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Bringing coffee to a nation of tea drinkers, how Di Bella has taken on the Indian market


If you’re a coffee drinker, fair chance its not Starbucks. Many a debate has broken out about whether Starbucks is real coffee.

In its foray into India, Di Bella Coffee, that started in Brisbane in 10 years ago, has stolen a lead over its iconic rival Starbucks.

Starbucks first agonised over policy and then dilly dallied over finding a local partner in the Tatas. Before the U.S. coffee chain will open its first café, the 10-year-old Australian coffee chain run has opened four cafes and one express store in the metropolis of Mumbai. This might owe to the initiative of Sachin Sabharwal, an Australia-born Indian with a genuine love for coffee and clear affinities to his native country.

Sydney-based Sabharwal, armed with a business degree from Sydney’s University of Technology, worked for JP Morgan and also ran his own cafes before joining Phillip Di Bella, the gregarious Italian owner of the eponymous coffee chain. Led by Sabharwal, Di Bella has made swift progress in India, winning early, and ample, attention, besides fair praise, too.

“Di Bella takes the coffee experience to a new level, the coffee served is excellent and the blends offer a unique chance for connoisseurs to experience a cuppa without having to get their hands and filters dirty,” said The Daily News and Analysis, or DNA daily, said in a review.

Overwhelmed by response in tea-drinking nation

The cafes have won praise for its digital interactive platform that includes Galaxy tablet PC’s on each table for menu ordering, Internet and email usage. Still, the cafes have drawn some criticism as well for their food menu and the staff’s less-than-impressive knowledge of coffee.

However, order-taking via the tabs that also contain loads of coffee information has redeemed the situation, and Di Bella is overhauling its menu. Overall, Di Bella is more than satisfied with its debut in the world’s second most populous country.

“Di Bella Cafés, as a whole, have been welcomed with open arms and a torrent of positive feedback in India. It really is fantastic to see an Australian brand breaking through in a competitive foreign market,” said Di Bella.

Introducing new coffee flavours and bean varieties to a predominantly tea-drinking nation and to receive a positive result in a short time has been encouraging, he added.

“Many reviewers have said they are very impressed with our coffee and been varieties, which are unlike anything other cafés in India have on offer.” Di Bella said. “Customers are also expressing their positive views about the cafés meal options, music choice, décor, electronic ordering system and locations.”

Founded in 2002, Di Bella Coffee has over 1,200 wholesale and retail outlets globally that serve more than 2.2 million cups of coffee per week. Di Bella’s growth prospects could be huge, considering its relatively early ventures into the world’s two most populous countries. In India, the coffee chain is planning to open cafes in several more cities, including Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore. In China, Di Bella could sometime soon open cafes, adding to its wholesale and retail business.

Right. Just ducking out for a cup of Joe. Want one?