Globalisation has started showing its ugly face in India! The news item in TOI (12th January 2014) that says that 90 Udupi eateries have shut shop in Mumbai is a sad reminder of the times that we are living in. We have succumbed to the lure of anything and everything that is foreign so much so that somewhere we are slowly losing touch with our roots and our rich cultural heritage.
I still recall the wonderful moments spent at Vishwa Mahal restaurant - a stone’s throw away from Mulund railway station in Mumbai. It was a cozy restaurant and the AC hall on the first floor was designed in such a way that eating was sheer pleasure. As Vishwa Mahal used to be crowded on Sunday evenings, I would opt to go on a weekday instead. Their masala dosa, tomato omlette and vegetable pulao were something to die for! Vishwa Mahal was one restaurant where fresh tomato soup was served sans any artificial colours or soup powders.
Times have changed. Vishwa Mahal has leased out its premises to Mc Donalds. This is the Americanisation of Indian culture in all its glory. Rising costs and manpower shortage continue to plague these Udupi eateries in Mumbai that dotted the landscape of Mumbai in the 60’s. As someone who spent close to 40 years in Mumbai, it is painful to see these restaurants shutting shop unable to withstand the onslaught of changing consumer tastes and preferences and the lure of fast food chains and road side vendors. Let us not forget that only recently Mc Donalds issued a directive to its employees to desist from consuming fast food ! But it is okay if consumers of Mc Donald eat fast food and spoil their health.
150 restaurants had shut shop in Mumbai between 2007 and 2011. In the last 2 years, 90 restaurants have shut shop. One restaurant owner has said that they couldn’t afford the cooking gas bill. To digress a bit, the main problem plaguing all these restaurants is that they indulge in criminal waste of cooking gas. They have somehow not adapted themselves to using modern gadgets like ovens to supplement the cooking wherewithal. They are now paying the price for all the inefficiencies accumulated over the years. The Udupi restaurants have been plagued by lack of innovation and this has led to detrimental results. To make matters worse, they increased the prices to such an extent that they succeeded in dissuading the customer from entering the ubiquitous Udupi restaurants.
I still recall the memorable moments that I had in Irani restaurants in Mumbai tasting the bun-maska and garam garam, piping hot masala tea. But all these have now become a thing of the past. The era of Licence Raj is over. But what about taxes ? What about red tapism in municipal offices? It appears that getting a registration license involves dealing with 40 to 50 municipal departments at the state level. How then are organisations like Mc Donalds able to start new outlets at the drop of a hat? Your guess is as good as mine!
While we continue to sing paeans about the merits of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in contributing to Indian economy’s growth, news items such as these pose a big question mark on the adverse impact of fast food outlets which have mushroomed in India as a result of the Government policy. Our politicians seem to be having an ostrich-in-the-sand mentality as they turn a blind eye to the allure created by MNCs whose sole intention appears to be to make a quick buck. But at what cost?