Starbucks trials new formats in India

26 March 2013

MUMBAI: Starbucks is trying out a number of different store formats in India, as the coffee house group enhances its presence in cities across the rapidly-growing market.

The existing five stores in Mumbai, for example, are all different, depending on their location and clientele.

"There is a mall, an office, a standalone store in the heritage area of the city, a store in the touristy area (Colaba) as well and one in Powai which is a residential area," Sushant Dash, Senior Director, marketing and category, Tata Starbucks, explained to Campaign India.

"We are skimming the market, trying to be in as many markets as the consumer wants us to be in," he added.

There is also an element of customisation for the Indian market: "Each and every one of our flagship stores actually incorporates very significantly the culture and the tradition of the country," observed Dash.

"The designers marry the elements of Indian tradition and craftsmanship with the modernity elements of Starbucks," he said, but it is a fine balance: "There is no magic number saying that this much of Indian sensibility and this much of core Starbucks will be there."

There are currently six stores in India, soon to be seven, with a second store due to open in New Delhi, bringing the country total to seven. The company is planning a total of 50 stores across India by the end of this year.

"We will open stores at all places where we believe there is a demand for the Starbucks experience and where the consumer wants the brand," said Dash. "There is no fixed policy in terms of 'this is where we will be' and 'this is where we will not'."

He noted that the company had not yet undertaken any advertising. "Other than the Starbucks experience, the main marketing effort has been on the digital front."

And on that point, he echoed the comments made last week by Starbucks' chief digital officer on the importance of digital: "[It] is very critical for us … it is as important as the store when it comes to giving the consumers a Starbucks experience."

Ultimately, however, he regarded the baristas' interaction with customers as the company's biggest advertisement. "The connection that we have with the consumer is actually our marketing effort."

Data sourced from Campaign India; additional content by Warc staff