Atlanta resident Navin Gurnaney has been tapped to head up the joint venture that brought coffee giant Starbucks into India six years ago.
Tata Starbucks Private Ltd., the 50/50 partnership that runs 128 stores across many of India’s major cities, said Mr. Gurnaney would become CEO as of Jan. 1.
Mr. Gurnaney worked eight years in the Starbucks system in the U.S. starting in 2004, focusing on operations, drive-thru optimization and partner resources. He left in 2012 to pursue other business endeavors. Born in Mumbai, he said in a news release that he’s excited to return both to India and to the brand.
“I’m honored to return to India as CEO of Tata Starbucks to continue building upon the incredible momentum the company has experienced in its first six years,” said Mr. Gurnaney in a statement. “I look forward to elevating the mission and values of the company through delivering the iconic Starbucks Experience for our Indian partners and customers.”
He replaces Sumitro Ghosh, who took up the role in January 2016. Under Mr. Ghosh’s leadership, the brand hit its expansion goals and enhanced workplace practices by introducing a five-day workweek aimed at improving employee retention. The joint venture now has 1,700 workers. Mr. Ghosh is returning to the Starbucks organization in the U.S.
Tata Starbucks was formed by a partnership between Starbucks and Tata Global Beverages Ltd.
Starbucks recently announced that it would hire 500 people at a new East Coast office, investing $16 million in the City of Atlanta. No word whether it will have any responsibility over the company’s international operations.
India has proven challenging for some foreign retail and restaurant brands, which face a web of regulations designed to protect homegrown companies. Joint ventures and mergers with local brands — like Walmart’s recent Flipkart acquisition — are becoming a more common route to market entry for U.S. firms as India loosens some of these rules.