Although the vacations have ended, the festive season of weddings has not. Over the past three months, I have been invited to numerous functions that I have gladly missed for several reasons. White lies I tell to get away, ensuring I value where my time and energy are invested.
Amidst all the ostensibly grand festivities that never seem to end, what tickled my fancy was to explore the hue and cry surrounding the Canadian coffee chain, Tim Hortons.
Tim Hortons Keeping The Love Of Coffee Alive In Lahore
Extrapolating its growth in the Global South in August 2022 with the Indian debut operating 11 stores across major cities, the restaurant launched with a bang in Pakistan too. Lahore saw a grand 8,000sq ft outlet, featuring a drive-thru and in-store seating for nearly 150 people, at a posh commercial center, in an upmarket Lahore shopping mall.
The opening of an international coffee chain is not the only news. Inevitably, parking lots at full throttle and throngs of people queuing up raised some eyebrows. In less than a month, Pakistan’s currency has lost more than a quarter of its value against the USD, and fuel prices have risen by almost a fifth as the government implemented fiscal measures that are prerequisites to unlocking funds from an International Monetary Fund bailout. Inflation spiked to 27% year-on-year, the highest in more than a decade, and the government only has enough foreign reserves to pay for three weeks of imports.
Inflation & Long Ques At Tim Hortons
Having launched at a time characterized by pressing inflation, severe economic downturn, devaluing currency, financial insecurity, and dwindling business and commerce, the populace faced an immediate backlash of ‘kaisi mehengai’, and ‘kaisi ghurbat’. Again, that’s not the only news. What’s more, the Lahore launch is called the biggest one outside North America in the last 10 years.
As a premium coffee brand, it charges a relatively higher price. Tim’s Classic French Vanilla costs about PKR 600 (small), while a large Hot Chocolate costs about PKR 700. Yes, it is expensive, and yes, the people of Pakistan want to go and buy it. Yes, we want to pay that premium price for a new brand.
What is mind-boggling is: why is a salaried youth, or even the privileged lot, for that matter, being questioned about their wish to enjoy the taste of well-brewed Canadian coffee in their hometown, and the exorbitant, needless expenditures not being given any limelight?
Desi Festive Season Expense & International Coffee From Tim Hortons
I am glad to know everyone is aware of the class divide and income disparity. And I am more than happy they know what it all means. But has anyone questioned the six grand functions (Mehendi, Dholki, Dars, Nikkah, Shaadi, Valima), costing more than 12 lakhs each to wed a couple, apart from the ridiculously flamboyant wedding wear and all? Have you questioned that 7th Umrah and the 3rd Hajj your chacha and nano went to? Is that 5th Corolla really needed in the same household? Why aren’t we speaking about that? And it has been happening for as long as I can remember.
This drives my point back to the first line of this piece. Now, read my line again about the white lies. When the 6-day celebration and festivities hosted by many industrial giants have only been exaggerated with time by a single family on their first son, why is a single cup of coffee a botheration – the cost of which is spread over numerous customers?
Yes, we are all happy about your son’s wedding. And yes, social obligations are essential. But it is the big industrial families who can really make a difference if one of them can make a mark, stating, “We had a small intimate ceremony of 100 family members.” And that is what will make the middle class, who is pressured into the vicious cycle of it, realize, “A single celebration is okay. If they can do it despite possessing millions, so can we.”
On The Bright Side, We All Love Coffee!
What we really need is for us to prioritize where our time, money, and energy are invested. A single cup of coffee made the purchaser happy. Those 6 functions will never make the invitees even slightly happier. Trust me. And the irony is, we’ve all been through it. We’ve all seen and heard family members talk about it. Perhaps, we’ve been a part of it. Maybe not. But it exists. It is a hard reality. Yet no one speaks about it. And still, everyone speaks of change.
According to the news, Tim Hortons is set to open another two outlets in Lahore. Of course, Lahoris’ love affair with food is perpetual. And when we speak of economic woes, I believe we are probably contributing as customers for the FDI that dared to step into a country riddled with bankruptcy. The papers mention that the key rate of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) now stands at 20%, its highest level since October 1996, with consumer price inflation now at its highest for almost 50 years. This rate hike was a key requirement to get the IMF funding released.
In the midst of all this, the FDIs make all the more business sense, because not only do they create employment opportunities (which Tim Hortons did, by the way) and met the consumer need, it ensured a positive impact on Pakistan’s economy. The higher FDIs pour in, the more the government will be forced to bring interest rates down to secure better deals with the MNCs.
Again, let’s not contemplate a cup of overpriced coffee from the new brand. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of overpriced commodities that the awam is insane about. Can we please tend to the hefty issues and solutions at hand? You’re welcome.
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