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Coffee Talk with Starbucks Indonesia COO

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks aims to double its stores in Indonesia within five years to take advantage of growing demand, says its chief operating officer for Indonesia.

Starbucks currently has 200 stores in 13 big cities across the country, said Anthony Cottan, Starbucks Indonesia COO.

In addition to malls and stand-alone outlets, Mr. Cottan said the company also has many small cafes “off toll roads, in hospitals and airports.”

The English native joined Starbucks Indonesia in 2002, when the company opened its first outlet in the Plaza Indonesia PLIN.JK +1.45% luxury shopping mall in central Jakarta. As COO, he was tasked with expanding the coffee chain’s presence in the sprawling archipelago of 250 million people; home to plenty of coffee growing regions.

Indonesia Real Time caught up with Mr. Cottan on the sidelines of a business leadership event and talked with him about Starbucks Indonesia’s business plan, local coffee shops, and culture. Edited excerpts.

WSJ: How do you aim to grow Starbucks’ business here?
Mr. Cottan: Hopefully in five years’ time we’ll double [the outlets] we have now….[to]400 stores. We’ll try to sell bubble tea in June in a couple of stores.  There are a lot of new things that Starbucks has been doing in other countries that we want to do here. For example, opening a community store, where we will give back some of the profits back to the community.

WSJ: What do you think of the growing popularity of specialized coffee in Indonesia?
Mr. Cottan: I think it’s great. More people are doing it and taking a deeper level of interest. I love all these independent coffee shops; they have great coffee. They roast it fresh, using Indonesian beans most of the time.

WSJ: Do you see these shops as competitors?
Mr. Cottan: No, I think it’s great. I’ve been to all of them.

WSJ: Indonesia has a wide variety of coffee. How many have you tasted and do you have a favorite?
Mr. Cottan: I think I’ve tasted about 20 different Indonesian coffees. I think the most interesting one is from Bandung, West Java called Malabar. Everybody’s talking about it now.

WSJ: How much of your coffee is sourced locally and do you plan to bring in new varieties?
Mr. Cottan: I’m not sure of the exact percentage, it’s handled by Starbucks [in Seattle]. On new varieties, of course. Starbucks is always out there exploring new, smaller farms.

WSJ: What do you think of Indonesia’s coffee culture?
Mr. Cottan: It’s the best in the world. From kopi tubruk [coffee with grounds] to Kapal Api [instant coffee], to all the wonderful specialized coffee…the best Arabica for sure.

WSJ: Starbucks is often frowned upon for being a big commercial coffee chain that’s pretty much the same the world over. How have you worked to win over Indonesian consumers?
Mr. Cottan: I think that we try to make a global concept locally relevant, so we try to make each stall relevant to its neighborhood. The [outlet] in Grand Indonesia Mall [in Jakarta] has a very Batavia feel about it. The one we have in Stasiun Kota [in central Jakarta]… has an industrial look. So just because we’re a big company doesn’t mean that we can’t build with some consciousness and some connection to heritage. That makes it more exciting.

WSJ: What has Starbucks been doing to help Indonesian farmers?
Mr. Cottan: In Medan Starbucks set up a farmer support center. We help the farmers to grow better [quality] crops and gain better yields so they can get [more] money.

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