Starbucks opens an outlet to switch India to coffee

The world’s largest coffee chain, U.S.-based Starbucks Corp. has opened its first store in India. The move comes at a time when coffee is winning new fans in India, traditionally a tea-drinking country.

From a 370 square-meter outlet spread over two levels in an upscale Mumbai neighborhood, Starbucks began serving its first cappuccinos and lattes in the Indian market.

Both in its décor and products, the Starbucks flagship store has an Indian touch. There are vintage trunks, hand carved-wooden screens and tables of Indian teak.

The coffee it serves is prepared with coffee beans grown in India. Some food items such as chicken tikka Panini, cardamom croissants, and tandoori cottage cheese rolls have a local flavor. And to suit the pockets of a cost-conscious market, Starbucks has priced some products lower than in other countries. It will sell what it calls a short espresso for a little more than $1.50.

Chief executive of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, who came for the store’s opening Friday night, called it “perhaps the most beautiful, elegant and dynamic store we have opened.”

Starbucks comes to India in alliance with an Indian partner, Tata Global Beverages. It must compete with a host of coffee chains – both local and international – that are already established in India.

Although India is traditionally a tea-drinking country, over the past decade, cafes have become the new social hot-spots, particularly among young people.

Starbucks will have to catch up with coffee chains that have already spread across the country. The biggest coffee chain, Café Coffee Day, has over 1,300 stores. Starbucks will build its presence slowly – it is opening two new outlets in five-star hotels in Mumbai next week. And it will open its first store in the capital, New Delhi, next year.

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