Chocolate and Gold Coins

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Indian Patents the Burrito

Not really, but it's almost true. The always interesting Sepia Mutiny describes Dosa Plaza and their 104 dosai including the patented Mexican Dosa. A dosa is very similar to a tortilla except the dosa uses rice flour instead of wheat flour. Actually, a chapatti is a tortilla, so maybe an Indian really will patent the burrito. Here is Sepia Mutiny’s take on the Mexican Dosa:

This far-out concept of wrapping a round piece of flattened bread around Mexican ingredients is going to be big. Picture, if you will, a whole chain of hacienda-like eateries with...bells...selling this truly groundbreaking product to all of India’s mostly non-obese citizens. So big, that it should spark unbridled franchising around the world, catering to those starved for affordable Mexican food prepared quickly. Billions upon billions of dollars will be generated. Luckily, Khorwal [owner] has patented this ingenious design, so he won’t have worry about unscrupulous businessmen stealing his idea.

Rahul Bhatia who writes the interesting blog Greenchannel actually visited Dosa Plaza and spoke with the man behind the counter – and decided not to eat their food. Here is his take on Dosa Plaza:

I asked him what the Mexican dosa contains. He said there were mixed vegetables inside the dosa, and cheese was sprinkled on top. Upon further questioning, he said - not sheepishly, mind you - that it was labeled 'Mexican' because of the sprinkled cheese. The Manchurian idli, said the server, was a diced idli dipped in Manchurian gravy. And the Mexican baked dosa was not baked, but fried.

For a country largely paranoid about a foreign hand perverting our culture and all that, we sure do some strange things to ourselves.

My take on Dosa Plaza is simple: they’re idiots. McDonald’s started their restaurant with only 8 items on their menu. Their philosophy: do a few things extremely well, with consistent quality, and keep it simple. That philosophy should be the philosophy of any fast-food start-up. Once you get your core items down you can expand later. But if they have 104 items now - before thousands of people have tried them - many of them must be just awful. The concept of doing careful market testing before launching your product just hasn't gotten to India yet.


  • Michael,
    First of all a nice blog to read.
    Secondly Tortilla and 'Chapati' are not the same, not at all. Tortilla is very bland at least the one you have in US fast food chains. May be it is the oil added to the chapati that makes the difference. You can compare compare Tortilla with dry 'roti' without salt though :)

    Thirdly I agree that Dosa plaza plan is idiot for the same reason you mentioned.

    By Blogger G, at 4:21 AM  

  • I agree, a chapati is better than the flour tortilla you get in the U.S.. The chapati is made out of whole wheat flour. Most commercial tortillas contain white flour (maida) and baking soda. The baking soda that makes them a little more like roti, but not really.

    Mexican food with chapatis is much better. I get the frozen chapatis and cook them up hot and fresh and then add the ingrediants. They're great!

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:08 AM  

  • Hi,
    Just curious. How come you know so much about India and Indian food ?

    By Blogger G, at 2:28 PM  

  • I believe that 'atta' (flour) sold in the Indian stores in the US is generally not whole wheat, i.e. some stuff has been taken out of it during processing of the wheat. A popular brand, Golden Temple flour is made by Robin Hood of Canada which makes real whole wheat flour for the US market under the Robin Hood brand. The problem lies with modern Indian housewives who care more whether the chapati looks white than whether it is healthy. I have in the past bought legitimate whole wheat flour in an American supermarket and surreptitiously mixed it in the barrel where my wife stored her Indian store bought fake, unhealthy stuff. I eventually got caught.

    By Blogger VkG, at 10:45 PM  

  • The Jumbo King chain in Mumbai that sells large sized Vada Paav is one to be watched. They follow the McD philosophy when it comes to product range and location. And it's a tried and tested product. The diffrence is that the Jumbo King ones are larger and the outlets are cleaner.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:17 AM  

  • For idiots, every one will look like idiot.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:36 AM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:13 PM  

  • Please, let's get our facts straight. A tortilla, made in Mexico, is a flatbread made of corn. Corn, being a staple in the North American continent, is used widely in Mexican cuisine. Cheese and milk products didn't even reach mexico until the late 1700s (1775, if I recall correctly). Mexico didn't even get wheat until 1520, when it was introduced by the Spaniards. Calling the pasty gummy things smothered in cheese that pass for burritos in the USA a Mexican food would be like calling the greasy, shapeless lumps of unidentified somethign floating in congealed fat and drowning in curry powder Indian food.

    A chapati or roti is a product made of whole wheat, which, unlike its distant cousin from Mexico, is meant to puff up and be lighter and more receptive to holding fast to more liquidy foods. The Mexican variety does very well with spiced meats, because the corn tortillas are a fair bit more slippery and less absorbent than the Indian wheat chapatis.

    Hope that clears it up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:51 AM  

  • I agree with you on the “start small and then add more later” ideology (I am extremely wary of any restaurant that boasts more than 100 items on their menu on so many grounds – quality, uniqueness etc), nonetheless I feel that “testing before launching” in India is not always a necessity and a well thought-out idea and understanding of your market may be enough.

    For most industries, India’s markets have not matured. There is lots of room for new ideas (no matter how good or bad) to develop and succeed with some small target group within such a large population.

    We may be under estimating our Dosa guy. For starters, he understands that in India the mentality is (or maybe was) “MORE IS ALWAYS BETTER”, no matter if it’s bargaining for fruits on the street to showing appreciation of someone’s cooking by eating more food – more is better!! Playing on that – he has 100+ options, and for the regular shmo on the street who wants something Indian with a twist – his 100+ options might actually be intriguing. On top of that dosa’s are a tried, tested and true product - If his regulars (plain/masala) dosa’s are good – people may be willing to come again and again regardless of the quality/taste of the other dosa’s. They may even be willing to keep trying the different dosa’s till they find one they like!

    (note: Dosa Plaza actually started with only 20-25 dosa’s – so really they did use the “McDonald’s Strategy”)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:25 PM  

  • I really dont know Dosa Plaza plan is Idiot or not...only fact I came to know is they have 25 outlets in 3 years. Turnover 20 Million per year.
    Who cares its Mexican, or fried or sells and it taste good.

    Owner from a humble start is on road to be a major brand.

    from but Experts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:44 AM  

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