Most of Carrie Bradshaw’s essential needs in Sex And The City — dresses by Oscar de la Renta and stilettos by Manolo Blahnik — may still be out of reach for many Indians striving for her level of chicness. But one of her favourite things which is a little more accessible, something for which New Yorkers are routinely willing to wait in line for up to half an hour, is heading to India — the cupcake from Magnolia Bakery.
The fluffy pastry with creamy, pastel-coloured frosting, which gained cult status in New York and instant fame worldwide after being featured in the hit television series, may soon be available in India, as Magnolia Bakery is looking for franchisees in the country.
A meeting with the first prospective partner is scheduled in New York on Monday. “I’m looking for an entrepreneur who understands the luxury market,” says the New York-based chain’s owner and CEO Steve Abrams. He declined to give details of who he is meeting on Monday, but the person is believed to represent a sizeable, family-owned Indian company with operations in Hong Kong and Dubai, besides Mumbai, but is not part of the food industry.
The entry into India will be part of a worldwide push by the mini-chain. It is currently present in six locations, four in New York’s Manhattan, one in Los Angeles and one in Dubai. Some other countries that Magnolia Bakery wants to enter are Brazil, Japan and Qatar. The company recently got approval from the state of New York to sell franchises abroad.
The $20-million company hopes to open its first store in India next year, or by 2013, depending on how quickly it can identify a franchisee. Abrams says it takes about nine months to find space, design the store and train the staff. While the planning is not far enough ahead to identify locations, Abrams says the stores will be few and limited to big cities like Mumbai and New Delhi. According to him, Magnolia Bakery is perceived as a luxury brand and will retain that image. “We’ll be careful not to open hundreds of stores around the world,” he says. “We’re not going to open 25 stores in India.”
Abrams gets franchising requests from all over the world. A number of these are from India. Until now, he’s found only one potential franchisee which can be suitable, and says he is eager to hear from other entrepreneurs in the country.
However, he is clear that the franchisee must have experience in the fashion and lifestyle business. A background in the food business, while helpful, is not necessary. He rules out anyone from the fast food business, saying that “a non-food background will work best”. He’s also looking for franchisees with proper capitalisation. Abrams says the venture will need a considerable investment, as all the products are baked fresh at each store. There’s also the franchise fee, “not cheap,” according to Abrams. Opening four-five stores will involve at least a $5-million investment.
Customers in India can expect to have the same experience as a New Yorker who walks into the famous Bleecker Street store. The stores will look the same. The cupcakes will taste the same. Magnolia Bakery will insist that its extensive manuals and recipes be “followed assiduously”, down to the specific grade of sugar and the protein content of the flour used. The parent company will be closely involved in all aspects including the design of the stores and training the staff. “It’s our way or nothing,” says Abrams.
At $2.75, or about Rs 125, for a Classic Vanilla Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream, Abrams says Magnolia Bakery’s products are reasonably priced and very competitive in the US. He concedes they will be more expensive abroad.
While the chain is open to making some concessions for local tastes – green tea cupcakes in Japan, for instance – the Indian stores will essentially offer the range of products available in the US, including cupcakes, cakes, pies and cookies. “It’s a very specific type of bakery, using American and mainly Southern recipes,” Abrams points out. If they started tailoring products to local tastes in every market, “we’d have to be the International House of Cupcakes, and not Magnolia Bakery” he says.
Abrams has never been to India, but is looking forward to a visit. Besides, he says, he would not open a store in India or any other country without personally checking out the site and the neighbourhood in which it’s located. Magnolia Bakery is the latest in a line of brands looking at India’s expanding middle and upper classes. Abrams is betting their growing taste for luxury goods will encompass an appetite for Red Velvet cake with Whipped Vanilla Icing and a blueberry on top.
Source – Business Standard