How the Food & Beverage Industry is Revolutionising India's Travel Sector
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It is estimated that in 2020 the industry’s valuation is expected to reach USD 142 Billion, as opposed to just slightly over USD 30 Billion in 2015. This phenomenal growth is a result of India’s ever increasing standard of living, brought about by the era of unprecedented economic growth following the 1991 liberalisation reforms. For decades, all growth in this sector has been largely restricted to hotel and restaurant business, but many analysts predict that the next great wave of growth for the food and beverage industry will quite literally come from above.
People’s perception of air travel in India has changed considerably over the last two decades thanks to falling ticket prices, Government fuelled enhanced connectivity and increased competition among carriers. It is no longer merely an indulgence of the rich and is now considered to be a viable, reliable, and economical means of domestic as well as International travel.
The recent Union Budget of 2017-2018 by the Modi regime emphasised on the importance of air travel and as a result, footfalls at Indian airports are higher than ever before. And with the addition of tens of millions of new passengers with high disposable incomes, comes the interest of some of the world’s most celebrated food brands. There is so much potential from business in Indian airports that F&B behemoths like KFC, Johnnie Walker, HUL, and Subway, among others, have all set up their own distribution networks to capitalise on the opportunity.
A typical Indian International airport in the 1990s would have had a small café, a duty-free store, perhaps a bookshop, and very little else. Eating at an airport at the time was unheard of, so most passengers would choose to carry their own food and drinks. Overall, the airport was little more than a waiting room for one’s flight, with little to see, and less to do. Today, that has all changed, an airport today is the premium-most real estate of any city particularly those at the metros and tier 1 cities. They have an endless line of stunning retail options and culinary delights, which includes fine dining establishments, pubs, cafes, bespoke concepts and buffets.
And Came The Change
Part of this change can be attributed to people’s increased prosperity, but the sheer variety of choice owes much more to a fundamental change in people’s attitudes. And this change in attitudes, in turn, owes its existence to the F&B industry whose evolution in quality and the spread of choice over the last few years has greatly increased people’s expectations on what constitutes an acceptable meal and a pleasurable experience. A modern Indian airport has more in common (with regards to amenities) with a luxury mall today than it would with an airport of twenty years ago. And with the way things are going, we can expect to see the F&B industry completely transform air travel experience forever.
The Great Indian Railways
Yet another sector that is being revolutionised by the food and beverage industry is the railways; the lifeblood of the country. With over 8.26 billion travellers each year, many of whom are understandably frustrated with the current options available, the Indian Railways have proven to be an attractive prospect for multinational F&B brands, including McDonalds and Subway, who have gone so far as to develop products specifically to cater to their new, budget-conscious audience. This is in stark contrast to as recently as ten years ago when travellers on the Indian Railways had to either pack their own food or risk the contaminated, unhygienic, railway meals that a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General dubbed “unfit for human consumption”. As privatisation slowly takes over the Indian Railways, travellers can expect to see the quality of their meals increase exponentially, and prices drop drastically.
India is developing like never before, not just with regard to technology and infrastructure but also with people’s tastes and expectations. The Indian traveller of 2018 expects nothing but the best and this is in part due to the impeccable standards set by the Food and Beverage Industry.