Big News Brewing: Starbucks’s New Look

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is at it again. Seemingly as involved in the business of progress as it is in the coffee business, Starbucks has once again pushed the envelope by celebrating the grand opening of its first location in India.

Starbucks and its Indian partner, the Tata Group, held a rather extravagant opening ceremony Friday, complete with locally-themed decorations, paparazzi, TV cameras, throngs of reporters, and even a stage assembled outside for a yet-to-be-announced event later Friday night.

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The move into India – a huge, untapped market of nearly 1 billion potential consumers – has been a long time in the making. Starbucks has had to table plans to break ground in India multiple times in the past five years, for a variety of reasons. Now, with the store opening in south Mumbai near the ritzy Horniman Circle, Starbucks and Chief Executive Howard Schultz, feel the need to celebrate.

“This is a major milestone for the company,” said Schultz, who has time and time again proven his mettle as one of the world’s most capable corporate leaders. The expansion into India is just one of many recent innovations and high-quality moves that promise to serve as catalysts for Starbucks stock in the future.

The new store will serve a special Indian-style blend that Starbucks has spent six months perfecting. Unlike stores in other markets, Indian stores will serve coffee from beans grown and roasted exclusively in-country by Tata Coffee. Their food offerings will also incorporate familiar Indian elements and flavors.

However, behind all of Friday’s ribbons and streamers, Starbucks leadership has carefully-measured optimism about its future in India. While Starbucks and Tata had originally announced plans to open 50 stores in the new market by year’s end, those pie-in-the-sky visions have been seriously scaled back. The new plans only include two more Mumbai locations, and the coffeehouse chain will not open shop in New Delhi until 2013.

“We are coming here with humility,” Schultz remarked when pressed about the downscaling of plans. Evidently, Starbucks now expects the India market to be much more difficult to master than it once did.

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