Police protect Pizza Hut's Indian debut

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BANGALORE, India--PepsiCo Restaurants International opened its first Pizza Hut in India in the southern city of Bangalore, Karnataka, on June 18. The police provided protection at the opening amid fears that local militants opposed to multinational corporations might stage violent demonstrations.

The Pizza Hut is the first of 40 restaurants to be opened over seven years. In a departure from Pizza Hut practices worldwide, 90% of the items on the menu are vegetarian in deference to local Hindu religious beliefs. "Keeping in mind the tastes and preferences of the Indian consumer, we have developed an exciting array of vegetarian pizzas, salads and pastas," says Sandeep Kohli, managing director of PepsiCo's Indian operations.

Like McDonald's Corp., which is set to open two restaurants, Pizza Hut will not offer beef. A large section of India's Hindu community worships the cow. Lamb and chicken items will be served.

The threat of violence looms large over Pizza Hut's operations in the country. Sister chain KFC Corp.'s two restaurants in Bangalore and New Delhi have been victimised by Hindu nationalist-backed political parties and farmers' groups which fear that fast food multinationals deplete local food resources and corrupt traditional eating habits.

"When we are buying local raw materials which are grown by Indian farmers and processed here, employing local people from Bangalore, using local contractors, we are definitely contributing our shoulder to the wheel of progress," Kohli says.

Ad agencies for KFC and Pizza Hut have not been named. DDB Needham affiliate Mudra Communications, New Delhi, handles McDonald's India with an initial-year ad spend of $0.2 million.

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