From Cutting Chai to Chai Latte: Cafes as metaphor for globalization in urban India

Globalization as the term Sustainability has been liberally sprinkled in our so called ‘global’ conversation in enunciating (more in terms of drawing a generalization) the social phenomena entailing the web of paradoxes embedding our urban landscapes.  With Social Media & MTV Culture becoming main stream, cafes too are flooding in to have a sip of the growing coffee chain market pie.  We have our home grown Café Coffee Day or commonly known in our lexicon with an outlet at every corner here in Mumbai. The penetration is so ethereal, that I drink CCD espresso at Office as well opposite my apartment block in suburban spheres. I have a Costa Coffee within driving distance and global major Starbucks is growing its footprint at rapid pace too with 4 outlets in Mumbai alone.

India traditionally has been a tea drinking nation apart from a few pockets of coffee lovers down south in Coorg and in the Nilgiris. CCD is run by SM Krishna’s Son in Law and he sources his coffee beans from Coorg itself (the political pocket burrow of the Krishna family). CCD is an apt analogy for entrepreneurial creativity as well as crony capitalism. CCD concentrates on tapping in its target youthful, college going demographic with an emphasis on ice based formulations and sandwiches/samosas for the desi palate. Even Starbucks offers a tandoori sandwich and parathas in its extended food menu for the Indian Consumer with an elaborate tea offering as well. The recent communication by CCD speaks aloud for the brand, which it is trying to position CCD as a social meeting ground for friends to create new value.  This is the essence of a changing Urban India.

Cafes are now a setting for connecting, discussing, flirting and are legitimate hang-out joints for young people to engage on both business which is both personal and professional. The buzz of a café is insatiable. The demographic bulge which India has grappling with is on full display in these youthful spaces. The aspirations and inhibitions of the youth are on vivid display as corporate executives typing away in their PowerPoint’s on one side and one also gets to see public display of ‘emotions’ unusual until a decade back.  The café scene and its skyrocketing growth is an indicator of disposal incomes as a result of IT and BPO sector employment opportunities. Post liberalization jobs canvas as a direct outcome of globalization has driven a need for spaces outside the traditional family type Udupi Hotel for the youth to meet!  The Café Culture has the Cool Factor, which the youth like to get associated with.  A hot chocolate brownie with ice-cream has replaced shrikhand as the preferred desert as a result of places serving the delicious edible.

Cafes in my perspective have played a vital part in bridging the chasm between ‘Bharat’ & ‘India’. Most of the service staff with basic education till high school and basic understanding of English. I am very sure that very few of them had ever entered a café on their own prior to getting employed with the coffee chains. This is the power of globalization in full glory. It is a new platform for jobs via retail and coffee beans for Starbucks being sourced from farms in India which is good news for our farmers. Cafes are slowly becoming a day to day feature of our urban landscape.

Now I can just hope that the guy at CCD next door understands an Americano is a double shot of espresso with hot water as the guy at the Starbucks at Fort, may be globalization fueled competition can make it grow too. Time for a Cutting Chai now at the roadside stall aka tapri in Mumbai lingo at one tenth the price at the cafe 🙂


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