Loob founder shares expansion plans as it eyes 1,000 new stores by 2020

Loob Holding will expand into the metro cities of India through its collaboration with World Iconic Brands Hospitality (WIB), a specialist franchise development company in India. As part of the partnership, WIB will open 140 Tealive stores in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore within the next five years. CEO of Loob Holding Bryan Loo (pictured) said the company sees a huge potential for its product in India as it is a tea loving country.

"We are happy to seal this partnership with WIB to be the first Malaysian bubble tea brand to enter the Indian market. We could not have chosen a better partner, as WIB is owned by Franchise India, which has a proven record of over 2 decades in the business," Loo added.

WIB founder Gaurav Marya described Tealive as an "ideal partner" to introduce a modern tea-culture to India. "I believe Tealive presents a huge opportunity in the country where people relate to the concept in a big way," Marya added. Tealive was launched early last year after Loob Holding gave up hold over the Chatime franchise, following a dispute with then franchisor La Kaffa International.

Speaking to A+M, Loo said the company is committed to expanding into six more countries in 2019, and have 1,000 stores in the region by 2020 mainly through its direct and franchise model. Besides India, the brand also launched in Vietnam last year, with the opening of two outlets in Ho Chi Minh City and aims to have 20 outlets in the city by this year. Tealive also expanded into Australia in 2017, appointing Melbourne-based independent agency The Sphere Agency (Sphere) as its global strategic partner. It is looking to open 10 stores in Australia this year and 50 by 2020.

According to Loo, distrupting the market is key for the company to maintain its leading position in Malaysia,while expanding into other markets, due to the "intense competition" it faces daily. To raise brand awareness and stand out among its competitors, Tealive injects "innovative and exciting products" into the markets it's operating in, be it for a limited time only or a long term basis. Loo said ultimately the company aims to build a unique brand positioning and create an emotional attachment to the brand.

"We want to be more than just a drink. We also want to motivate, encourage and make a difference in the lives of our consumers," he said.

Communication and its challenges

Loo, quite candidly, explains that the biggest challenge for the brand today, is understanding each market through the form of research and market observations, as well as the competitive environment.

Though these are neighbouring countries, they each hold very different consumer behaviours, taste profiles, values and preferences.

Getting the right message across on digital, in which it currently invests 40% of its budget, without having the essence of it lost in translation, is also an area the company is mindful of. As such, communication is a crucial factor between them and the franchisees.

Closer to home, another area where communication is a must is cross-departmental collaboration, especially between the operations and marketing teams. This is in a bid to ensure greater customer service, said Loo. To better monitor the performance of its outlets, the company is integrated a cloud-based POS machine with a business intelligence dashboard. Loob Holding is also in the process of using machine learning to achieve store inventory optimisation and replenishment.

Moving forward, Loo said the company plans to build upon its loyalty card programme - UNITEA - by integrating it globally, allowing consumers to enjoy the benefits at its stores worldwide. It also rolled out its Tealive Breakthrough Challenge, which will run for 12 months, encouraging followers to participate and showcase their breakthrough moments in life via short videos and social postings to inspire others.

Loo said marketers should always have sales goals in mind. "A good plan is able to stack up your brand messages towards it positioning in the market, and be able to translate strategy from online to offline. Basically, take a very 360 approach to your strategy," he added.