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Marketing Interviews

Basav Mukherjee

Head Marketing | 28 Aug 2003

"The Barista store is our brand. Our brand is also the customer Basav has more than eleven years of experience in marketing sales and operations, and has been with Barista since its formative months. Prior to joining Barista, he was Manager, Marketing at the corporate office of Oberoi."

In this issue of Brand Speak, Basav Mukherjee, Head, Marketing, Barista discusses expansion plans, the profile of Barista clientele and why Barista is a place 'where the world meets.

Q. BS. Barista does not use mass media; how do you reach out to the consumer?

We have a large consumer base. It is not correct to say we will not use mass media. We've already started using mass media to build relevance around the brand. Today, consumers come to Barista to sit back, relax and enjoy. And have a good cup of coffee. And there are a lot of things that you can do in Barista. For example, a lot of people are meeting each other in Barista. Barista is a place where the world meets. So our checklist is to build relevance around the brand. At the moment, we are building the brand and doing the communication, both within the store as well as outside the store through mass media. We've done advertising in almost all national newspapers. We launched our summer campaign through our summer chillers, and this was advertised.

Q. What about your tie-up with Tata Teleservices in Maharashtra?

This tie-up will offer our consumers' access to the Internet. The objective being, today if you look at Barista consumers, a fair number of them come to Barista to discuss business over a cup of coffee. And it is easier for them to meet at Barista, discuss business and send the information across. I don't think there will be much recreational surfing. It's going to be focused primarily on work, towards the busy executive who is traveling and has dropped by for coffee or the small office segment who might just want to work out of Barista.

Q. Do you have any plans of expansion on foreign shores?

We are in Sri Lanka and doing extremely well there. We have clearly established that the strength of our brand lies outside the country as well. Barista as a brand is actually universal. And we're very happy and surprised at the response we're receiving. However, as far as International expansion is concerned, I really can't comment on it right now because there is a lot of work happening in this area and it would not be right for me to speak about it.

Q. You have recently lowered your rates. Why has this been done?

If you see, the Barista store is our brand. Our brand is also the customer sitting in Barista. And there is a very close correlation and fit between the two. I think we've managed to achieve that in many ways. First and foremost, we defined who is our customer. And what came across was someone who is intelligent; and someone who is comfortable with himself.. And that is primarily my consumer. Hence, you're looking at a global Indian. Not from the perspective of travel, but from the mental mindset of a global Indian. Same is signified by our tagline, "Where the world meets. The brand has been able to synthesize that into various small facets. For example, the communication that we do within the store is generally intelligent; it is witty without being slapstick; it makes people think. The color shades that we have used are terracotta; it is warm - it is orange. Any promotion or tie-up that we have done is around a consumer population that is intelligent. When we looked at this consumer set, we asked ourselves: 'Do we have a large consumer base?' And we realized that we do. And so when we looked at this positioning and we looked at the pricing - the strategy being that if we lower the pricing, these consumers will come back more often. It was not done from a perspective of acquisition.

Q. Is there any target audience that you have identified within the broad target audience?

If you look at a purely demographic segmentation, women form 56% of our consumer base; a large number of consumers are between the ages of twenty and thirty-two. But I think if we look at young people today, there are a large number in the teenage segment saying, 'I may be young, but please take me seriously.' Barista is a brand that fits into their life. So you're looking at a consumer segment that spans across - my consumer segment is that you need to be a global Indian. I'm not concerned with where you live or what you do. You need to be global in your outlook; a person who enjoys life. Someone who is intelligent and appreciates the good things in life.

Q. What is behind your tag 'Where the world meets?

Barista is a place where the world meets. It boggles the mind to see the kind of people sitting there, what they're doing there, etc. A lot of them actually come alone as well. This is actually one of those places with people coming in alone because they are comfortable with themselves. It is a place where people are meeting each other in an environment, which is fulfilling social and intellectual needs. The music is not too loud and encourages conversation, and the person behind the counter is non-intrusive and friendly. Any consumer knows that even in a crowded espresso bar, at Barista, you will have your share of privacy. This is because the other consumer is not listening in; he is too involved in himself. So if you look at it from that perspective' where the world meets' is a very important proposition for us. However, that tagline is not an end by itself. What we will do is build up from here. 'Where the world meets to …

Q. How did you conceive the design of the outlet?

The basic USP came about with the question - 'If we had consumers of this kind, what would they be looking for?' And the answer was, 'things that are textured and layered; cut sharp, it should not be in-your-face.' We arrived at the current design with a judicious mix of experimentation. The people working for Barista are more or less like our consumers. So we sat back and thought, 'What would we like to see in Barista?' A lot of passion went into the design. Anybody in any part of the world can copy the color scheme, the texture and the attitude of the posters, but they can never copy the spirit of Barista. A fair amount of design is our intellectual property

Q. Starbucks is entering the market. Do you have any strategy thought out to meet the competition?

Starbucks is a very large American coffee company. I don't know if they are planning to enter the Indian market, but if they are, competition is always welcome. Competition allows you to learn more. It also increases the size of the market. We're in a very nascent market. Per capita consumption of coffee is 83 grams as compared to around 6 kilos in the US. So we're a very small market. Coffee consumption before Barista came in was quite negligible. To change any culture in society, you need a lot of strength. So with the entry of any large brand, the market will do better and will grow much faster.

Q. How do you differentiate yourself from Café Day and other coffee chains?

Differentiation lies in the mind of the consumer, and I think the consumer is the best judge. It is very difficult for me to define what differentiates me from anyone else.

Q. Do you use below-the-line activities to promote your brand?

We have strategic tie-ups. We had a strategic tie-up with the Star Group, which was a powerful platform to work with. We're also doing something with Elle 18. They're launching a collection of coffee colored lipsticks and have named it after our beverages! So we're working with Elle 18, which is a youthful brand. And we'll both grow with this association. For Elle 18, the objective is to build a platform for their range of coffee colored lipsticks and for us, the objective is to associate with the brand and have their consumers coming in to us.

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