India Insight

People say we should’ve priced our coffee higher – Tata Starbucks CEO

At first glance, Avani Davda looks like any other young person standing outside Starbucks waiting for a cup of coffee. Davda, 33, is not your typical customer. In fact, she is head of the Starbucks-Tata joint venture that brought the U.S. coffee chain to a country that traditionally wakes up to tea.

Davda is getting used to coffee, but as a vegetarian, she has not tried most of the non-vegetarian items on Starbucks’s menu.

In an interview with Reuters on March 25, she spoke about the chain’s progress since opening its first India location in Mumbai. It now has 11 locations in Mumbai and Delhi.

(Read Ankush Arora’s related blog on Starbucks in India)

Q: What makes the Indian palate different than elsewhere?
A: India particularly perceives coffee to be very sour, (and) black coffee to be very acidic … (Also,) you don’t have availability of uniform milk, and our palates are trained accordingly. A lot of work went into building that and understanding, how do you make an Americano or a latte taste the same everywhere.

Q: You source your India coffee locally, though Starbucks coffees are supposed to have uniform tastes. How do you replicate the taste?
A: The main espresso blend that goes into most of the coffees that we do is what we focus on … Even internationally, they are sourced from certain places and then roasted. (Our people) understand that whether the coffee is roasted in the U.S. or in the Tata Coffee plant at Coorg, it has to taste the same.

Starbucks in India: Taste trumps price as fans rush in

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

The excitement on Garima Bajaj’s face is evident as she finally “makes it” to Delhi’s first* Starbucks store after dropping out of the queue twice before.

“Patience is always a virtue. It’s always good to wait,” the management student from Gurgaon said.

Bestselling author Amish Tripathi says writing career was thrust upon him

It’s hard to believe Amish Tripathi when he says he never set out to be a writer. The banker-turned-author of the popular Shiva trilogy recently won a million-dollar advance for a new series – and he hasn’t even finalized the topic yet.

Before his books took pride of place in shop windows, Tripathi was already living what some would call a charmed life. A management degree at one of India’s top business schools had led to a successful career in private and retail banking. But it was his admiration for Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, that catapulted him to literary stardom in India.

When “The Immortals of Meluha” and “The Secret of the Nagas” topped bestseller lists, the 38-year-old quit his job to become a full-time writer. “The Oath of the Vayuputras,” the third book in the mythological fantasy series, was launched in March.

from The Human Impact:

What stopped India’s “anti-rape” law from being a landmark?

So, three months after the outrage which sent thousands of Indians spilling out onto the streets to protest at the fatal gang rape of a woman on a bus in New Delhi, the country's parliamentarians were forced to sit up and listen and approve a tough new law to curb rising sexual violence against women.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has hailed the new "anti-rape" law - which means repeat rapists or those who leave their victims in a vegetative state can be hanged - as a law which would create a "revolution" in the largely patriarchal country.

But how much of a landmark law is it really?

Yes, there are certainly some welcome and promising provisions – making human trafficking, acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism criminal offences, expanding the definition of rape and sexual harassment, and making gender-insensitive police and hospital authorities more accountable.

from The Human Impact:

India’s growing global humanitarian role: Is it enough?

India is increasingly seen as an important player when it comes to supporting nations hit by disasters or conflict, as well as for development, but given its size and influence, is it really doing enough to help resolve global crises?

Many, like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), think not, especially when it comes to addressing humanitarian issues at an international level.

"I am of the very strong opinion that India - which has an enormous influence due to its population, economic growth and history - will have to play a more assertive role in the world," Yves Daccord, ICRC director general, told AlertNet recently.

Photo gallery: Spirit of Holi in Delhi’s Sadar Bazaar

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

The festival of Holi is easy on the pocket. All one needs is a packet of gulaal (coloured powder), buckets of water, friends and family; and perhaps some music and alcohol.

Holi, the festival of colours, is celebrated to mark the beginning of spring and harvest season. In places associated with the Hindu god Krishna, Holi is traditionally played over several days with revellers flinging coloured powder and water at each other.

Telecom companies woo women with angel stores

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Walk into the Vodafone store in Mumbai’s Prabhadevi neighbourhood, and it doesn’t look any different from the others across India. It’s crowded with customers waiting to pay their bills, lodge complaints and buy new mobile phone connections.

But there is a difference many haven’t noticed. This is one of Vodafone’s 15 “angel” stores, or retail outlets managed and run solely by female employees. Security, pantry staff, customer service resources and management level personnel — all are women.

Anti-rape bill goes easy on first-time stalkers, but only if innocent

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Women have become increasingly worried about their safety in New Delhi after the gang rape and torture of a young woman aboard a moving bus last December. Not for nothing do people call the city India’s rape capital. Beyond the leers and the crass words that men often direct at women walking on the street, fresh fears have arisen over stalkers.

The Lok Sabha passed a bill to toughen penalties on rape and sexual assault on Tuesday, and among its penalties, it would make stalking punishable by jail time. But first-time offenders will be able to avoid being detained till investigation is complete, as the offence is bailable.

Making a case for tougher anti-stalking laws

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Should any well meaning law proposed in a democratic parliament be shelved because it risks being misused in some form?

Unless we go into specifics, it is hard to generalize the question, but the eighteenth-century English scholar William Blackstone made a strong argument: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

Vote Stalin? In India, you can

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

History has it that Stalin and Napoleon were born a hundred years apart but in India, you will find the two working together – at least on paper.

Stalin and Napoleon (no relation to the Soviet dictator or the French emperor) are leaders in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a political party in Tamil Nadu that hogged headlines on Tuesday for withdrawing support to the ruling Congress-led coalition.

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