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Is Starbucks Needed In India?

Is Starbucks Needed In India?

October 24, 2012

Bun-maska at the Irani Cafe or Starbucks' cinnamon croissants, what's your choice?

"It is perhaps the most elegant, beautiful, dynamic store we've opened in our history," chief executive Howard Schultz said in an interview on the occasion of the opening of Starbucks’ first flagship Indian store, in the exclusive Horniman Circle neighbourhood of south Mumbai (also known as SoBO for those of us in the know!). The news was greeted with excitement as people travelled over two hours from the suburbs of North Bombay to be present at the historic moment of the opening and to their share of free coffee samples. There goes the neighbourhood thought I, the cynical NRI on reading this. Just a few hours earlier I had queued up at the permit-room-bar of the second restaurant from Dishoom – a Bombay Café in London, in Shoreditch (London’s Horniman Circle equivalent.) Affectionately nicknamed D2, this café-restaurant is uniquely modelled to capture the charm of old-worldly Irani Cafés—complete with slow rotating ceiling fans, stained mirrors and sepia family portraits—once common in Bombay, but now fast giving away to malls, designer stores and of course the likes of Starbucks.

I knew my young cousins in Bombay would welcome Starbucks with open arms. Heaving a sigh of relief they would make a bee-line for its air-conditioned sanctuary which offered an escape from the prying eyes of neighbours, parents and well-meaning-aunties as they dated the boy from chemistry class in college, gossiped with girlfriends on the latest Bollywood heartthrob and tweeted tips to each other on how to fill in MBA or Engineering application forms. All this over frothy caramel frappuccinos and tamarind peanut chicken calzones. I had done the same many moons ago, when a bunch of friends and me had plotted to break away from our day jobs and start a youth magazine, at an Irani Cafe in Prabhadevi accompanied by many cups cutting-chai & bun-maskas.

You’ve come a long way baby, or perhaps not. Sat in that old fashioned Bombay Café I had dreamt of countries around the world, wondering what lay out there in the big beyond, and how to break away from being another brick in the wall. Would I have the courage to follow my heart? I had wondered then. Fifteen years later here I was in a Bombay Café albeit of another kind, with somewhat similar décor—in a completely different part of the world, one which I had never thought I would ever call home—still wondering how to step off the carousel, not become another corporate cog and find the courage to follow my voice. The more things change the same, the more they remain the same. As for Starbucks, well as a comment by Puneet Tandon, on a mainstream Indian newspaper’s report of this news sums it up “A minute of silence for all the CCD (Café Coffee Day) outlets in Mumbai. SoBos can rejoice. Are you ready to go and have overly priced coffee to look cool? Yayy !“

What’s your take? Is the opening of Starbucks good for India? Do write in and tell me! 


  • Atheist Indian
    Atheist Indian
    31.10.12 01:14 PM
    Thank you, but no Starbucks for me. I'd rather go to an Indian Coffee House. I have been fond of the Indian Coffee Houses, ever since my days in Kolkata's Presidency which was a walk away from ICH.
    They have an old world charm that none of the present day coffee chains match up to. The coffee and food is fresh, unprocessed and tasty; compare to the junk sold in the more commercialised coffee chains. It is also a good place for a date, unless the woman you're taking out is the typical desi 'material girl'.
  • Rajpriya
    27.10.12 08:49 PM
    Funny though, Coffee and computers are first cousins at least at Starbucks. Starbucks have made it so easy in UK for mobile computing. For users of Twitter, Facebook, and all other bored people Starbuck offers shelter and comfort.

    Free Wi Fi at Starbucks in India could become a roaring business hit.
  • Bhadra
    27.10.12 01:56 PM
    They are not needed, but then neither are televisions or computers, in the strictest sense of the word.
    24.10.12 10:19 PM
    They are biggest tax dodgers in UK and They leave their water taps running all the time in the name of hygiene. The is the best bulls*it I have heard in my life. So yehha, I don't think they are needed.

  • Laxmi
    24.10.12 06:56 PM
    Ah! ubiquity being the key word here... why is it that its seems to be the mark of a western civilisation? Somehow with prosperity comes a loss in indiviuality... it seems!
  • feluda
    24.10.12 06:53 PM
    i dont think its 'needed' anywhere really. but people tend to like it once its there. its seen as essential for any town/city centre thought to be modern, cosmopolitan, etc, which pretty much ensures its ubiquity (which is kind of the problem). saying that, i do like the frapuccinos.

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