Photo: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade
Starbucks has finally reached the “Jewel in the Crown.”The coffee giant, in a partnership with Tata Global Beverages, opened its first location in India today, amidst “pomp and tempered ambition,” as The New York Times’ Vikas Bajaj put it.
But why did it take one of the world’s largest food chains to reach the world’s second largest country and Asia’s third largest economy?
There’s one big problem — most people in India aren’t drinking coffee (only about 80g per capita, according to the International Coffee organisation, compared to 4.11 kg in the US or 3.04 kg in the UK).
Instead, tea is king in India. It has been consumed for thousands of years, and is still a staple of the Indian palette. The tea industry itself is also one of the strongest drivers of its economy — it accounts for 31 per cent of the global production and generates income for millions of people in the country.
So Starbucks, a company known for selling coffee, must promote its brand in a country that prefers an alternative beverage.
Starbucks does offer tea in its store, but not the same type (nor quality) that one can get in a traditional Indian setting. And although coffee consumption in India has doubled, according to Bloomberg, a growing demand for coffee does not ensure success for Starbucks.
So in order to accommodate the differing tastes of the Indian population, the new menu has over 42 items, which “reflect local as well as Western tastes, featuring items such as Elaichi Mawa croissants – made with cardamom and milk solids – and tandoori paneer rolls,” according to the Associated Press.
But people don’t just come to Starbucks for a coffee. The coffeehouse culture is just as much a factor in Starbucks’ rapid growth as the product it sells. And, as the AP notes, “India is full of young people looking for an unintimidating place to hang out, away from the prying eyes and cramped quarters of home.”
“It’s the most elegant, beautiful, dynamic store we’ve opened in our history,” Shultz said.
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