Starbucks opens first India outlet
Mumbai, October 20, 2012
Starbucks has inaugurated its first store in India in a historic building in southern Mumbai as the Seattle-based coffee giant seeks growth in a market long associated with tea drinkers.
"It is perhaps the most elegant, beautiful, dynamic store we've opened in our history," chief executive Howard Schultz said.
After more than six years of studying the local market, Starbucks is making a rapid-fire entry into Asia's third-largest economy. Coffee houses are still a relatively new trend in India, and the chains already in business sell cappuccinos and lattes well below Starbucks' usual prices.
The company, in a joint venture with Tata Global Beverages, plans to open two additional stores in Mumbai next week - on Wednesday in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and on Thursday in the Oberoi Hotel across town - before launching in New Delhi early next year.
For the flagship Mumbai store, Starbucks chose the historic Elphinstone Building in the Horniman Circle neighbourhood of south Mumbai, not far from a vast Hermes shop and a stately local park maintained with funds from the family foundation of Italian designer Ermenegildo Zegna.
The flagship, which can accommodate 120 people, is a cool, soaring space, with hand-carved wooden screens, thick tables of solid Indian teak, painted vintage trunks and old leather-bound books. Schultz said he hoped the effect would be like "walking into a shrine of Starbucks coffee."
The shop will offer free Wi-Fi and stay open until 11pm Monday through Thursday and 1am on weekends.
The 42 menu items reflect local as well as Western tastes, featuring items such as Elaichi Mawa croissants - made with cardamom and milk solids - and tandoori paneer rolls.
The prices position Starbucks at the premium end of India's coffee cafes, with a 12 ounce cappuccino retailing for a little more than $2.
"We've been trying to in a sense crack the code here," Schultz said. The company decided early on they needed to enter India with a local partner, as they did in China. Schultz said he spoke with many interested parties, but none "had the complete suite of things we felt were necessary to build a big, enduring business. That changed the day we met Tata."
The partnership with Tata has brought Starbucks access to some prime real estate for its outlets. The Elphinstone Building, for example, is owned by Tata Sons, the holding company that controls the Tata Group. The Taj Mahal hotel, site of the second shop, is also a Tata property. – TradeArabia News Service