Graduating from chocolates to coffee

Updated: Jul 17 2005, 05:30am hrs
Partha Dattagupta is a master at catering to the youth. Having sold Cadburys chocolates to the very young, he has now graduated to selling lifestyle coffee products to the youth. It helps that he has a strong brand and an equally young and enthusiastic team at Barista to help him achieve his mission.

Dattaguptas strategy revolves around treating the customer as a guest rather than a client. He is now working on training his brewmasters (store personnel) to concoct something that will capture the walk-ins fancy and not to practice their sales skills on him to effect a bigger sale. Courtesy tops Dattaguptas list of qualities his sales team have to perfect.

For he believes in the Indian theory of hosting the guests in the most courteous way possible.

Customisation is the very basis of the catering business, says this Branding specialist whos as comfortable with coffee branding as with oils or chocolates. To serve up this blend of product range and innovation, Dattagupta believes in working consistently on workforce training. The menu is simply a starting point for the customer. The onus is on the store employee to offer him the option of making additions or subtractions from the basic blend. Once the employee feels for the brand and knows his importance in serving up the right concoctions to make the customer come back again, he drives the brand forward, he adds.

In his 18 years of work experience, Dattagupta has dealt with a range of responsibilities from marketing, sales, exports and business development to brand positioning and strategising.

When Dattagupta arrived in Delhi a couple of months ago, he did not complain too much about the temperature hovering around 45 degrees centigrade, for it helped fill his stores with demands for chilled coffee. And with the rains setting in he is again not complaining.

For me, the young and passionate team at office has helped evolve a host of new ideas on how to take the brand forward and make the brand Barista better, he says.

However, his ideas are not confined to improvising at the storefront level. He believes that transparency, a value-based organisation with integrity as its core would help as much as business strategies. And he believes these strategies combined with a steady business plan will help strengthen the brand.

Dattagupta favours a steady store-based growth of the brand rather than haphazard expansion. We can strengthen the brand not by its presence everywhere, but by offering more value-added products. We are strengthening the menu with newer delicacies, with customisation possibilities, available in a wide price range. These will enable every Barista store rake in profits faster, he avers.

Dattagupta sees increasing Baristas penetration into the southern markets as a big challenge. He plans a franchised format for the chain. He expects loyalty programmes combined with expanding the brands merchandise such as mugs and coffee beans to see them through.

Will Barista also hit television advertising Maybe not. Barista is more of an experiential brand, and witty branding at the store level will see it through. However, for newer cities, we may go for regional promotions, he says.

Prior to his appointment at Barista, Dattagupta has worked with Agro Tech Foods Ltd for over six years. His last assignment as the business head, Branded Foods division, involved launching and establishing the ACTII and Healthy World brands in the Indian marketplace. He also headed marketing services for all Agro Techs brands including Sundrop, Rath and Crystal.

When free from his hectic schedule at work, the IIT-IIM alumnus loves to spend quality time with his family. A keen traveller, he prefers a seaside holiday with his son. Reading and television viewing come next. An avid sportsman, he even wakes at 2 am to see a European Club Championship match.

Even while he relaxes in front of the telly, Dattaguptas grey cells are working.

All aimed at brewing the right mix for the youth across the country.