Independent Research and Policy Advocacy

We got more than a latte at Starbucks

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Having a coffee at other stores could be a routine affair, but at Starbucks it’s an experience altogether. To learn what goes into making this experience so unique, Nachiket, Bindu and I visited Starbucks stores in Washington D.C accompanied by Deidra Wager, our governing council member and a team of senior managers from Starbucks. The objective of the visit was to understand, observe and learn from the Starbucks model in terms of their Culture, Processes, Training, People policies and Community engagement and carry some of these lessons back to our financial services work in KGFS.

Interaction with managers from Starbucks

We had an action packed day in which we went from store to store, met Baristas, looked at the back office operations and of course, indulged in coffee tasting!

The biggest takeaway for us was that great culture does not happen on its own, everyone at Starbucks works hard to sustain it. There are a number of small and big rituals that help enforce this.

Take the ‘Green Apron Card‘, which everyone carries in their pocket and that has a beautiful description of the mission and core values. Partners (as employees are called) are given cards illustrating each core value, which they confer on a particular Partner if they exemplify a specific Starbucks value; something that the partners really value a great deal and looked forward to. The team emphasized the importance of “repeatable routines” to reinforce culture.

Green Apron Board

The interactions between the barista and the customer, the barista and the store manager and so on are well-defined and there is a shared language that is tightly aligned to their values. Starbucks lays great emphasis on people management and goes the proverbial extra mile when it comes to valuing its people.  This clearly shows with the mutual respect and genuine admiration that the team members have for each other.

Anil (extreme left) interacting at the store

At the end of the day, our heads were buzzing with ideas for KGFS. The Starbucks team was fascinated at the potential applications of their model to a very different world – that of providing financial services in remote rural India. As one of them remarked, “we give people an enriching experience, you could change their lives!

Anil SG and Bindu Ananth contributed to this post.

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7 Responses

  1. Anil, I totally agree with your biggest takeaway `Great culture does not happen on its own everyone should work hard to sustain it'. Would be very happy to discuss with you & IFMR Team some unique examples that could be introduced during training and reinforce on the ground on an on going basis so that our WMs are always aligned with our mission and values.

  2. Strabucks has been able to sustain their culture and this is so encouraging for us as we can adopt some of their people practices and their approach on "Partners first" and this enables them to be successful is encouraging.

    Taking a cue from Starbucks processes of "Seeing the store through customer's eyes", we can also as part of initial training, add a couple of new things in the training like making Trainee Wealth Managers who joins us to intially enter the branch as customer and observe things from customer perspective. We can also use the card strategy and link it with "Rewards and Recognition" program.

  3. I'm impressed with IMFR's determination to create a culture that serves the interests of the employees and the customers. Starbucks is a great model.

  4. Great Insight anil, creating culture- which i belive should be -belief in KGFS as enabler to achieve the mission, needs to be built slowly and gradually. The concept of patners is great as it gives a sense of being part of the company- as in citizen! . we must continously move and learn from such experiences. If i can steal the lines off the blockbuster "if we strive for excellence success will follow".

  5. Thanks Bridget. It was truly an eye opening experience for us and gave us confidence that we keep at it we will be able to deliver this culture at scale.

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