Will Indian women ever renounce their kitchen duties!!? Myth of Convenience & Myth Breakers

I was watching Nigella Bites and was tempted to write this post. The joy & passion (and tons of sinful ingredients) that she uses to create any bite, virtually erases the very thought of taking short cuts while cooking. But the reality is that I don’t host any cookery shows & I wish every day had 48 hours. So shouldn’t ‘foods that ease the cooking time’ help??

In the garb of convenience, a slew of products have been launched in India over the years to simplify the woman’s life. From ready made atta (flour) to ready-to-eat. But a walk down the shopping aisle & a look at shelf movements, clearly indicates that every wife and mother is quick to separate the concept of CONVENIENCE from OVERSIMPLIFICATION.

When there are conversations about partnership with nurturers and providers, it has to carefully dealt with. Most ‘READY’ concepts have often quickly been dismissed. But there are exceptions:

Ready solutions, when they replace a chore

KNORR SOUPS

blah

Ready solutions, that are the process but not the end point

HOMEMADE PASTES

blah

Ready solutions, that help one experiment

CHINGS INSTANT NOODLES

blah

These are just some of the ‘ready solution’ triggers, that could get the provider role model in the woman, to show interest. However none of them really focus on the reasons stated above, in their marketing. They instead sell stories of health/taste, lifestyle/authenticity and experience. Nascent as it may seem the verdict is that, most pastes, snacks, ready-to-cook (RTC) solutions are slowly getting accepted & are growing. But ready–to-eat (RTE) food is yet to find some serious takers.

However, most modern formats in India today are blocked by multiple RTE (curries/meal) brands. Aashirvaad recently invested in re-doing the packaging. Will acceleration come through these renewed efforts, special ingredients etc or is there an alternative approach? What are the barriers that make RTE so difficult to accept among Indian homemakers? Why does this same woman happily use Patak’s or Tilda Ready Biryani etc when she is transported to another land?

Convenience means stale: Wet food is often had fresh in India. Meals are cooked, served and eaten on the same day.

Conscience is watching: Saying that the maid made it or on an imperfection with taste, makes her answerable. It goes against her Indian upbringing of being an earth mother.

Credibility is doubted:
Every woman has her mother or mother-in-law as an attestor. Her skills would be learned/enhanced by them. Resorting to RTE means the food on the table has no identity. ‘Taste’ will not have her exclusive badge on it.

Today RTE is asking the woman to renounce her kitchen and her care giver role. But RTC may get better traction. To accelerate its growth, possibly communication to these providers has to get real. Genuine. Let’s us assume that we are at her door like a salesman selling such a solution. How honest can we get?

* Should he be at her door alone or with her mother?
* Should he invite her to come by to the company’s kitchen & invite her to make her specialty?
* Should he be an expert on health foods & start giving her little tips on how she could watch her husband & kids health?
* Should he first start supplying fresh, healthy meals (a service) to her husband to provide him almost home cooked food?
* Should he invite her & her family to his company’s restaurant opening?

Interesting possibilities that may stoke interest, familiarity and a willingness to try. And may even strip some of the guilt.

I still remember seeing an advertisement for BPL microwave oven (far ahead of its time) that urged the woman to comfortably cook in it as ’she had only two hands’. Implying that BPL understood and celebrated her supermom/superwoman role. I do remember the brand got a buzz with that life truth expression. Isn’t it time to look deeper into such truths & try to create interest in a category that is just coming of age?

On the aside, kitchen brands are attempting to create a comfortable environment for women as they whip up a treat. By uplifting the cooking experience & focusing on the sensorials around food & might I say the kitchen itself. In that light I wonder what the double impact guilt of a well done, expensive kitchen ($2500 worth branded kitchens vs. $500 worth carpenter made) and ready-to-eat solutions would do to her!!!!! Now that’s a myth that will be difficult to break.

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36 Comments

  1. There are some good insights that are been shared in this forum..

    I was looking at the MWO category in the country – though, it has grown; it has not yet seen great momentum in sales..

    To my mind, the larger concern would be promote this category as a means to enhance the culinary skills of the ‘mother earth’ rather than a replacement to her..if the device can provide means of letting her be part of the cooking process (similar to that in gas burner) like: signals to know when the cooking has happened thru’ aroma; a pre-fixed stirrer while the food is getting cooked in the mwo etc…the idea is to make her feel part of the process rather than alienate her from the process..

