NEW DELHI: Leading fast-food brands are encroaching on each other's menu areas in the Indian marketplace but claim that street food is their biggest rival for consumer rupees.

"All players want to stay relevant throughout the day," according to Saloni Nangia, president of Technopak, a management consulting firm. "All are trying to maximise revenues and that's why [there are] identical offerings," he told the Economic Times.

Thus, for example, pizza chain Domino's serves chicken wings, chicken specialist KFC offers burgers, while burger joint McDonald's is also selling wraps. But none of these admit to regarding the others as significant competition.

Reminiscing about Domino's entry into the market in 1996, Ajay Kaul, CEO of Jubilant FoodWorks, the master franchise holder of Domino's, said that "around that time, people only had a taste for dal, roti and chawal".

Eighteen years and more than 700 outlets later, "our biggest rivals are still dal, roti and chawal".

That view was echoed by Niren Chaudhary, president of Yum! Restaurants, the country's KFC licence holder. "Street food is our biggest competitor," he said, explaining that a mere 2% of the nation's "$90bn" eating out market was organised. "So there is room for all to grow." 

KFC had successfully gained a young audience, he said, by being "broadly relevant, deeply accessible, youthful, innovative and aspirational".  

McDonald's sees itself as having a particular advantage in the quick service restaurant (QSR) market, as an all-day destination. "When you wake up in the morning, do you think of ordering pizza? You don't," argued Amit Jatia, vice chairman of Hardcastle Restaurants, the master franchise of McDonald's in western and southern India. But you could go to McDonald's for breakfast, Jatia added.

He claimed that what was important was that his outlets served 320m people a year. "It's not about being No 1 or No 2," he said. But at the same time he saw a future in which the QSR space would be dominated by two or three players, "And McDonald's definitely will be one of them".

There is no shortage of businesses seeking to establish themselves in this market, which one report predicts will double in size in the next three years. Livemint has profiled five start-ups that are attracting investment, ranging from fast Indian food concepts to soup and salad outlets.

Data sourced from Economic Times, Livemint; additional content by Warc staff