This is in fact, KFC’s second attempt at cracking the Indian market. Though it was an early entrant, its fare was way ahead of its time. Slowly, as more and more Indians began travelling abroad, they began to experiment a little with what they ate by 2004. Indian restaurants, up until then, mostly served Indian or a very Indian-ised version of Chinese food. By 2005, it became clear that India was ready for fried chicken when. This was evident from customer feedback received at the three restaurants and further confirmed by market research. KFC  had three outlets in India for its first 10 years, and opened two more in 2005. They became runaway successes and set the pattern for the company’s expansion. “We noticed that Pizza Hut was an easier concept to establish in India, probably because it wasn’t really alien. It is a flat bread with some sauce and toppings. So for about 10 years, we focused on Pizza Hut and let KFC be. But we never doubted the fact that KFCs time would come,” Lal says. Last year, KFC overtook Pizza Hut and became the company’s biggest brand in India.

In 2015, KFC is looking to target revenues of $600 million. It is now at a third of that. In 2010, a report on the poultry industry in India pegged the consumption of chicken at 3 kg (6.6 lbs) a person. This is expected to double to six by 2015, as average incomes grow in the country. But KFC is beginning to see competition from non-tandoori directions now. South African chicken chain, Nandos, opened its second outlet in the country this month and their plan is to have 35 outlets by the end of 2013. UK based Dixy Chicken has a partnership that runs two outlets in India. They are also seeking to expand aggressively.

While finding quality real estate where a clean deal can be struck is a problem, the bigger challenge is dealing with the limping infrastructure in the country. Sourcing poultry is also difficult; KFC is actively encouraging its suppliers from other parts of the world to set up shop in India. Last month, a customer claimed to find live worms in his fried chicken. The story played on national media and the department of food, health and sanitation shut the outlet down for over three weeks. Just after, a bird flu scare in the southern Indian state of Karnataka put punters off their chicken for a while. “These are the environmental challenges of doing business in India. We have to learn to be nimble and open,” Lal says.

With nearly 300 outlets, McDonalds is still the most successful quick service chain in India. Domino’s also has a sound customer base, in fact, India is the only country where 60% of Domino’s clientele dine at the restaurant. But as Indian wallets grow, so do the stomachs.

KFC had demonstrated the quickest rate of growth in the last give years. And as more Indians grow up in a globally aligned India, fried chicken will be as familiar a food as burgers or the more traditional Indian cuisine. KFC’s story in India will be one where the chicken didn’t come first but stayed on for a profitable future.

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