KOI Cafe is a brand originally from Taiwan. It first opened its doors in Toul Kork, and today it is also a stopover for many along Preah Norodom and Mao Tse Tung, the Vattanac Capital and the Aeon Mall.
For now, it is the only business that CEO Khorn Chhundara is running. “I want to take my time with the business and keep a strong focus on building a strong team, creating effective management and operation systems, and implementing the right policies to ensure a steady and sustainable growth,” he explains.
“When I was considering the business, the market and the product just felt right,” Dara says of his decision to set up shop in the Kingdom. “There were a few tea brands that just opened and were proving to gain quite a lot of attention from the consumer. The market then wasn’t big yet, but it looked promising and poised for growth. In our quest for products, we tried a number of different brands and met with different companies. After a series of trials, we found that the products that KOI was offering were much superior to others, and their vision and mission of quality and service were also aligned with ours.” And so the deal was sealed.
In Cambodia though, not all businesses flourish. Quite a number have quickly gone bust as soon as they’ve spread their welcome mats. The culprit: the lack of market research and feasibility study.
“I personally like to use Porter’s Five Forces as well as the SWOT analysis when considering a business,” shares Dara. “It’s important for entrepreneurs to clearly know their own strengths, the product strengths, the customers, and the market conditions, to name a few. Those pieces of information help provide them with a clearer picture of their intentions. Decisions made with a lack of such information is equivalent to shooting in the dark, which is very risky. It’s important to note that an entrepreneur is not a risk-taker, but rather a risk-avoider or minimizer.”
One cannot sit on one’s laurels, however. “Though the market in Cambodia is growing, it’s still small and swaying,” reminds Dara. “The barrier to entry is low, and new brands are joining in regularly. Because everything is new for the people in Cambodia, it’s very common for them to sway from one product to another and from one brand to the next. Therefore, to stay in business, it’s critical to create a warm and friendly customer service experience, ensure consistent high quality and good taste, choose convenient locations, maintain a good atmosphere and decoration, strong branding, and a good customer relationship management.”
In a competitive market, it is usual to hear businesses compete on price. Dara believes though that the price war differs per industry, market and product. “For the industry that KOI is in, generally, every product requires a pricing strategy. Customers should never feel that the products are overpriced. Normally, any pricing within the industry’s relative range should be okay if you can justify the price against your quality. You don’t have to necessarily use your competitor’s pricing as the main factor in your decision making. Other factors such as product quality and customer service can be prioritized.”
To promote its brand, KOI turns to social media. “According to the BBC, Facebook is the second most important platform for Cambodians to access information. With such overwhelming number of users, Facebook and other forms of social media can play a vital role in helping a business grow in the Kingdom. For KOI, we have never spent money on advertisements on traditional channels. Most of our marketing budget is spent on creating content for use on social media. This platform has been a significant route for branding and marketing purposes.”
Training a strong team
Dara acknowledges that the success of business rides on the team he has in place. “Since day one, KOI Cafe has invested a great deal in quality control and human resource development. After two years of operation, the team have proven themselves capable of running the business without much of my supervision. With a good team in place, I am now looking to expand further into the food and beverage industry with the creation of a local convenient coffee brand as well as restaurant franchise from overseas. In addition, I am also studying some opportunities in the distribution and construction industry.”