Shuddh Desi Maggi!!!

First the disclosures. I am not a big fan of the 2 minute wonder – Maggi Noodles ever to have hit the Indian palate and plate. In all my life, I would have tasted it may be a few times and I detested it every time. Even when mixed with curd as how Bollywood stereotypes we Madrasis to eat even Noodles 😠. I don’t have nostalgic memories either of how Maggi Noodles helped thwart hunger pangs during some mountaineering expedition,… like how some adults professed as part of the Maggi campaign. The daughter though loves it. And wants more of it. Much to the dismay of the mother and the father. I also don’t have any commercial interests going with Nestle nor do I have a Swiss bank account!!!


But I have a lot of interest in India and the signals it sends across within the country and outside as a place not abhorrent to business.  In the last 2 weeks, we all know how one Pandeyji from UP got his 2 minute fame under the sun after he picked up few Maggi Noodle packs, tested and declared that the contents were out of set limits. Many other states followed and soon Nestle had no choice but to pull their 2000cr (US$300mn) flagship product off the shelves and indeed away from the mouths of many a child and even grownups.  Leaving many a moms feeling surreptitiously happy when they found a way to desist the urge of their offspring citing the ban 😃.

In India, Newton is a much misunderstood man. When it comes to anything foreign, his 3rd law becomes “For every action, there is an unequal and opposite knee jerk reaction”😄 Either we go gaga about something phoren or go suspicious. There’s nothing in between. I am not for a moment questioning the veracity of the ban or arguing that Maggi noodles is above-board.  I am also not taking the oft-repeated line that in India there are so many other food items if tested would flunk all norms. Just that if the same situation would have been handled in a more compassionate way with a perspective view by the authorities, the Indian republic would not be viewed as a banana type!!!

For example, what if the same situation had played out like this:

  • Pandeyji picks up samples of Maggi noodles, tests the same and finds that the contents are beyond norms.
  • He informs the Central agency – Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) about his findings. (Instead of going to the press and banning the same in UP. What if it was just a batch issue??)
  • FSSAI arrange to do its own tests to ascertain the claim and also make a foolproof assessment. And let us assume that they indeed find the lead content above specified limits.
  • FSSAI informs the Food ministry of the same.
  • Food ministry calls the top officials of Nestle India for a meeting and they inform them of the findings. And gives Nestle couple of weeks to do their own assessment and come back.
  • Now its upto Nestle to accept the findings or prove with their own test results that they are in the right.
  • And if indeed Nestle finds that they are in the wrong, the onus is on them to come up with a plan of action to correct the situation. Temporary recall, change of recipe,…,…
  • They work with the FSSAI authorities and change the recipe of the taste maker which is tested and approved as within norms.
  • Nestle does a launch of the Govt. of India Approved ‘Shuddh Desi Maggi” Noodles with an appropriate campaign and continues its business as usual.

Product recalls on account of genuine safety concerns happen world over all the time these days. A more calibrated approach would have allowed the company time to work backwards with their whole supply chain – producers of atta/maida, spices, suppliers of the atta/maida, the factories which produce the noodle, the factories which make the packaging, transporters, whole sales distributors, retailers, kirana shops,..,.. to minimize damage. I just read a news item today that 300 in a company in Moga, Punjab that supplied spices to Nestle India lost their jobs due the ongoing Maggi noodles tangle.  I am certain under the current uncertain situation, many more will follow. Quietly not just Maggi, but the entire category is off the shelves I am told.

Some are of the view that Nestle itself could have handled the situation better. But I thought that by voluntarily agreeing to pull the brand off the shelves without getting into arguments regarding the test methods,.. they did the right thing. Now from here on they could take some lessons from Cadbury – another brand which faced a much worse situation few years ago. The relaunch of the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate after the brand faced much ire when worms were found inside the chocolate wrapper is part of marketing case studies in India on the topic of “Recovery Strategy”.  The 2 minute Maggi Noodle must take a 2 months strategic time out and get the formula of their taste maker right not just for my daughter’s palate but also Pandeyji’s.

We have a Prime Minster who is desperately wanting to change the business climate in India and boost investments foreign and Indian. Unfortunately, episodes like the Maggi ban of this kind do not augur well for his intent.

Postscript: A friend told me that the Maggi ban and strangulation of Nestle is our Govt.’s trump card to make the Swiss authorities co-operate and reveal the black money offenders. Wah! “Covert” operations under the Modi regime have gone to a different level I must say😊😊

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0 thoughts on “Shuddh Desi Maggi!!!”

