In the American annals of brand histories, Starbucks, along with icons such as Coke, Nike, McDonald’s is a world-renowned brand (not product). Remember its entrance in India? The long queues outside the stores, the whole enigma of experiencing Starbucks (not necessarily tasting their coffee).
While the social media is replete with case studies around Starbucks the product, corporate company, and brand world over, what’s the value in Indian terms?
I have admittedly worked out of Starbucks quite often. I even hold their gold card, which means I have spent quite significantly at the store and continue to do so. Every month or so I get a free cup of coffee, and on Xmas or Diwali a nice pleasant gift. Hell! They also gave me a cute bag recently, which I proudly instagrammed.
I am quite candidly not a coffee fan at Starbucks. Frappucinos are too creamy, or sugary and often too fancy. There’s something amiss in milk coffees, and black coffees, well, they don’t work for me. Still Starbucks is my go-to destination. Why? Because they have a few value-adds just for me. First, they have free high-speed wi-fi. On odd-days when I want to work away from work, it makes a nice choice. It’s also a great choice for meetings at neutral venue, of course, due to wi-fi and the pleasant ambience. Service is pretty neat too.
Despite these factors, there’s something more psychological that plays on our mind and Starbucks has worked on that, consciously. Starbucks has widely worked on the theme of ‘experience’. What matters most is the experience in the cafe, it’s people, the feel good factor that comes with it. I know so many people who have spent hours in Starbucks without spending a penny on coffee. That’s experience. Starbucks’ brand managers won’t be complaining while the sales team might frown a bit.
In the Indian market, Starbucks has allied with the old horse Tatas. That was of course a wise and tactical move, given Tata’s reputation, network, sales and penetration. I live in Delhi, and Starbucks is everywhere, every 10 kms or so (Delhi is a big city and that’s a lot of mileage).
The store design, often a critical component in branding, is quite clearly a differentiator in Starbucks. Today, Starbucks in India is clearly in sync with their global theme of experience, and they have delivered in the Indian market. Full house, live comedy standup events, and growth trajectory are all evidences of that.