Mumbai: It has taken US-based coffee chain Starbucks Corp. five years to open 100 stores in India. In comparison, the Seattle-based firm plans to open 500 stores per year in China, doubling its store count to 5,000 by 2021.

Nevertheless, John Culver, group president, Starbucks International, who was in Mumbai to celebrate the milestone of 100 stores, is optimistic that India would one day be among its top five markets. Edited excerpts:

How does India compare to other markets?

India has been our fastest growing new market. The success we have had here over the last five years gives us great optimism over future growth potential.

We believe that one day India will be one of the top five markets. I won’t put a time frame to it. It’s over the long haul. We will make the right investments along the way in the business to build out the stores and the footprint.

Not only do we see growth in terms of top line and bottom line, more importantly we see growth with our people and the investments we make in our people.

Today we are also announcing that 40% of our workforce will be female. Right now we are at 25%.

Starbucks remains a premium offering in India. Is this by design?

We have something that attracts all consumers to our stores. Not only do we have premium beverages we also have value.

My Starbucks rewards is a great example. We have 300,000 people as a part of this programme and they account for 25% of our overall transactions.

This is continuing to build and attract a wide variety of consumers regardless of income and class.

What will be your growth drivers?

There are 600 million people that sit in the middle-class (in India). That presents a huge opportunity. The other thing you are seeing is the growth in coffee consumption.

Over the last 10 years, coffee consumption in India is growing at 40%. This is an emerging market and Starbucks is at the forefront of delivering high-quality, great experiences to consumers that are unique. If we focus on that experience we can create something special.. similar to what we have seen in other markets.

In India, the emerging middle class is spread across at least 100 cities.

We see a huge opportunity in India in multiple cities over time. Today we have announced operations in our seventh city.

We will continue to go deep into those cities that we operate in and also look at new cities over time.

What next?

We will continue to introduce new coffee and coffee blends with our partner Tata Coffee.

We will also continue to provide new experience. We will also look at food that will fit consumers taste profile, continue our digital efforts, given the role digital is playing and look at various experiences outside our stores and sell our products through other grocers and e-commerce.

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