  1. The charges levied by FSSAI against Nestle’s Maggi Noodles is very interesting. It contains more quantity of lead than the permissible limit. Number two, misleading labeling that it contains “no added MSG”… and the launch of another Maggi product ( Maggi Oats Masala Noodles
    ) without the product approval. So Nestle could rectify the the mistakes number two and three in no time. Indian Government doesn’t bother whether the product contains MSG or not. But label it properly and sell it. That’s all. So, the bottom line is , the 2000Cr flagship product of Nestle, is marketed carelessly. That’s a grave mistake from the giant. And again, according to some sources, Nestle could have avoided this fiasco by paying Rs. 25,000/- penalty initially, when more quantities of lead was found in their product. But they blamed the authorities for improper handling of samples and challenged it. Anyways, it’s for sure that Maggi is going to come back…. how soon… we don’t know…. Oh! dead worms are found in the health drink Complan… Are we seeing another product debacle?

    Anand Anna …. Good article….

  2. Anand,
    Beautiful analysis.As of now no one knows till now whether it is safe to have or unsafe .
    We seem to be having /hearing only noises on this.
    What if they have been harmful?


  3. Anand San,

    The matter at hand is a critical issue as it relates to food. In any advanced economy , when there are issues relating to the standards of food in the market or medicines, there is no time for the process suggested my you. The so called ‘tainted’ products are pulled off the shelves across countries and continents immediately! It is a matter of public health and safety! This happens regularly in Japan, Canada, USA, France,Germany etc

    To say that there are many other local produce in India that does not meet standards, does not mean that the MNC’s should be dealt with in a lighter fashion.

    Information suggests that these products including products from Haldiram’s etc are not approved for import into the US ! This rejection took place last year.
    This being the case Nestle’s knew what they were doing! It is not a batch problem….

    1. Hi Gurkar San, Thanks for reading and for the detailed viewpoint. As I had mentioned in the post I am not questioning the veracity of the ban. And I am also not saying its a MNC Vs Local company issue. What I thought was – the whole issue could have been handled better. As you have rightly said product recalls happen everywhere these days. But in this case there has been multiple voices and statements. UP says the samples fail the tests, Haryana says – they are o.k,..,…
      The centre could have done the tests in their labs and shared with Nestle and taken their view. Apparently while the agencies are testing the taste maker and found them unacceptable, noodle makers are testing the noodles along with the taste maker and are claiming that they are within limits!!
      As you have rightly said this is matter of food and hence whatever action taken should be absolutely foolproof and serious. I was arguing basically against the adhocism in the whole handling of the issue. The moot question is if indeed the product had unacceptable contents how come they were selling this in India all these years?

      Thanks once again for reading and good to hear your viewpoint!

  4. Very Well Written..
    The Maggi episode is indeed a perplexing one.If lead is really high,Maggi is on the other boat and it is going to be turbulent.Maggi should honestly clarify and come back with a better product.On the other hand,If it is just a hoax..Maggi and Customers sail in the same boat and together they shall cross turbulence. Its high time and Nestle should speak up.

  5. I am totally with the writer and all the suggestions given here. I know Maggi is sure to come back in a new form. But, before that Nestle has ample time to speak up and clarify. Besides all, food products either street ones or packaged are not up to the mark for consumption. We as Indians fall in traps for foreign brands and packaged stuffs irrespective of the notion that there’s hardly any difference in the food that we consume, leaving aside the branding and packaging. It’s all about advertising!!

  6. Anand, Your thoughts on Maggi issue is very neutral and mature. Food safety authority is available in other countries and will be a good asset to India and to promote its food industry. Well done.

  7. I don’t know if the govt. is trying to prove a point or arm twist the Swiss govt. into giving into their demands. Whatever the reason, it didn’t play out well. Like you said, a “knee jerk reaction” which ends up doing more harm that good. You have people left unemployed, farmers with an extra reason to commit suicide and all that effort to improve ease-of-business looking like a joke. Absolutely agree with the points you raised – this could have easily been handled in a more sensible, compassionate manner.

    Also, thanks for visiting my blog!

  8. Hey Anand. Your perspective and inclination towards the Maggi Saaga is pretty good. I think the entire episode went haywire and happened in a rapid pace mainly because of the overexposure if the issue and overflow of speculations from media…all sorts of media..

    So many cases have happened in the past. Cadbury (as you mentioned), cola drinks, Subway and many others. But either they are forgotten or necessary steps were taken form the brands to handle the crisis. Sadly Maggi’s crisis management and communication just didnt fall in place.

    While Maggi has roped in a new PR firm to handle the fiasco, we are anxiously waiting for their next move. As a Maggi fan, I hope they come up with something substantial for the nation to look forward to.

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