To some people, the success of Starbucks in India is a bit of a mystery. The first store was started in 2012 and now, the total numbers of stores are 78. However much you like the coffee, there’s no denying it’s expensive, not just compared to traditional filter coffee but even compared to the other Western-style café chains throughout the country. What is it about Starbucks that has customers lining up outside the door?
The Coffee Itself
The good news is that Starbucks in India sources all of its beans from right here in the country: they’re roasted and processed in Kushalnagar, Karnataka. India isn’t famous worldwide for its coffee, but it’s the sixth-largest producer of coffee in the world and the quality is improving by leaps and bounds. Starbucks is helping to create a market for domestically grown and roasted beans.
If you like variety, Starbucks will appeal to you. The hardest part of a visit to this café is deciding between a Caramel Macchiato, a French press brewed coffee, and a Frappuccino. For some people, having this many choices is a big enticement, while for others it’s an irritation. (“Can’t I just order a coffee?”) It’s all a matter of taste.
Many coffee aficionados complain that Starbucks tends to over-roast their beans. Roasting for too long can destroy the unique flavor qualities of different types of beans, leaving you with a burnt-tasting product that some people have nicknamed “Charbucks.” Again, it’s a matter of personal taste.
One of the biggest selling points of Starbucks is its inviting atmosphere. With cosy interiors, air conditioning and free WiFi, it’s not hard to see why so many people are drawn to the place. In most countries, Starbucks cafés are pretty much carbon copies of each other, but in India the designers have chosen to give each shop a more local feel.
Cafés have provided a new urban space in Indian cities where people can meet up on neutral ground outside of the home or workplace to socialize, date, or even have business meetings. Starbucks is the quintessential example of this trend. There are enough non-coffee options on the menu to offer something for everyone – essential if you want to meet up with a diverse group of friends.
The Trendy Factor
Starbucks has quickly become the place to be seen in urban India. People happily post pictures on social media of themselves in front of the Starbucks logo or holding a cup with their name scrawled on it by the barista. Many of the younger generation has grown up seeing images of American celebrities holding Starbucks cups, and depending on where you go, you may even run into a Bollywood star or two while you buy your Mocha Frappuccino. Who doesn’t want a touch of class in their daily life?
Ironically, Starbucks is popular with tourists for the opposite reason: it’s an oasis of the ordinary in an unfamiliar, hot, noisy city. Even the most adventurous traveler sometimes likes to have a familiar treat in air-conditioned comfort while checking Facebook.
Starbucks has cemented its popularity in India by brewing up the perfect blend of a popular line of products, an appealing space, and a trend-setting brand name. For now at least, their future looks bright.