In India, Starbucks sells a tandoori paneer roll. KFC makes a “paneer zinger.” Burger King has the Whopper . . . oh, and a Paneer King burger, too. This is largely how international food brands court India’s 1.25 billion consumers: by playing to local tastes. But Domino’s is doing more. It has cleverly reimagined everything about itself, right down to its flour, to nail the balance between serving local needs and retaining a patina of Western cool. That’s what has made it India’s largest international foreign-food chain, with 806 stores across 170 cities, more than twice as many as McDonald’s—and Domino’s says it nets 20% higher revenue. The chain sells more pizza in India than anywhere outside the U.S.
“We were baffled, and gratified, that middle-class India took to the pizza like no other Western food,” says Ajay Kaul, CEO of Domino’s India. He suspects that the company is working with a built-in advantage: Pizza is a cross-cultural food. Its dough and toppings have plenty in common with the Indian roti (flat bread) and subji (vegetables). Kaul guesses that pizza also appeals to Indians because it contains two keystones of local culture—a love of shared plates, and of food that can be eaten with your hands. A hot slice, it turns out, is among the few mass culinary exports that require no utensils.
To see how Domino’s makes it work, Fast Company sent a photographer to document pizza time in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi.
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