How the sale of “Pakodas” or “Bhajji” is linked to India’s GDP? and why Bhajji and Pakodas are still not a brand like McDonalds within/outside India?


It’s been raining on most of the evenings in Bangalore since last week of May. Most people who work out of the plush corporate offices miss out on the beautiful atmosphere when it rains. I was lucky last week that I stepped out just after sun set when it was about to rain. It was a strange sight near Indiranagar – instead of heading home before they got stuck in rains – I could see big queues near the footpath almost around every corner. People were lined up to eat or take home packets of “Bhajjis” or “Pakodas”

For the next few days I saw that the queues were directly linked to whether it was going to rain or not. Of course – we also had the die-hard pakoda fans who would have it everyday – come rain or come shine, but there was an unusual rush if it rained. The road side “Pakoda entrepreneur” made a quick buck in just 2-3 hours with long queues and waiting time of 20-30 min.

This incident somehow took me back to few years down the memory line when I had pakodas – but in a plush hotel which hosted the top industry honchos. Most of them had gathered to listen to visiting Senior RBI official and finance-economic pundits. I was attending hoping to get some great gyaan on the finance numbers, inflation, GDP etc – thought of using this gyaan to invest and make some fortune! The event was a huge let down and disaster – on both front: neither the pakodas tasted anywhere closer to the road side counterpart (though the people who served were impeccably dressed in white and with head gear etc) nor the Senior Economist passed on any gyaan worth his salt. I still remember the statement he made – as the entire room was waiting in apt attention: he went on to comment “The Indian Economy is poised to blah blah and for this current financial year we expect the GDP to grow by _% and it is all dependent on 3 factors” The suspense started growing and I was waiting for the fortune I could make with this 3 point gyaan from the economic pundit – he went on with all the art/skills of presentation + jargon he had learnt with decades of experience – raising his fingers to count:

1 Indian monsoon (only god can intervene!)

2. Crude oil prices (Gulf/US)

3. Dollar value (Uncle Sam’s domain)

I was the only one in a state of shock – rest of the room nodded their heads (assuming that most were looking good/pretended to understand or take it and accept cos the pundit is saying). I was wondering out of the 3 points:

Monsoon is not in anybody’s control (especially not with our met dept) and the other two undoubtedly were beyond anybody’s control – I was wondering if the RBI did not have any control (other than give predictions and revise every quarter) how would a lay man ever do anything about this! The discussions were followed by more jargons – more of global phenomenon, market sentiments, weakness in rupee (we should have metal currency to strengthen it) etc etc

That is when I got a bit curious to get into the depth and had more stunning facts to learn in the days to come.

I thought that rather than going after crude oil and dollar value if we looked at our own “Bhajji and Pakoda market segment and monsoon sentiment” – maybe we could have more reliable indicators of Indian GDP. The reason being – retail industry contributes to about 15% of GDP and considered to be one of the pillars of Indian economy. In addition to being a $450 billion dollar economy and one of the top-5 retail markets it is one of the fastest growing sectors.

However, it is surprising to note that organized retail constitutes to about 4-6% of the industry – so in all probability the 4-6% will be taking decisions and representing the policy making bodies, by no imagination you can expect a “Bhajji-Pakoda Association of India” (BPAI) or “Kiraana-pan-beedi forum” to with stand the growth of organized retail market pegged at 30-35% annually. While the Indian retail sector is pegged to clock sales worth $450-470 billion every year – only a fraction worth approx $25-30 billion comes from organized retailers!!!

Only time will tell if entry of multi-brand retail will create millions of jobs (or destroy the local kirana entrepreneurs); will it improve the supply chain infrastructure and eliminate the middle men? If the entry of MBR is linked with clear metrics to tackle local challenges – such as investment on $XYZ will also cater to ABC% of reduction of malnutrition through reduced food wastage etc and encouraging local employment + skill based training – then FDI in retail may be the real inflection point of retailing.

If Coco-Cola despite its controversial health effects can still afford to be the biggest brand in the world – I am not sure what stops our own “ganne ka ras” or sugar cane juice from being an Indian brand at least?

Cos we have a follower mentality to the core…maybe Kingfisher can take this up…Kingfisher sugarcane juice!

3 thoughts on “How the sale of “Pakodas” or “Bhajji” is linked to India’s GDP? and why Bhajji and Pakodas are still not a brand like McDonalds within/outside India?

  1. Nice one sir! So much for being an organized sector with lobbyists and advocacy organizations. In my opinions, some things are best left untouched!

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