Nutty Choco Cuddle. Wicked Wrap Veg. Potato Wedges n Pie. Dev Amritesh, president and Chief Operating Officer at Dunkin’ Donuts India, is at the helm of what might be called a food revolution in India.

Before joining Dunkin’ Donuts, Amritesh was senior vice president of Domino’s Pizza India, where he is credited with many bold steps in repositioning pizza in the Indian market. Both Dunkin’ Donuts and Domino’s Pizza are part of Jubilant Foodworks, which has brought these brands to India.

Amritesh is now working his magic to position Dunkin’ Donuts as an alternative in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) sector for discerning Indian consumers. How does the Indian market for Dunkin’ Donuts differ from the United States?
Dunkin’ Donuts is very much part of American culture, whereas a lot of consumption in India is actually an image thing. It is surprising that in India one is actually creating a certain kind of identity when visiting a five-star hotel and even while going to a quick-service restaurant.

In the U.S., Dunkin’ Donuts has a very definite role in peoples’ lives. There are customers going to Dunkin’ Donuts every day to get a cup of coffee. The tagline used there is “America runs on Dunkin,” and, very literally, it’s a kind of fuel that gets Americans going early in the morning. The size of that opportunity in India is zero. You can’t have drive-thru in India. The land is so expensive that you can’t make provision for drive-thru. And even if you managed to do that, having to expect people to drive through a coffee shop and have breakfast in the car is a very, very long stretch considering the cultural, demographic, and infrastructural diversity of the country. That’s an interesting challenge. How do you address it?
Amritesh: Clearly our positioning has to take into account that most of our consumption will be during lunch and dinner, and 90% of it will be for dine-in and on-premise. We might do some home delivery, but the takeaway and drive-thru business will not be significant. That’s one thing we realised will be different for us in India.

We also realized that people expect this brand to be very modern, very happening, very current, and very cool. Dunkin’ Donuts might be a new entrant to the Indian market, yet the brand must reflect the America of 2015.

[Another point] is that the product category, coffee and doughnuts, might not be enough to build a sustainable business. It represents a much smaller opportunity, whereas the market is probably in lunch and dinner; in the day part it should probably reflect something more substantial in the QSR context.

So fundamentally we had to come up with an idea that would address these constraints yet retain the identity of the brand and the core meaning of what the brand stands for. We had to build a solution for India that would work. Tell us about the positioning you have worked on for the Indian market.
 We have worked on a positioning for India where we could be an all-day QSR and have offerings for different parts of the day. What helps is that Dunkin’ Donuts has variety in its menu and offers that possibility. We are at a sweet spot between a cafe and a QSR.

We want to say that a cafe is an adult experience. … People are not consuming coffee for the first time. They are not looking to be wowed or sold. They just want to be probably left alone a bit.

However, because cafes are very strongly about coffee, somehow they are not able to do a great job of the food. Consumers never say that they will go to a coffee shop because there is great food. And that’s where we step in, taking the adult mind-set in the café but also owning the opportunity it offers in the food space. We have called that opportunity “adult QSR.” Explain your definition of adult versus child, because QSR is now a category governed by age, so far as I understand.
With regard to consumption, anyone who has done something before is an “adult,” and the one doing something for the first time is a “child.” So this is not an age discussion but with regard to familiarity with the category. Anybody who has come from the hinterland to Delhi is a child with regard to the urban environment. Someone who is born and brought up in Delhi, even if he is 15 years of age, is an adult. There are people who have grown out of consumption of QSR and are looking for a more refined and better experience. That’s what we mean by adult QSR. How is this idea of adult QSR embedded in your marketing?
Adult QSR became a great place to anchor everything. The product discourse became more complex and interesting, the communication became real and not about selling, but conversational. If you look at any QSR space today, it’s very bold and bright–it almost makes you feel that you are in Disneyland. If you look at a coffee shop, it’s very dark, woody, and old. So in every aspect of our design, thinking of ourselves as an adult QSR and thinking of consumers who have grown out of consumption from these existing spaces gave us cues on how we can plan ahead.

Our doughnuts are not infantile or kiddy doughnuts; we have on our menu Death by Chocolate, Ugly Strawberry, It’s a Mistake. Our vocabulary matches the positioning that we have taken. Even our burgers on the menu have names like Tough Guy, Naughty Lucy burger. They are very gourmet in a way, but we don’t want to be taken too seriously and not typical QSR. So we have used the idea of “flawedness.” Kasundi (Bengali-type) mustard, with a bagel and elephant yam. It doesn’t come from any culinary school. It’s just a concoction of things. Adult consumers see it as interesting because it’s better than just saying masala chicken or masala veg. There is a fun element. It is culinarily great but purposefully flawed–using flaw as core design.

We have actually got permission to do these new additions, so in a way Dunkin’ Donuts in India is a new idea of food. Being a late entrant to the Indian market, what is your growth strategy?
We are mostly focused on the top 20 cities in the country. Main markets for us are Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Currently, we have more stores in Delhi and less in Mumbai and Bangalore because we entered these two cities only last year. We have been in Delhi for three-and-a-half years. We entered Hyderabad and Chennai just a few months ago. We have a total of 68 stores now in India, with 43 stores in North India, 13 stores in West India, and 12 stores in the South India. What is the most exciting thing about being in this business?
I get my satisfaction from not just thinking about the category but a big idea that I can leverage to build. The food service business actually allows you to talk about something in the culture and build things around it.

Another interesting thing about this business is that it allows you multiple touch points for expressing a conceptual idea. At one level you can think of something different and interesting, you can have an abstract idea, but most categories will not let you express it. In our industry, if you think of an abstract idea that is relevant, it can find expression in product design, in space design, in communication, even in your people strategy. There is a lot of premium on creativity in our industry, and I find it very interesting.

Also, it’s very much a people’s business. Our company has 30,000 employees on our payrolls. The restaurant manager is empowered to be the chief executive of the restaurant they run. The kind of people we have are not trained to be chief executives–they are youngsters who have five to six years of experience. [We] give them the key of ownership, empowering them to make mistakes and [have the] maturity to accept it and deal with it in a way that is protecting us while building them. Internationally, Dunkin’ Donuts focuses on the app as a channel. Any plans to launch one in India?
We are looking at an engagement and ordering app. We are also looking at e-commerce as we speak. What about home delivery as an option, given its popularity with Indian consumers?
We already do home delivery, and it’s a small and single-digit percentage of our transactions. However, [with] rental being high in India, we do look for alternative channels to reach more consumers. We are clear that the product experience has to be great irrespective of the channel we use. It might be great if we have delivery partners, but we will not just do it because there is an opportunity. When we get into it, we are clear we have to do it very well, we must commit to it and, if necessary, make products that are suitable for that environment. [Addendum: Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with on-demand delivery service Grofers to deliver its doughnuts.] Why should Indians visit Dunkin’ Donuts?
 Dunkin’ Donuts is the new idea of food. It is very relevant to the young, evolved consumers of today. Those who have been to a QSR find a vacuum in this segment, and Dunkin’ Donuts is meant for that target group for whom we offer a solution that is very relevant in the QSR segment.

This article was produced for ( by Adobe) by Paul Writer (, India’s premier community marketing firm.

Published with permission.

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