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Relative to population size, India has fewer McDonald’s restaurants than many countries, but that’s about to change as the company’s North and East India licensee gears up to double the number of outlets from 170 to well over 300 in the next three years alone.
The global fast-food chain is thriving in the subcontinent with a unique menu of traditional and international options, with Indian specialities and favourites including Butter Chicken Grilled burgers, Chicken McWings and tasty vegetarian patties such as Butter Paneer Grilled and McAloo Tikki.
There’s also a no-onion and no-garlic menu for when customers are fasting and not eating onion or garlic. At the same time, the company is rapidly establishing a position in the coffee segment with McCafé and intends to be a formidable player in the café space.
“In our boardroom we have an empty chair that is kept for the customer.”
The bold expansion involves hiring more than 5,000 staff to effectively double the workforce too. It has also opened its biggest Indian restaurant at Guwahati, dubbed the ‘gateway to north-east India’, with a capacity to seat 220 people.
“I’m extremely hungry for growth,” says Managing Director Rajeev Ranjan from his New Delhi office. “I tell my team to be curious and use all our energy to maximize opportunities to drive growth and efficiency.
“We’re giving all our stores a contemporary look and opening about 150 brand new ones that will feature self-ordering kiosks where customers use digital touch screens and even get fast and friendly table service.”
To ensure that his senior executives are always focused on customers, Ranjan uses a secret weapon.
“In our boardroom we have an empty chair that is kept for the customer,” he says with a smile. “And before we take any important decisions, we think about hearing their voice.”
This customer-centric approach doesn’t stop with the board. In fact, every employee is categorized in one of two ways to emphasise the importance of their role.
“People who work for the organization are either improving the life of the customer or helping those serving the customer,” Ranjan explains.
“Our core philosophy is that none of us are better than all of us – we strongly believe in teamwork. And we want to make sure that every person in the system is working towards understanding and meeting the needs of the team.”
Those principles have served him well as McDonald’s India – North and East emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with very robust numbers and a renewed appetite for expansion.
Ranjan joined Connaught Plaza Restaurants, licensee of McDonald’s in India, in August 2020 as a Senior Director after more than 14 years at Coca-Cola. There, he had the opportunity to work across Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, eventually serving as Vice President – Business Transformation, looking after supply chains, manufacturing, procurement and distribution.
In 2021, he was promoted to McDonald’s India – North and East COO before being appointed Managing Director in September last year.
The way Ranjan structures his working day shows his commitment to immersing himself in the business and listening to staff on all levels. “I like to spend the first hour doing what one of my mentors described as ‘torturing the data until it speaks the truth’,” he says.
“It means really understanding the way the company is growing – slicing and dicing the numbers to see what the information reveals.”
Crucially, it involves two dimensions – his own internal data on how the overall industry is changing, and how customer behaviors and perceptions are moving. Analysing both helps him figure out where opportunities lie and where improvements need to be made.
“After that, I spend time with my team to understand their goals and how they align with the organization’s needs. Sometimes I have to do some fine-tuning or course corrections,” he says.
“People who work for the organization are either improving the life of the customer or helping those serving the customer.”
“The objective is to make sure everybody throughout the top three layers of management is laser focused on the top five priorities so all the arrows fly in the same direction. Only then can we make a significant impact.”
The third part of Ranjan’s day is normally spent understanding the motivation of the people, and what they need from him.
“It’s important for me to know what drives each individual and how I can help them achieve their aspirations. Someone might need more responsibility, some might need a promotion, recognition of success, leadership experience or to upskill. My aim is to look for a match and try to do my best to meet the aspirations of the team.”
Given the rapid modernization and impressive number of new premises shaping up to open, the customer in that empty chair is going to be very satisfied.