And about time! Over the last couple of years the pioneer in the coffee shop business in India had kind of lost it. For quite a while now, the brand has been in we-are-getting-acquired mode. Which means that the once cool hangout became skimpy on expansion, innovation and generally stopped caring about its customers.
At least that's the impression I got when I visited their Linking Raod outlet last week. The rexine sofa there was so tattered and torn one couldn't help wondering: why? Why is a once-proud brand letting itself go to seed?
I think when you're in I-am-selling mode you stop caring. Sure, you implement a few things here and there to keep investors feeling 'yahan kuch ho raha hai'. So Barista did launch a few upmarket 'creme' outlets . But on the whole the brand energy was missing.
Barista has seen a series of owners. Sterling Infotech's C Sivasankaran bought 65 per cent in Barista from Turner Morrison 3 years ago. He also purchased the remaining 35 per cent stake from the Tata group. The mandate to sell the company was given last August.
Lavazza of Italy is understood to have buoght the company for... Rs 480 crores. According to the TOI, the Italian Coffee giant will invest Rs 105 crore into the company in the next 24 months.
Sterling's promoter NRI business man C Sivasankaran, who has a reputation for acquiring ailing companies, turning them around, and selling them is said to have made a profit of Rs 85 crore from the sale.
So it was essentially a financial investment for Sterling, who was smart enough to realise Starbucks nahin to koi aur global chain khareed lega. After buying out the earlier promoters (Rs 30 cr to Turner Morrison and 65 cr to Tatas) he apparently invested another Rs 120 cr in Barista.
I'm not sure how well that money was spent because the Barista experience - or geographical coverage - certainly did not get any better!
Well, now that a company in the coffee and cafe business is taking over, I hope the focus shifts back to making Barista a warmer and more 'with-it'. And not just a new blue and white signboard and coffee cups to go with it.
Whether they retain the name Barista (unlikely) or switch to Lavazza, what we want is the 'most incredible espresso experience'. And, softer and more edible doughnuts to go with it. Because only a diamond should be... forever.