restaurants and street-side outlets serving variety of non-vegetarian food such as chicken and mutton. On the other hand, KFC has taken extra care to keep in mind the religious and cultural sentiments of the people of Gujarat before starting their operations in the state. This includes separate uniforms for staff members, separate counters for vegetarian and non-vegetarian orders, separate cooking areas indicated by markings on the wall. These measures are adequate to allay the concerns of the vegetarian public in the state. The final decision to go and eat into KFC or not should be left alone to the individuals who are adult enough to take rational decisions. The fact that KFC has identified Gujarat as a potential market enough to open an outlet in the state itself suggests that there is a demand that exists for non-vegetarian food in the state.