The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brands brimful with coffee franchisees

Sweet, cold and milky, or black, steaming and bitter' A dollop of cream, a dash of vanilla… Whatever the brew, coffee is on a high.

Coffee brands, national and local, are spreading the heady aroma across the city. National players Barista and Café Coffee Day and locals Aqua Java and Coffee Pai are all planning new outlets by fiscal year-end.

The latest to look at brand extension is Coffee Pai, on Camac Street. On Wednesday, the company announced plans to expand, and is inviting franchisees from across the city — and then from across the country — to sign up for their blend. Two to three branches in Calcutta, followed by expansion in to north, south and west India, are on the cards.

It is not just beverage that Coffee Pai is pushing. “We are looking at a café-restaurant concept,” explains entrepreneur Naveen Pai. So, during meal times, the menu will change, the waiters will don formal clothes and the music will take on a mellow note.

The franchisee route is one Barista has shifted to now, after establishing itself nationally. With eight cafes in the city (one is a franchisee), another four are in the pipeline this fiscal. “When we started out in Calcutta with two outlets (Gurusaday Road and Park Street), response was fabulous. But the concept is to make Barista a neighbourhood place,” explains territory manager A.K. Solanky.

With more cafes, the rush spread out. Cracking the local market has seen Barista revise prices downwards twice, the latest cut of around 20 per cent being around three months ago. Fostering the coffee drinking culture too is part of the agenda.

New outlets will all be franchises, strictly monitored by the Delhi-based Barista Coffee Company Ltd.

The cup of joy brimmeth over for the other national player, Café Coffee Day. The four outlets in the city will be joined by one at Park Street later this month. The coming months will see the New Market, Salt Lake and Southern Avenue branches coming up. “Product, pricing and location” is what company director Naresh Malhotra attributes the success to.

“All outlets are doing well beyond our imagination,” he says. Calcutta, where the young crowds have taken to Café Coffee Day’s competitive prices, has already begun to show a bottomline profit. It too, follows a dual pricing policy, with Delhi and Mumbai dishing out a cut above the rest.

As long as coffee drinking remains a leisure activity, not a craving, food will be an essential part of the mix. That is why Aqua Java — which has just opened its ninth outlet at Forum on Saturday — emphasises its food as much as its beverages. “Most clients have a bite as well as a drink,” explains Saket Agarwal of Aqua Java. “Aping the western” café will not work in India, feels Agarwal, who is now delving into vending machines and hospitality.

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