    Any thoughts on the above will be more than welcome..

    cheers
    Aarav

  2. I have been looking at the this category for a few years now..may be the real traction will occour when we move from the women/convenience angle. Maybe its not about selling a dosa mix to a madrasi in madras, or a navratan korma to a punjabi…maybe there is an oppurtunity to sell rtc/rte as a way to taste new varieties of food..southie food for the rest of india..and vice versa (ever heard an italian in italy using a rtc pasta sauce ??)hope you get the drift

    on another tangent, go down the pyramid a bid..move away from metros and fancy stores and mordern retail..maybe its about positioning the category as a treat …how many indians can really afford a five star dining experience…for a few hundred bucks..you get a five star meal home..

    • freshbrew team |

      I think they have tried the former…Mrs. Reddy ne banaya hoga vs. Mrs. Mummy ne. I think the 5 Star meal made by the 5 Star chef cum lady of the house sounds quite interesting. Needs to be more economical though.

  3. As someone who constantly grapples on the edge of health (and therefore homemade from scratch) and convenience – I have realised that the equation hasnt been set yet. Some things I’d rather make from scratch (like a ginger garlic paste) – while others (like dry masalas) I’d rather buy off the shelf. However when I look at my fellow moms – each mom has set her own equation – what defines as healthy and what doesnt varies depending on the time available at hand.
    As I write this comment I also realise that I have set-off healthy against convenience – pointing to my mindset. But that may not be true for all moms/home makers.

    • Very true, every mother’s stress point.

      Brands at some point need to get sense of the dynamics between influencers & those influenced, since perceptions are built and broken by them.

      There is merit in understanding nuances between supervision by the mother of lady of the house and that done by her mother-in-law.

      Also those influencing pointers given by friends, neighbors, etc. that the lady of the house constantly interacts with – sometimes actively, and other times out of necessity – either clarifies to suite her decisions or dislodges her choices for her family.

      I am sure a whole new gamut of emotions and trade offs embedded within would emerge and in the process provide a handle or two to brands seeking an entrance / acceptance into the kitchen.

    • freshbrew team |

      Often healthy is seen as antithesis to convenience. Possibly the reason why RTE is difficult to swallow.

  4. Brilliant insights on ways getting into the kitchen & staying there!

    Indian culture confers this aura around the lady of the house – that of the earth mother! Nothing right or wrong about it. As for brands, they simply need to maintain & enhance it.

    The recent MTR TVC does this well & the trigger allows the brand to enter all at once with all its offerings – and the hero of course – lady of the house with the earth mother sash.

    RTC seems to be more acceptable for the present, but an accepted RTC brand needs to constantly keep adding & enhancing this earth mother ideal.

    Any step in the ‘make it easy’ or RTE direction needs to be thought through & without comprise to the ideal image.

    RTE is a great category, so long as it works the purpose it was first even considered by this very same earth mother.

    In hindsight, cultural nuances don’t always play spoilsport, they actually help create that special, endearing flavor. It will be interesting to see what goes into & comes out of the 21st century Indian kitchen!
    All courtesy – the earth mother!!

    • freshbrew team |

      Thanks Padma. 21st Century kitchens will possibly have many cooks and many broths. It isn’t the prerogative of the woman only especially in a few liberal thinking homes. So I expect men to cook up a feast once a while and be exceptional at it too.

  5. Aah! I can relate to this. I love cooking. So its a killer to get down to shortcuts. But then I dont have to always do the laundry. You must check Betty Crocker. They make shortcuts sweet.

    • Culture codes are very strong when one is confronting the nurturer in India. She can never be faulted. Placing faith in these ’shortcuts’ as they are perceived, put her at risk.

      However many young moms living in urban pockets are seeing them more as the process than the destination in themselves. The crazy part is brands take credit for the prepared meal and make the woman almost seem dependent on it. That doesn’t work.

      For starters the word ’shortcut’ needs plenty of re-think. Thanks much Richard, again.

  6. Great piece, never really realized the different facets within ready solutions – being a process, replacing a chore, etc. And yeah as you said, the communication has to tiptoe around the obvious facts that RTE are convenience and time saving (sacrilege to an Indian mother) but instead talk of the end result of keeping the family happy and being in charge !

    • freshbrew team |

      Hey thanks Gia. I do think RTE can stop being defensive and more celebratory in their benefits. Something relatable rather than an obvious assuaging of guilt.

  7. Addition: Almost as a way forward to the BPL microwave ad stated above, MTR Breakfast Mix in the 21st century acknowledges that a woman does need more than 2 hands. In fact 6 hands if you go by their new communication.

    I read that as another trigger, namely: ‘Ready solutions, when tongue hunger not stomach hunger rules during a meal’. Ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUMwNF0KNJA

    Keen to know whether it results in traction for the brand

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