Tim Hortons, Canada’s homegrown coffee chain, will open its doors in India in July, where it will sell its signature coffee, donuts, and other treats in 300 locations as part of its effort to globalise the brand. The company’s first location will be in Delhi.
The move is part of the company’s ongoing exploration of growing coffee- and tea-loving markets in developing countries where it may open retail chains, with India’s vast and diverse market making it an ideal candidate.
According to Restaurants Brands International (RBI), a subsidiary of the United States and one of the world’s largest Quick Service Restaurant companies, India is “one of the world’s fastest growing markets for coffee and tea retail chains.” RBI owns four iconic Quick Service Restaurant brands around the world, including Tim Hortons and Burger King.
That is why Tim Hortons is following in the footsteps of the Goliaths of the international coffee market, such as Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, both of which are headquartered in the United States, and Costa Coffee, which is headquartered in the United Kingdom.
A rocky landing
However, its arrival in India may encounter greater turbulence than anticipated, as eastern palates — with their exotic but diverse, loyal and customised habits — may take time to adjust to Western tastes accustomed to India’s indigenous overlords.
Café Coffee Day, an Indian multinational chain of coffee houses headquartered in Bengaluru, South India’s Silicon Valley, and other India Coffee Houses popular with intellectuals and politicians are all in the running.
Apart from the countless local street vendors and family-owned businesses — mobile coffee sellers who earn money without capital investment — Barista Café and Restaurant, Café Mocha, and Aqua Java are also in the race.
Due to cultural similarities and a strong sense of kinship with their customers, these Indian brands have developed a strong rapport with them. They also benefit from real estate advantages, as they avoid paying exorbitant rents for prime locations.
“We know our coffee,” said L.R. Sugandhi, a journalist who grew up in Wayanad, a rural district in Kerala that accounts for roughly 90% of the state’s total coffee production.
“Before I learned English, I internalised terms like Robusta and Arabica. Coffee infused with cocoa, cranberry, and honey is an abomination. I prefer my own brew, which is a combination of two home-grown brands and the proper amount of milk and sugar. I am not prepared to pay five-star prices for solutions that emanate from coffee machines.”