Why KFC Failed in India?

3 min read

Why KFC Failed in India?

Kentucky Fried Chicken – KFC, an international food chain that became a sensational brand. Colonel Sanders has brought it up from the streets since the Great Depression. In a time of economic struggle, he took fried chicken to the next level and built up KFC.

We didn’t think you could ever go wrong with fried chicken! So how come KFC failed in India? Let’s unravel the secrets together!

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Why KFC Failed in India?

Reaching Overseas

Reaching Overseas

At some point, it became such a saturated sensation across the United States, that it had to surpass domestic demands. It reached overseas and became a global phenomenon in a less than expected period of time.

And with that, KFC has faced its fair shares of ups and downs. Although “Colonel Sanders” himself became the face of the brand, it wasn’t received the same in all the countries it had reached. With all that went on with KFC in many countries, it hit India in a dramatic way.


KFC on Diversity

Because KFC’s famous fried chicken made it to international regions, it adapted many principles and policies. Its operations engaged in diverse workforce culture. With time, KFC became an organization that developed the brand to align with diversity in all aspects possible. It started making a difference by representing people of color and taking up initiatives to strengthen those surrounding them.


Entry in India

Entry in India - KFC Failed in India

KFC set its foot in India in June 1995. Families would eat out a lot back in the 1990s. Being one of the first in the fast-food industry to make it into India, KFC first targeted the upper-middle class of Bangalore.

Seeing the 1.1 billion population, with a trend of eating out, PepsiCo saw a flourishing opportunity. It spent the upcoming 7 years in setting up around 52 more KFCs across the country.


The Beginning of Anti-KFC Movements

Ever since the start of KFC operations in India, it had faced an undeniable challenge. Many may not have known the history regarding this.

The food chain faced protests by local farmers from the very first day of launching. Led by a local organization, the protestors were not happy with an international food chain entering the market. According to their angry protestations, there was no need for KFC’s presence as its meals are unhealthy.


The Foundation of Protestation

Protestors believed a poor country such an India where the vast majority of the population suffers from malnutrition, people are being deprived of agriculture. The main concern was there wouldn’t be reasonable and vegetarian options left for farmers to produce. Because of influential businesses like KFC taking over, they would have to take up high mass-produced varieties.


Government facing Criticism

Although the government permitted KFC to open up 30 outlets in India, it couldn’t bloom the way it had intended to. In fact, the government also faced heavy criticisms. Even before KFC could rise and boom in India’s market, its reputation was constantly put to test. Its goals and morals were questioned.


A Threat to India

A Threat to India - KFC Failed in India

As soon as people learned about the multinational food giant, they started raising questions. Their questions were based on fear. The fear of KFC being an active threat to all domestic food ventures quickly spread. Its food concept and branding seemed so westernized that it was seen as a threat to culture by nationalists. They sensed that Indian roots would get invaded and toiled with.

Like the farmers bringing up about Indians facing malnutrition in their protestations, nutritionists started giving statistical numbers.

As the years passed by, more controversies started stirring. Many activists called out and protested that KFC was not honest about amounts of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in their food. However, KFC was using low-quality chicken and covering up the taste by adding MSG to give it a flavor.

Apart from the allegation on using excessive amounts of MSG, one other anti-KFC allegation was that they would use pork fat for food processing.

Tumbling after was the active disapproval of KFC for animal cruelty. Proof of animal cruelty was evident in videos of poultry chicken being raised in poor conditions. PETA and other organizations stepped in to gather petitions against KFC. A multitude of Indian celebrities sided this movement advocating to raise up awareness of animal cruelty.

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Consequences on Business

The constant challenges KFC had to face took a toll on its business. The attacks by many angry Indians continued to grow violent. One KFC outlet was required for constant supervision. A police van would be parked outside it for smooth operation without facing attacks.

In a year, an outlet in Delhi opened up, leaving both it and the Bangalore’s summed up revenues dry. The total income generated wasn’t enough to sustain KFC in the Indian market.

And although KFC kept getting allegations on animal cruelty by various animal organizations, they took on bigger risks. They opened up a few more outlets. Although they continued to have outlets in many prime locations in the bigger cities, it wasn’t sustained. KFC’s downright struggle led it to operate only one outlet successfully up until 2004.


KFC’s Shortcomings

KFC’s Shortcomings - KFC Failed in India

Although KFC was the first fast-food chain to enter the market of India, it had the potential to do much better. One of their shortcomings has to be misidentifying their target group. The lack of knowledge of customers backfired as more locals complained about them.

On top of that, they were dishonest about MSG levels in their food. With lack of research and development, they did not have any backup to strongly maintain Public Relations.

During its down years, KFC took to understand the culture of Indian locality and food. They went back and identified their lacking. What they should’ve done much earlier, they did after slowly recovering from the market cooking off from the beginning of the 21st century.

You must check this out for more: How Did KFC Become the Most Popular Fast Food Chain in China?


So now you know why and how KFC failed in India a long time back. Even if so, they took their time to regain composure. The truth is, they never lost faith in the Indian market and population. After all, failure is the pillar of success. KFC’s fail story in India depicts so much! Not only does it show that even big businesses can fail, but also that they serve as a lesson.

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