First Free Story (1 of 3)

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This Starbucks, the first one in Delhi, in March, is located in Connaught Place, once a posh British-era shopping area, now overrun by construction but still very central.

It is slightly tucked in from the main Inner Circle (A Block), so a quieter alley than some other stores in the area. Floor to ceiling windows for the two story outlet.

The 3,500 sq ft store hits you in the face with its airiness and opulence.

Indian and local murals adorn the walls.

Low seating and a long communal table forms the main seating area. Free 45 minute wi-fi for patrons.

The big centerpiece lamps and its shades, made out of jute ropes. The India map mural is very eye catching.

Stairs adorned with wall fixtures connect the two floors.

“Antique” Indian artifacts, mixed with Starbucks branded coffee bags along the stairs.

Mood lighting with Starbucks logo, creates a gorgeous lounge effect.

The second floor, with ceiling criss-crossed by jute ropes. Restrooms on the left, with male and female attendants for each upscale-hotel quality restrooms!

Plenty of seating, spaced out, with low rung sofas.

So much space, in a country so crowded city like Delhi, certainly welcoming.

Pictures of local artists working on the decor of the store, before it launched. The milk/sugar stand with delineated trays for used utensils.

From the second floor window, wide views of the famed boulevards of Connaught Place.

The drinks are mostly the same as global, though Indian-sourced coffee.

The food and snacks are definitely different, with local flavors like “Lal Achari Murgh Turnover”, made out of spiced chicken. Plenty of veg options in a vegetarian-heavy country like India.

And of course, the India-branded Starbucks mugs for sale.

The store has an umbrella station, handy in the heavy Monsoon rains.

The pickup station, way more orderly than anything we’ve seen in New York.

With the usual Starbucks “promise”.

My order, Mocha Frappuccino and Tandoori Paneer Roll, a burger with spiced Indian cottage cheese as the filling.

The juxtaposition of hot, humid and crowded life right outside Starbucks, vs the store in Delhi, is jarring, to say the least.

The ancient and the modern, right outside the new Starbucks in Connaught Place in New Delhi.

One of the weird joys of traveling around the world is to see how global American brands fare in different countries and what are the local touches added to them, if any. Back in the day, McDonald’s used to be that bellwether brand, but these day it is Starbucks, as the coffee culture sweeps across traditionally tea-drinking countries like India and elsewhere.

Starbucks arrived in India about a year ago, in a joint venture with Tata Coffee, Asia’s largest coffee plantation company. And now 15 stores later and a planned 50 by end of the year, it is still early days to say whether it will catch on and compete with the likes of ubiquitous Cafe Coffee DayBarista Lavazza, and others.

As is usually the case with Starbucks expansion into emerging countries, the brand has been upscaled in India and compared to the usual surrounding of crowded Indian city streets, these stores are luxurious, airy and posh, in the true sense of the word.

I was in New Delhi last week, and went into its flagship Starbucks store in the central shopping district of Connaught Place. This first Delhi store opened in March to much fanfare, and judging by the looks of it, certainly deserves it.

Certainly you could argue that the impossibly hip Amsterdam Starbucks — opened last year — or the architectural marvel Fukuoka store may win purely on design aesthetics.  But the cognitive dissonance of life right outside the Delhi store — hot, humid, crowded, in-your-face as always — versus the stylishness of inside is probably more jarring than anything else I have ever encountered in my travels through continents. Bright, airy, and with lots of local touches, the seating is sparse for being an Indian store. The crowd is a mix of upper class young Indians and tourists gawking at the marvel of seeing a Starbucks unlike any other they have seen before.

My photo essay through the store is above, and as you’ll see, I went slightly overboard with the fawning. But for someone used the the skeezy and icky New York Starbucks stores, the cleanliness of this is astounding, to say the least. One of the photos I couldn’t take was of the the restrooms, where there was a male and female attendant each, akin to what you would see in upscale hotels.