In India, Starbucks is now serving coffee with dollops of humour

Lol, anyone?
Lol, anyone?
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
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Loved that vanilla latte and flat white? While you are at it, why not also have a hearty laugh?

Starbucks, with over 80 outlets in India, is now serving dollops of humour at its cafes, as part of the company’s marketing spree to woo the young.

Last summer year, its Delhi, Bengaluru, and Pune outlets began welcoming its patrons to comedy gigs and conversations with startup entrepreneurs.

What began as a teaser will turn into an all-out show this summer (May-August). ”The response to this initiative was so overwhelming that we decided to not only extend it to summer this year but also expand it to other cities of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai as well,” Manmeet Vohra, director, marketing, at Tata Starbucks, the company’s local joint venture partner in India, told Quartz.

These events make India one of the few markets to host such gigs. “Other markets have done the same—but few events around festivals like Christmas, and not on such a scale,” Vohra added.

Coffee and more

Unlike the West where coffee consumption is on-the-go, consumers in India spend time in stores, working, fixing appointments, or just catching up with friends. Starbucks, thus, is focussing on in-store experiences.

So, they have comedians such as Sapan Verma spend 45 minutes on Thursday evenings entertaining guests at these non-ticketed events. “This is most likely the time when our customers get done with work and head to Starbucks,” said Vohra. The idea, she said, is to provide customers a third place—besides work and home—where they can unwind, laugh, and enjoy a cup of coffee.

It also ensures that the buzz around the brand is intact.

“There’s always a certain excitement that brands generate when they enter a market after which it tapers downs. So to keep the same store sales high, brands do try different things,” said Ankur Bisen, a vice-president, consumer and retail, at Technopak advisors. Starbucks entered India in 2012 through a 50:50 joint venture with the Tata Group.

Not just comedy, Starbucks has also made small attempts to engage with the country’s young start-up ecosystem by hosting conversations with entrepreneurs and startup founders such as Zoom Car’s Greg Moran, Chai Point’s Amuleek Singh Bijral, and Urban Ladder’s Rajiv Srivatsa at its stores in Bengaluru last year.

Starbucks said it is working on reviving the series in Delhi soon.