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Rise in viewership of Korean series and popularity of K-pop music could translate into a business opportunity for Korean packaged food brands in India, said a new survey by market research firm Euromonitor.

In 2020, covid-19 led lockdown accelerated the popularity and acceptance of Korean culture in India through dramas available on several video streaming platforms as well as the Korean music bands whose craze here is legendary. Together, the admiration and adoption of Korean ethos through its entertainment content could result in an uptick in opportunity for Korean food manufacturers, ingredients and condiments makers, as well as the food services industry, the report said.

“The rise in consumption of Korean food in India after the 2020 lockdown can be correlated to the viewership of K-dramas and K-Pop. Korean noodles in India witnessed a growth of 162% in terms of volume in 2020 and are expected to grow by 178% in 2021, according to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India," Euromonitor said in a note on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Korean beauty products—wildly popular globally too—have found favour among urban shoppers in the country. They are also available on e-commerce marketplaces such as Nykaa, as well as in malls and high streets.

Meanwhile Euromonitor said that South Korean noodle brand Nong Shim is considering India as its new important market and focusing on products that cater to the taste of Indian consumers. Nong Shim along with popular Korean noodle brand, Samyang are currently targeting tier 1 Indian markets because of high income and customer awareness.

Korean noodles are also easily available across e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and BigBasket. Other platforms are also leveraging this opportunity including McDonald’s which introduced special BTS meals in South and West India to celebrate the South Korean Boyband BTS as part of its global campaign.

Korikart, a marketplace for imported Korean products launched in 2018—said it has been reporting a 40% growth month-on-month since March’20. Longer stay at home last year helped consumers discover K Dramas prompting them to experiment with the country’s local favourite brands.

“The pandemic had its downside but for Korikart it also came with a silver lining since the work-from-home scenario gave people exposure to K-drama, K-pop as well as K-products and that worked in Korikart’s favour," said Seo Youngdoo, founder, Korikart.

Youngdoo said other than demand from big cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, it has also seen online orders coming from Chandigarh, Jaipur, Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

In demand on its site are Spicy K-Ramen Noodles, vitamin shower filters, face mask-sheets and educational toys, among others. Earlier this year, it launched a standalone store in Gurgaon. It is also experimenting with shop-in-shop models in tier 2-3 cities.

Korean speciality food outlets like Daily Sushi in Bengaluru, Sibang and Hahn’s Kitchen in Gurugram have also gained prominence.

To be sure, the craze for Korean shows—which have struck a chord with Indian audiences—continues. Google search for “K Drama" has risen over the past year. Searches are led by viewers in states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Sikkim, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Streaming companies have been leveraging viewer interest in Korean content.

In August 2020, direct-to-home service provider Dish TV India Ltd announced the launch of a new service Korean Drama Active on DishTV and D2H platforms with premium Korean dramas dubbed in the Hindi.

Netflix, the American streaming platform reported a year-on-year 370% jump in 2020 in the viewership of Korean dramas in India, Euromonitor said. Of those surveyed by Euromonitor—a majority reported spending between two to ten hours per week viewing K dramas. The trend was significantly more pronounced in tier 1 cities.

Mint earlier reported that the second season of Zombie Tale Kingdom was in the India Top 10 series row in March 2020, when it released. Korean series such as It’s Okay to Not be Okay and Crash Landing on You have also featured in the India Top 10 overall and series rows. Local streaming services MX Player said Korean content was a big driver for the international category with shows like Rich Man, King's Love and 1% of Something.

“Korean content has garnered great interest, especially among millennials because the situations and narratives it explores are relatable to our Indian youth," Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player had told Mint in an earlier interview.

Interestingly, according to Euromonitor, the similarities do not end there.

It said that Indians may be drawn towards Korean food as components such as rice, noodles, vegetables, and meat and ingredients such as sesame oil, chilli, pepper, soy, and spices are common across Korean as well as Indian cuisines.

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