ET has learnt that the case study, which largely dwells on the missteps that led to the product withdrawal, is being put together on a fast-track basis and could be ready in about a month, against the more typical nine months or so that it takes to wrap up one of these.
HBS case studies have included the Jaipur Literature Festival and the Mumbai dabbawalas -the commercial capital’s high-efficiency, low-cost, on-time meal delivery system. While the latter two are unqualified successes, the Maggi noodles episode is anything but that, having damaged the Swiss parent’s brand value, exposed the Indian system’s many faults and triggered harsh criticism of the regulator’s crackdown by the government that runs it. On top of that, the judiciary poked holes in the manner in which the matter was pursued.
Nestle India denied it had been ap proached for a case study . “We have not been contacted by Harvard Business School,“ a spokesperson said. The business school itself declined to comment.
“As a matter of policy and in fairness to the companies that work with us, we do not comment on cases until they are officially published and entered into the Harvard Business School case collection,“ Brian Kenny, HBS chief marketing and communications officer, said in an email revert to ET. “So I cannot provide you with any insight into cases that are currently in progress.“ According to information available with ET, HBS has approached key stakeholders and top food companies for their views on the issue. “We have been approached for comment on the Nestle Maggi mess,“ a top official said. He didn’t want to be named, given the sensitivity of the matter.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banned the sale of Maggi noodles nationwide on June 5, although Nestle had recalled the product earlier that day, after tests showed samples exceeded the permissible level of lead. The regulator also cited mislabeling of monosodium glutamate (MSG) content. It also said that the company had begun sales of Maggi oat noodles without product approval. On August 13, the Bombay High Court overturned the ban and ordered fresh tests of the two-minute snack within six weeks.
Some industry experts were of the view that Nestle reacted late, with regard to reassuring both the regulator and consumers. For over a week after the controversy first broke in May, the company did not issue any definitive statement to address the concerns of regulators or consumers. Nestle officials held a press conference more than two weeks after the news broke.
“This story moved from local to national very , very quickly ,“ said Shiv Visvanathan, public intellectual and social scientist.“The multinational, being a multinational, took its time to react. It got played out through a huge lot of publicity . In the days of enormous disasters such as the Union Carbide Bhopal gas leak tragedy of 1984 or the verdict steel giant Posco faced for environment damage, there wasn’t all this social media and so much other media. It’s different now.“ But the company could bounce back. “Nestle’s mess could be temporary ,“ he said. “Nestle and Maggi seem to be a case of a mighty multinational being disciplined by the government.“
In the past month, food regulators of seven countries, including the US, UK, Singapore and Australia, have cleared India-made Maggi noodles to be safe for consumption.