Maggi is (rather, was) among the top 5 major Food brands (as per annual turnover) in India. Maggi is that wall that had never been breached for last 30 years, many brands like Top Ramen entered market and fought for the top position, many already established brands like Sunfeast used their popularity to compete with Maggi, but none could ever get close to its instant-home-made-food popularity, and the unyielding love Indians showered on it, as their staple food.
Maggi was the King and India its monarch. But yesterday, in a coup, Maggi lost its place as the King of Indian food market. Or maybe it was forced to let go of its position due to backlash by once its ardent lovers.
What has happened so far?
It has been more than two weeks since the controversy erupted on Social Media, after non permissible levels of lead and added MSG were found in samples of Maggi tested by government labs in Uttar Pradesh. Well, any news from Uttar Pradesh is always seen with much scrutiny because of the most corrupt image Uttar Pradesh government carries with it, but it was not the same this time. Soon, the news broke on internet and many major sections of media took it up. But it became an internet sensation only after tests done on Maggi samples in the Delhi government labs showed the same results, i.e. high lead content and added MSG. Soon, Delhi government stopped the sale of Maggi for next 15 days until further investigation. States of Kerala, and Uttarakhand soon followed and banned sale of Maggi in market. This made Nestle come out of its slumber and react to the situation. CEO of Nestlé, Paul Bulcke, landed in the capital in an apparent emergency situation to save Brand Maggi and hold meetings with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on thursday.
While Paul Bulcke was coming to India, during the initial time he spend in India before the press conference on Friday at 1 A.M., Maggi was also banned by Tamil Nadu, including many other instant noodles, which somehow became the unnecessary targets while trying to tame the beast.
In the press conference, he declared,
‘Maggi is safe’ but the product is being withdrawn “temporarily’’ from India owing to “unfounded concerns” that have “shaken’’ consumer trust. What concerns me is how it is going to impact the trust that Indian people have in Nestlé and Maggi.
On the same day, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh also banned the sale of Maggi looking at the protests, and backlash among people all over the country against the product and on being found that large amounts of lead is poisonous and extra MSG can cause cancer.
This is the story so far. Over 6 states have banned Maggi, Nestle has withdrawn its product temporarily from Indian market, and eating Maggi causes cancer, among many other diseases that may concern you.
India’s love affair with Maggi
Oh my Maggi, there are so many memories associated with the Indian household name that I am definitely going into a nostalgic state for next couple of hours.
I have been living in hostels, paying guests, flats, and shared accommodations for last 5 years and Maggi has always been with me. Maggi used to be our primary food during midnight at college hostel, and you know, engineers never sleep at night. We used to spend much time in queues, forget queues I used to back entry into night mess to get Maggi, such was my love for the tasty Maggi masala and its finger licking taste. From Kurkure to Lays, from Aloo ke paranthe to Bread omelet, from Anda bhurji to coke, I ate all eatables along with Maggi during hostel days. I had once once visited a dhaba with my friends in small morning hours just to have aloo ke paranthe with Maggi. We went to Manali and had Maggi. We went to Rishikesh and had Maggi.
I could be found licking the plate after completing my Maggi when I was in school and used to live at home, because of course, no one taunts you for doing this at home. Though, my actual affair with Maggi started only started in hostel, but I had a crush on it since school time.
Even after college, I had Maggi when there was no other alternative. In winters, I used to hang around with my friend at night around 10 o’clock everyday and used to have Maggi with chopped onions and tomato in it at a roadside stall near my accommodation.
Maggi evokes personal memories with friends that lacerates emotional wounds, and bring happy tears of past. But the reality is that Maggi is unhealthy, and we almost knew it all along our journey throughout our childhood, teenage and adulthood. Maggi, like Coke, cigarette, and many other food items, can be unhealthy. But isn’t it our part of lifestyle today? We drink coke, we have food from street outlets, we take lunch and dinner at fast food chains like McDonald’s, KFC, and Domino’s. Is whatever that they serve healthy for us? I doubt it.
But that doesn’t make me not support a right move in the right direction. Maggi is unhealthy and should not be in market. I simply hope that our food regulatory bodies become alert after this incident and actually take steps against all the giants and small food serving joints who serve unhealthy food that somehow can cause cancer to us after 30-40 years.
Points to Ponder
Two things hurt me here though. One that government authorities are reacting today as if Maggi suddenly became a national calamity. They are, of course, joining hands with the public backlash against Maggi. They all want to come in line with public, garner their support and appreciation for taking extreme steps against Maggi. But why didn’t they do anything against Maggi or Nestle for last 30 years. Were they sleeping? Or did they deliberately decide not to take any step against Maggi until a public outrage? Of course, they are not doing their job the way they should and that hurts me.
Second, people can be seen talking about Nestle a lot. They are talking about the management steps Nestle could have taken to save their brand. They are talking about the ‘Product’ “P” that Nestle didn’t take care of out the 5Ps principle that is the most basic concept of management. Every management guru is using this example, the drop in their shares across market, and the almost total public backlash against their brand, to explain the right thing to do in such circumstances. They are highlighting the importance of Social Media policies for a company in today’s world and marketing policy keeping in light all the mediums of communication with public. Perhaps, one thing that I hate the most about capitalist economies is this live example. Everything that seems to matter for a company is limited to their profits, shares, brands, and annual turnovers. In a capitalist world, though it may seem that there is competition, so there will always be product quality and it would help the citizens of the country, but I am telling you, a company never thinks about the consumer, all they always think about is their profit, and brand value. It saddens me.
The future of Maggi
Nestle has now decided to employ American lobbying giant, APCO Worldwide, to pull them out of this eminent danger to their brand. If you don’t remember it, I must tell you that Gujarat government employed APCO Worldwide to do their image makeover after 2002 riots. So, Modi’s image today is because of APCO, and he is the PM of India because of APCO. I sincerely believe Maggi will make a comeback in Indian market in short time, may be in a new packing, or with a new taste, and its image on Social media will also go from utterly negative ratings to positive outlook in short time.
APCO will probably deliver for Nestle, and nothing much will change for us, expect more awareness about our rights among middle class and a more sensitivity about food in Indian Food agencies. Albeit, I doubt the latter.