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America—Made in India
By Udit Rai
| Category: Lifestyle

How India has adapted to America, giving birth to a cultural joint venture of sorts. 


 

Abdul put on his U.S. Polo t-shirt, his ripped denim jeans and some expensive cologne. This was a special occasion after all. He was trying out Tinder, the dating website that had come to India recently. It was the new fad and was blowing up in every metropolitan city faster than a hungry cheetah on steroids. He had just hit a match, after hours of swiping, and was understandably in a state of euphoria. He heads off in his car, plugging in his favorite Taylor Swift remix, for the latest Starbucks that had just opened, since Rashid Chacha’s tea outlet (his favorite place for casual meetings otherwise) didn’t seem appropriate for the occasion. She was late, as he had often experienced, and sitting in his chair looked at the people around; the cashier, the customers, all of them. He chuckles to himself “Is this Delhi or America?” It is an understandable question after all. No one in his family had visited America, and yet here he was, meeting a potential significant other through an American website, following American fashion trends, wearing American brands, listening to an American singer, and sitting in an American franchise waiting for his order for two Americanos (coffee).

 

He started thinking “When did it get this way? How have we come to resemble a foreign country so well, when we sit an entire day flying distance away from it? How did the entire world get so American?” He is right in thinking so, and India is perhaps the best example of this fact. India does not merely replicate or follow America but hosts a new United States of America within her soul, albeit in a slightly different manner than the original. India, or at least some parts of her, represent the American spirit, and live the American dream just like people do around 13,500 km away.

 

“The secret lay in the integrating, adapting culture of America” he thought. “The Americans had learned all the good parts of Capitalism and integrated them into their bones. Closed-mindedness, apprehensiveness to change, and a small mindset were phenomenon unbeknownst to the Americans, and this is why the world seeks so hard to be American. The politicians of the extremist lands, who called for unspeakable things to happen to the United States had sent their children to study in the same country they had built a career and a fortune denouncing. This hypocrisy was necessary to them, since the United States offered opportunity, freedom, quality of life, and quality education like nowhere else. This was a country where a few college dropout students could launch a company that today deals across 19 countries, is an internationally known worldwide brand, and its products are the very definition of social status. Oh, and it also has a worth of $1 trillion as of this month.” (Abdul was thinking about Apple)

 

The Americans succeeded this far as they integrate and adapt according to where they go. There is no trace of a closed-mindedness, of a “take it or leave it” culture. They adapt as far as they can, and they invent where adaptation does not prove enough, but giving up, or closing their minds to change is not an American phenomenon. “These also happen to be some of the worlds’ toughest people”, he thinks. 

 

“Some may find the Scandinavians, or the Mongolians, or other people to be the toughest, but the Americans beat them all. In which other country have you heard of a politician who was shot in the chest, and continued his speech for another 90 minutes? What of Walt Disney, who suffered two nervous breakdowns before finally achieving success. What of Thomas Alva Edison, who failed 1,000 times before success? It is not that people from other countries do no possess grit, but the Americans knew how to succeed, and almost all of them contain the grit necessary to succeed. This is why they manage to adapt so well. 

 

Take KFC, for example. The company was almost driven out of India when it was first set up in India in 1995. There were literal Anti-KFC protests, and frequent ransacking and attacks occurred on their stores. It was not just the general public, but even some politicians also publicly denounced the franchise on multiple occasions. The company had to abandon the Indian market, but returned merely a few years later, in 1999. Today there are scores of outlets to be found in almost every major city, and it is an avid hub for those fond of chicken dishes. They had learned from their previous mistakes, however, and now India is the only country where KFC serves vegetarian dishes such as the vegetarian Zinger burger. This is perhaps the best example of American resilience and adaptiveness in display.

 

It is a similar story of Viacom’s MTV India, which was launched in 1996. When it was first launched, it was almost flat out rejected by the Indian market. In 1997, many changes were made. The music played was 70% local and 30% international music. The channel added short form content, and even an entire daily fiction show. They also hosted shows like Roadies, which is perhaps one of the hottest topics in the mind of the average Indian teenager, along with Ariana Grande’s latest hits.” Abdul remembers the first reaction of his best friend, Vijay when he got a tattoo “Bhai, kya Roadies mein jana hai tujhe?” 

 

There is a reason, however that I say that America is made in India instead of just being a role model to part of its populace. India has adapted to America, and this has given birth to the present India, a cultural joint venture of sorts, who are as much American as Indian. Domino’s Pizza sells the most in India as compared to any other country, and this is a reason. There are people in the villages of India, who do not know how to call a taxi, but make sure to order extra oregano seasoning in their pizza order. There are people who have lived in India all their life and cannot speak a sentence of pure Hindi but remember each time to ask for the days special at Subway before ordering. And there is almost the entire younger generation of India, who have studied at places so varied as run-down slum schools (where teachers are frequently absent) and people who have studied at the most elite schools of the country; but both share a common dream: To study, one day, at one of Americas ivy league universities. This is perhaps the biggest success of this “Joint Venture”. A society that has been plagued by sectarianism, casteism, classism, and umpteen other –isms, today has a younger generation that looks upon the same ideal, and sleeps at night dreaming the same dreams, regardless of which caste, class and/or community the particular youth belongs to.”

 

Abdul’s intense train of thought is suddenly interrupted. A girl of medium height stands before him, with long, flowing hair, big, doe-like eyes, and a tender voice.

 

“Abdul?”  she asks
“Yes, and you?”
“Hi, I’m the one who was chatting with you last night.”
“Oh, please have a seat.”
“Hey, wassup homie?” she says, with a silly smirk on her face.

 

Abdul can do nothing but roll his eyes.

 

 

Content credits:

https://hbr.org/2014/12/how-u-s-businesses-can-succeed-in-india-in-2015

www.mbarendezvous.com/general-awareness/kfc-story-in-india/

www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/business/what-is-glocalization-who-all-have-made-it-big

www.afaqs.com/news/story/23859_The-evolution-of-MTV-India

 

Photographs courtesy Pixabay and Flickr 

 

 


Udit Rai is a student.