How to market Indian food overseas?

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Indian Culture / Success


How do we make our [Indian] food marketable? Because this is again an opportunity for us chefs to take Indian food out and make it big, but you know, how do we bridge this disconnect? How do we bridge this disconnect and make an impact?


Duration: 9 min


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8 min read

How to market Indian food overseas?

The following is an unedited transcript of Sadhguru's video. For better readability, breaks and highlights have been added by the editors.

Speaker (Ranveer Brar): I had a question regarding the incredible cuisine of the incredible country that we have. You know, we have a lot of character, history, proven science behind our food. And, you know, this time in the COVID, it sort of brought out the limitations of modern medicine, and everybody is now believing in you know, food as the best form of preventive medicine.

And, you know, every day – I have some business interests outside of India, some restaurants – every day, they’re telling me how the world is looking at Indian food to heal, you know, and then sometimes, you know, you… because this has happened in the past, but what happens is, their logic of understanding food and our logic of explaining food is very different. They talk proteins, calories, you know, carbohydrates – our food is more cause and effect food, you know, and also the way it is passed down to us is never, is not through structured education books, it’s passed down to us by grandmothers who’ve said, “Have this because I say so.” So this mixture of intangible philosophy, plus ancient wisdom that we have incorporated in our cuisine, which is effective, which sort of is proven over the years.

How do we make our food marketable? Because this is again an opportunity for us chefs to take Indian food out and make it big, but you know, how do we bridge this disconnect? How do we bridge this disconnect and make an impact?

Sadhguru: It is very important that we speak in modern language, otherwise, to change that narrative is not going to happen in a short period of time. We have to speak in today’s language.

But Indian food, the variety that it has, and the many nuances that are there to the food, this will be very exciting for international, you know, culinary fans, if only if it is presented properly.

But that’s the question you’re asking how to present it, not just talking about calories, this, and that? Well, it’s not just about calories, but in the international arena, if you’re talking about the high-end market, presentation is very, very important.

I think we are a bit poor in presentation. Not bit poor, I think I would say very poor, because for us, food is about taste, food is about nourishment, we don’t really care how your roti is kept, all right? We just want it to be nice to eat, that’s about it. So, it just came off the fire, that is important – just came off the tandoori pot, that is important for us, rather than how it is presented.

They don’t mind bread, which is one month old, but present it properly, that is their way of looking at things. So, this change in looking at fresh food, that Indian food is most of the time coming straight from the pan to the plate, and the significance of that, I think we need to do something about that, because that is not understood and many, many ailments in the world – particularly, I’ve been talking to the American audience continuously – just eating fresh food, what it will do to your health is a big thing. This needs to be communicated, that communication issue is there.

But at the same time, I feel maybe the high-end restaurants, some of them may be okay, but my experience of restaurants may be outdated, because I’m talking about how things were 15 to 18 years ago because since then I’ve not been able to go to restaurants, I get crowded in Indian restaurants, so I can’t go anywhere in the world. But I’m talking about, some time ago, let’s say restaurants in United States or Europe, wherever you went, I think London is a little better, Indian restaurants in London are little better quality.

But if you go to other places, especially in US if you go to an Indian restaurant, it’s a terrible experience. Neither the taste, nor the quality, nor the service, anything is good. Service you can improve by training them, but taste-wise, if you serve something which is as good as what is the served on a street-side dhaba, everybody will be glad to eat that food.

But what is served in the big restaurants – and I’m sorry if I’m, you know, rubbing you in the wrong way, any of you – for example, every, every good hotel that I go to in India, morning I will end up giving a lecture to the chef and the manager who is there, because in South India, in Tamil Nadu, I’m saying, in Chennai city, you can’t eat the idli, it’s terrible. If you just go outside where the labor are eating on the street side, fantastic idlis he will serve. I said, “Why don’t you hire this guy, who is just standing outside your compound wall? If you get that guy, he will know, he knows how to make a idli.

Now, you know, I was in one of the major hotels in Bangalore and I see the idli-sambar is terrible. I said, “Who is doing this idli?” and very proudly, they bring the chef. I ask him, “Where are you from?” He says, “I’m from Ludhiana.” I don’t know if you’re from Ludhiana. I said, “Why is this Ludhiana guy doing idli? Why can’t you get one local guy?” I’m saying such simple things are not taken care of. If you look at it, except in a few hotels, even in India, the experience of a breakfast is quite… Indian breakfast, is quite bad. So, everybody ends up eating a croissant, or a bread and butter and egg and something else, they won’t eat this.

But today there is substantial research and medical understanding that eating something like, let us say for example, I’m taking idli, that it’s 70% carb and 30% protein, it is the best way to eat. Every research in the world says that. But we are producing golf balls instead of idlis and we expect people to eat it, nobody will want to eat it. If you eat idli in any of the Delhi hotels – I’m sorry, I’m saying such things because I want them to improve – tomorrow you will have acidity in your stomach because the batter is probably one month old. I don’t know how old it is. It doesn’t work like that – it has to be done fresh, it has to be done in a certain way.

If people want to be healthy, these kind of steamed foods which have both protein and carb is the best thing to consume. So, I think in United States, a whole lot of small restaurant owners have assumed that nobody anyway understand, so you can serve them whatever you want, anyway, certain amount of… See when people do business for livelihood, they do it one way; when people do business because they want to create something, they’ll do it another way. So, this has to come.

People with passion for Indian food, have to take Indian food around. This is a good time for Indian restaurant chains to come up. But quality must be there. When I say quality, for example, I’m not trying to promote anybody, but I’m just telling you, for example, I was to have a meeting with a man who is, I think, I won’t want to mention names but he is the man who designed Lexus car, okay? He wanted to meet me because I had spoken to him in the economic forum about design so much, so he wanted to meet me. So I said, “Okay, we’ll meet.”

Then I said, “Where is the meeting?” So, they gave a number in Manhattan area, and we went looking, and then I see this is a Saravana Bhavan hotel. I said, “This can’t be. Why would this guy, this American guy meet me in Saravana Bhavan?” Then I realized, that’s where he wants to meet me. He said, “This is the only place I’ll have breakfast every day.” And I go there and eat whatever, that pongal something they served. I’m telling you, they’re serving pongal better than what is served in Chennai.

This is what we need to do. Quality. If you produce quality for the variety of foods and range of foods that we have, nobody, no culture in the world can beat this, because the variety from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, how many varieties? How many nuances are there to food, if we can manage this, preserve this, and present it to the world, it is unbeatable.

Young people like you who have passion for food should do it. Those who do it just for livelihood, they think they can serve anything and get away with it. Which has brought an immense black, you know, it has given a bad name to Indian food, because everybody thinks Indian food is lousy. Because that’s how it is served, unfortunately.

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