I hail from a city which is the scourge of pretentious food. A city that restores my faith in humanity. A city where people prefer a cheap, big, greasy, meaty mutton roll over a more sophisticated multi-grain sandwich. Kolkata and it’s food represent the old, simplistic perceptions of value like no other; the best quality (or quantity) at the lowest price. But it is time to put that notion to bed as the disease is rapidly spreading and even my Kolkata is susceptible to it.
The concept of value is changing. Experience matters to the consumers more now than ever. In these times when every event, every moment, every meal is pasted across social media feeds, “postability” often decides the value of a product or service. In many cases the brand, popularity, ‘coolness quotient’ have taken priority over more tangible parameters like price & quantity in deciding the value of a product. And no other marketable object symbolizes this paradigm shift in value like THE CUPCAKE!
Do not get me wrong. I have nothing against these pretty, little, fluffy, bite-sized, overpriced baked mounds of sweetness. I quite love to hypocritically pop one in while complaining about the minuscule size, the exorbitant price and the posh image it resonates. But I just cannot fathom the fact that it is competing with, if not managing to beat, the humble wholesome street food of the City of Joy. It is so hard to believe (rather, accept) that what I had prematurely dismissed as a fad is not only there to stay, but it is destroying the culture and food I have grown up loving. Everyone seems to be at Mrs. Magpie’s all the time. Seems like the world has totally lost it!
But when I take a deep breath and think about it I wonder… are my concerns a bit exaggerated? Are my opinions a bit skewed and overtly based on my Facebook feed? Because there’s still a cue outside Arsalan. Mitra Cafe’s stock is still selling out within an hour of setting shop. The busy New Market street is still littered with countless, white paper wrappers of Nizam’s kathi rolls.
Yes, social media has transformed the marketing landscape. Yes, social media has changed our lives and it may have catapulted the cupcake to stardom. But it is required to tread cautiously before jumping to conclusions based on social media observations. The People are not completely represented by their virtual identities….yet!