The world's largest coffee chain, Seattle-based Starbucks, is close to hiring its India [ Images ] head. Tata Starbucks Limited, the $10.7-billion American group's joint venture with Tata Global Beverages, has zeroed in on Virag Joshi as managing director for India operations, according to market sources.
Joshi, closely associated with the food and beverages sector, declined to comment on the matter. Currently, Joshi is president and group chief executive of Devyani International, which runs the Pizza Hut, KFC, and Costa Coffee chains across India and a few other countries.
Starbucks is slated to open its outlets in India around September or October. Earlier this year, company executives had said the chain was initially targeting 50 stores. The first few outlets are expected to come up in Mumbai [ Images ] and Delhi [ Images ].
When asked who would spearhead the coffee chain's India operations, John Culver, president, Starbucks China and Asia-Pacific, told Business Standard, "We are looking forward to announcing our managing director for the market at some point in the near future. The combined strengths of Tata Global Beverages and Starbucks can be leveraged to build a strong presence in India." He did not comment on the names doing the rounds.
The company, betting big on select international markets in the midst of a global slowdown, plans "aggressive, smart, and locally-relevant growth" in India.
"Tata Starbucks Limited will work thoughtfully to open stores quickly and ensure we meet the expectations of our customers in India. We are here to build a strong presence. We are committed to the Indian market for the long term," Culver said.
Last month, Starbucks had announced lacklustre results for the quarter ended July. It earned $333.1 million, or 43 cents a share, higher than $279.1 million, or 36 cents a share, in the year-ago period. However, the earnings were below the company's guidance of 45 to 46 cents a share.
The company has said the format of its stores in India would depend on customer and neighbourhood requirements. On whether there would be anything unique on the menu at Starbucks in India, Culver said the company would deliver a locally relevant experience to customers here, adding, "The espresso served in India will be locally sourced and roasted."
He refused to divulge any information on Starbucks' price range in India. "As in other markets, we are evaluating operating costs, customer insights, competition and other factors in determining prices for India."
When asked whether the leadership team at Starbucks-Tata would be local or from international markets, Culver had earlier pointed at the importance of local talent.
On the growing competition among coffee outlets in India, he said, "The Indian market is growing multifold and the marketplace has room for many coffeehouses that meet different customer needs. The organised coffee market in India is pegged at about $140 million (about Rs 770 crore). The country's annual coffee sales are estimated at $667 million (Rs 3,668 crore)."