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Coffee retailing in India is a 72-year old idea

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Coffee retailing in India is a 72-year old idea

Cafés are becoming increasingly popular among young Indian consumers who have more disposable income than previous generations and are spending more time socialising outside of the home environment. When the country's largest consumer products company Hindustan Unilever is testing waters in the coffee shop market with the introduction of ‘Bru Café World’, most people from the brand world think that it is a unique brand extension. However, very few know that the idea is an inspired one.

In the 1940s, Johnson Walter Thompson (JWT) was asked by the Coffee Board of India to develop a campaign to promote the drinking of coffee in India. After a lot of research and brainstorming, JWT found out that Coffee Board of India could advertise but still nobody would want to drink their coffee because the only experience they’d had of drinking coffee so far had been terrible.

Most people had tasted coffee on trains, made by the railway caterers…which let’s be honest…tasted like mud. JWT recommended that the best way to get people to switch to coffee was not by advertising but by making a really good cup available to coffee drinkers through a chain of coffee houses. Coffee Board of India thought about this and asked JWT to start a chain of coffee houses and manage them. That was the beginning of India Coffee house chain, which JWT set up in various cities across India and ran on behalf of the client, before eventually handing over the management to others.

The Indian Coffee House is now managed by a series of worker co-operative societies. It has strong presence across India. There are nearly 400 coffee houses all over India, which are a part of the chain. Kerala has the largest number of Indian Coffee Houses – approximately 51.

The above insight is from the book Adkatha, The Story of Indian Advertising. Late Bal Mundkur, Founder of Ulka Advertising and Gerson da Cunha, Ex-Chief of Lintas and Communications Advisor to various central Ministries, got together in late 2010 to put together the best of the best work from Indian advertising which was never seen or heard before. While Mundkur rose the necessary funding, Da Cunha took charge of the content. They roped in Anand Halve and Anita Sarkar to write the book. The result is a beautiful coffee table creation, lavishly illustrated – a mirror of the profession and business through the decades.

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