NEW DELHI—Skinny Masala Macchiato, anyone?

Starbucks Corp. unveiled an alliance Thursday with India’s flagship conglomerate—a move designed to pave the way for retail locations here and to sell more Indian coffee world-wide.

India remains one of the big untapped markets for the Seattle-based coffee and food company. Chairman Howard Schultz said in an interview from Mumbai that India could one day rival China, where it recently announced plans to more than triple the number of outlets to around 1,500 in five years.

India is “as large an opportunity as there exists in the world, coupled with China,” he said.

The alliance is with India’s Tata Group, a wide-ranging company that owns everything from Jaguar cars to steel mills and tea plantations. Its Tata Coffee Ltd., unit owns the Eight O’Clock Coffee Co. in the U.S. and is a big coffee producer in India.

The country, though known as a land of tea, is also a major coffee exporter. Mr. Schultz said one of the reasons for the alliance is to raise the profile and use of Indian premium Arabica beans in Starbucks stores elsewhere. The first phase of the alliance involves sourcing and roasting beans.

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