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Starbucks creates a stir in India

India Dispatch: The launch of Starbucks in India has created quite a stir, with Indians flocking to the coffee chain's first outlet in the country in droves.

Queues for Starbucks have been spilling out on to the street every day since a branch of the coffee chain opened in Mumbai on Friday. Dhiraj Singh/ Bloomberg News
Queues for Starbucks have been spilling out on to the street every day since a branch of the coffee chain opened in Mumbai on Friday. Dhiraj Singh/ Bloomberg News

MUMBAI // The launch of Starbucks in India has created quite a stir, with Indians flocking to the coffee chain's first outlet in the country in droves.

Queues for the store have been spilling out on to the street every day this week, with customers waiting for more than an hour in line at a time to buy its lattes and cappuccinos after the branch opened in Mumbai on Friday.

"I just want to see what it's like," said Rahul Raman, 24, an MBA student from Mumbai, who was among the throng of office workers, families, and teenage schoolchildren who were queuing up outside the entrance in the sticky afternoon heat on Wednesday. "It's such a famous brand," he said, explaining that he had never travelled out of India and had never been to a Starbucks cafe before.

The coffee chain's debut is part of the growing cafe industry in India, traditionally considered to be a nation of tea drinkers. The cafe market is expected to increase in value from US$230 million (Dh844.8m) this year to $410m in five years. There are 1,950 coffee chain cafes in India, according to research by Technopak, a consultancy.

This is a relatively small number considering India's population of more than 1.2 billion. But the number of cafes has almost tripled from about 700 stores five years ago and it is expected to increase to 2,900 cafes in the next five years.

"We may be tea drinkers, but coffee is considered very fashionable in India," said Pratichee Kapoor, the associate vice president of food services and agriculture at Technopak. "More than the beverage it's the culture which is catching on very fast. The cafes provide a socialising platform for the young and even the adults, which is why you see a proliferation of many more cafe brands."

India's biggest coffee chain by far is Cafe Coffee Day, a local brand that has more than 1,300 stores across India. Costa Coffee, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Gloria Jean's Coffees also have a presence in the country.

Starbucks in India is a joint venture between the coffee company and Tata Group, a domestic conglomerate. Two more Starbucks outlets are opening in Mumbai this month.

"There are economic fundamentals in this country which are attracting international players to come here, establish their brand and expand," said Ms Kapoor. "There is room for a lot of players here."

Starbucks in India is charging 151 rupees (Dh10.3) for a "Grande" cappuccino or latte. Items on the menu that are particular to the Indian market include Tata Tazo, murg tikka panini and tandoori paneer roll.

"They are very competitively priced in India," said Ms Kapoor. "That's a vision the company has adopted, that they do not want to create a very niche positioning for themselves where they are attractive only to a very small segment. While they will still be premium compared to a Cafe Coffee Day, they will still be within reach."

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