Perspectives 2008: Lessons from the Maharaja Mac

Lulu Raghavan

Five rules for entering the Indian market

When McDonald’s replaced its beef-based Big Mac with the mutton-based Maharaja Mac in India, skeptics shook their heads. After all, no one had ever successfully marketed a burger made of anything other than beef. But McDonald’s faced a dilemma: how to sell hamburgers in a culture where the cow is sacred.

As it turned out, the mutton burger was a tremendous hit. In addition to the Maharaja Mac, the company now sells cottage cheese wraps and potato patties to its growing Hindu clientele. This success has allowed McDonald’s to shape and grow the Indian fast food market while capturing a large slice of the growing pie.1

Like McDonald’s, most global companies have found that building brands in India is no easy task. They have had to significantly alter their global strategies for the Indian market. Because the Indian market and consumer differ significantly from the rest of the world, the tried and tested approach of simply tweaking brand strategy at the regional and country levels is doomed to fail.