'Right Chemistry' Defines Starbucks-India Joint Venture

Avani Saglani Davda, CEO, Tata Starbucks Limited, in Mumbai on March 1, 2013. (Asia Society India Centre)

MUMBAI, March 1, 2013 — The synergies in values, ethics and passion shared by Starbucks and the Tata conglomerate made for the ideal partnership as the global coffee giant prepared for its entry into India.

At Asia Society India Centre's first members-only event, Tata Starbucks CEO Avani Saglani Davda joined us for a coffee-tasting and discussion about the landmark Joint Venture (JV) between Starbucks and Tata Global Beverages. She emphasized their focus on the "human connection," sharing how they aimed for their stores to serve as a "third place" for customers — apart from their homes and offices. Further, the venture invested in ensuring that both their customers and their employees (whom they call their partners) are treated respectfully. For instance, Starbucks was the first listed company to allow health benefits to its part-time workers. The two JV partners also shared deep mutual respect, as demonstrated by India being the first country where Starbucks allowed co-branding and sourced coffee locally. The deep-rooted commitment to give back to society was also a major focus of the venture, she said. It supported the Swastha School for special children in Coorg, where their coffee plantations are situated.

As freshly brewed Kenyan Coffee was circulated by the Starbucks team, Store Manager Siddesh took the audience through Starbucks’ traditional four steps of coffee tasting — smelling (which helps identify different flavors and aromas), slurping (which helps to locate the coffee over the palate), locating and describing the taste.

Talking about competing chains and their strategy in India, Davda said that "success in any other geography does not mark your success in India. When you enter a new market you have to respect the palate and what the consumer really wants. The three Starbucks pillars are quality of coffee, the fantastic third space and the legendary experience." She also noted that the design of the stores in India were unique, setting them apart from other Starbucks outlets around the world. The store designers took care to weave the story of Indian culture into the third space setting, so as to be inviting to Indians.

Davda signed off by stating that the "TATA Starbucks' goal is to provide consumers with a distinguished experience, bring an iconic band and stay true to it and not assume that the consumer is always going to be in love with us; and only if we earn their respect will we be able to survive here."

Video: Highlights from Avani Saglani Davda's talk  (5 min., 2 sec.)

Presented in collaboration with: