The Masala Dosa Index

The Big Mac index is the easy way to understand complicated economics. Since Big Macs are available in several countries, they offer an easy way to measure what the local currency buys in global terms - rather than comparing currencies alone and arriving at answers. In the latest one - July 2011 for example, $4.07 buys you the Big Mac in USA and the equivalent Maharaja Mac is just $1.89 in India. In purchasing power parity that means a dollar buys Rs. 23 worth of goods and not the Rs. 50 suggested by the official exchange rate.

The Big Mac index does a great job of helping us understand comparative value by standardisation. But can we have an Indian perspective because the number of Indians who eat a Big Mac is still minuscule. Its time to take a fat bun sandwich with a slice of minced and fried meat in the middle and let an Indian favourite stand tall alongside and be counted.

It's slimmer, tastier, and healthier. It has a crisp exterior wrapped around a wholesome combination of melt in the mouth potatoes and onions, delicately spiced. It's one of the few things South and North Indians agree is delectable, apart from South Indian heroines. Its the comfort food that can begin your day or wrap it up. Don't be fooled by its outward appearance as a thin pancake. The Western version is bland, limp and needs oodles of syrup to be palatable. The Masala Dosa does double duty as a baton and you can tear off thin crusts, dip them in several versions of chutney, from coconut to garlic to tomato and savour every little spicy morsel. Best of all, it cannot be eaten with a fork and spoon. You have to use your hands.

Its origins are ancient. The earliest reference to the Dosai from whence the Masala Dosa sprung is in the sixth century AD. It was a phenomenon when the Big Mac was yet to be invented. And the world would be far better off eating Masala Dosas by the dozen. It should become India's most prolific export, apart from the armies of programming professionals. May be we can send some of our best Udipi cooks to create the magic. Imagine street corners in the Big Apple with sweaty cooks liberally spreading the batter and a whole lot of New Yorkers lining up for a taste of Indian paradise. It could beat the queues for the Ipad or pod hands down.

So here's the thing. We need to get the Masala Dosa Index going. Starting from Indians in far flung corners of the globe chipping in and letting us know what the Masala Dosa costs locally. How much is one in Helsinki versus the one in Myladuthurai, for instance? We're trying to see the price variation of the Masala Dosa across India and the world in comparable restaurants. Our goal is to see what a Masala Dosa costs in a Saravana Bhavan type of middle class restaurant in the world and across India. We all know that companies price products differently in different markets. We're trying to find out by how much using the Masala Dosa as a benchmark!

( 3 Votes )

Tags: Big Mac | Dosai | Index | Masala Dosa Index | Purchasing Power


+4 # Vijay 2011-12-02 16:17
Great idea, and may the Masala Dosa Index spread crispy cheer. Here's a Bangalore input to kick things off. A masala dosa in Bangalore roughly costs:

Rs 45 at Shiv Sagars at most malls.
Rs 36 at Adyar Anand Bhavan
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0 # chandra 2011-12-20 21:40
This makes sense and would be true in S indian context for sure
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0 # maharawj 2011-12-23 18:40
I think it wont work because it's a Big Mac Index NOT a "Hamburger" index.
Hamburgers are priced differently in USA too just like a Masala Dosa is available from 20 rupees to one 120 rupees in one city.
To get something "Indian" going we have to hope for Sarvanna Bhavan to create a "brand" like the "Big Mac" And then only then they open outlets throughout the world.
Only One Chain, with a particular "menu Item" like the Big Mac. Then only it works.
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0 # Jayanth N 2012-01-07 16:05
Well good idea but compelling data is tough task unlike Big Mac sold only by McDonalds, here u have ten of thousands of hotels selling masala dosa.Commonwealth Securities uses ipod index and some other places they use Starbucks Tall Latte index..
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0 # maharawj 2012-01-12 12:28
I was having a chat about how Mcdonalds is selling in India as a "premium" food and not a "cheap junk food" as it is in America.
So the reason why a Maharaja Mac costs more is because McDonalds has realized that Indians are "idiots" :-).
These "wannabe americans" have been dying to eat McDonalds and will pay more for it.
The proof being pizzahut and dominos.
You can see today with the 99 rupees full meal in Pizza hut and the 39 rupees Pizza(and the 25 rupees burgers of KFC)these companies have finally pricing their foods for its true worth.
I just saw in a hollywood movie they make fun of guys(college youth) who take their girls out for date to pizzahut.
Here in India not only is pizzahut, mCdonalds and dominoes considered to be an "expensive" date, even a coffee and CCD and Starbucks will impress the woman and these are corporate adults not college students.
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