ASA - From Copenhagen to Delhi

Julian talks about how ASA came to open a shop in India.

Why has ASA opened a shop in India?

We didn’t plan it that way. I was working in Torvehallerne one Saturday during a busy shift, and sometime during the afternoon an Indian family came by. At first glance they seemed like a typical family group on holiday – mother, father and two daughters. I remember that they looked a little tired, so I offered a glass of chai, which was accepted. I am always excited and interested when people from outside Denmark visit the shop, especially if their culture uses spices in their cooking. I am always keen to hear what they have to say and in getting their feedback.



Julian chatting with customers in the ASA shop in Delhi.

The father and I fell to chatting a little. I explained to him what we try to do at ASA – that we try to buy directly from source, that we try to buy only EU certified organic products, and that we grind and blend the spices in the shop. I told him about the journey that Hope and I had made to India, and how the journey led to starting of ASA.

I think I gave them some samples to try when they got the chance. At one point during our conversation, I asked the father what he did, and I remember him telling me that he was also a shopkeeper, so we talked a little “shop”, as shopkeepers will do - discussing the economy, market, stock, service. After a short while the conversation came to a natural end and I gave him my card before they left. We said our formal goodbyes with the vague promise to get in touch in the future and I didn’t think any more of it, just returned to work. I remember there were customers waiting to be served.

Several weeks later, and out of the blue, I received an email from one of the daughters telling me that they had looked into what we do at ASA and that they were interested to work together with us. The young woman was Avni Biyani, who is youngest daughter of Kishore Biyani, the founder of and chairman of Future Group, the largest retail company in India.


Shop manager Rintu in the ASA shop in Delhi.


They invited me to India to meet with them and to talk a little of what we could do together and I travelled out to Mumbai for three days. From what I saw, and from the people I met and talked to, it became clear to me that not only were they serious and very professional, but that there may well be a market for ASA in India. So we agreed to work together to create the first ASA shop, in Delhi.

So, after months of email correspondence and early morning telephone calls to India, I travelled to Delhi in February 2013 to help put the final touches on the first ASA shop. We opened on February 15th to positive reviews and healthy interest from both press and Indian customers. ASA Delhi has now been trading for one month, and the signs are very encouraging.

How do you see the future for ASA?

Let us see how the shop works in India first, but I can see no reason why there cannot be ASA shops in major cities around the world if there are interested customers. The most important thing, above all else, is that we do what we are doing now consistently well and work hard to improve our quality standards, service and the offer to our customers. It seems to me. that if the ASA team focuses on these things, then the rest may just take care of itself, organically. I am reminded that one of the things that can seriously jeopardise a small business such as ASA is to expand too quickly. In my heart I would like to be closely involved with the ASA project until I retire, so I am in no hurry to expand if the situation is not right. Sometimes I have to travel to source products or to meet the demands of the business, but when I am in Copenhagen I want to work in the shop. That is what I enjoy. By working on the counter and serving people, not only do I get to hear what our customers have to say about what we do, but there is a chance I might just meet interesting people with good ideas.

Follow the link and see what The Times of India wrote on the opening in March 2013.