One of the two partners who have created Cambodia’s leading food and beverage company, with 22 outlets, says business is not merely about money, but more about finding a need and serving the need.
Kouch Sokly says entrepreneurs need to find out what the market needs and make bold, challenging steps.
He’s the managing director of the CBM group, which owns the T&C coffee shops, BB world, Pizza World and the new Tous les Jours bakery. He also serves as the 2012 national president for Cambodia’s Junior Chamber International (JCI) and has been a speaker encouraging young Cambodians to make the right moves in business.
“You don’t need to invest a lot of money to start your business. I know a vendor who started selling fried bananas from a cart for an investment of $50. After one month he had sixteen outlets and free delivery,” he said.
An important point is not to copy other people’s businesses. Kouch says do some original thinking of your own before your start your business.
“It is all about what you can see that is different from other people. You need to think outside the box. People who are followers have a hard time. When you copy others, those others already took another step and you can never catch them.”
Kouch cited the example of Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs who thought differently from others and provided what people needed: an approach to the computer as a consumer product, thin and lightweight, with soft curves rather than sharp angles.
Born in Skon village in Kampong Cham province in 1977, the third of five children in a Khmer-Chinese family, Kouch is now 34.
His older brother and sister own the 3A bakery shops in Phnom Penh. His youngest brother is in the shipping and logistics business.
He only studied until the seventh grade at Wat Kah in Phnom Penh. Then he went to Chinese school. Today he speaks Mandarin, three other Chinese dialects, Thai, Vietnamese, English and of course his native Khmer.
His family had a Khmer restaurant in Skon, about 90 kilometres from Phnom Penh. His father got a job in the Chinese community in Phnom Penh and brought the family when Kouch was about five years old.
His longtime close friend and schoolmate Chy Sila worked with Kouch over the years at various jobs, and finally when they were both about 18 years old, they opened their first business, CD World on Sihanouk Boulevard opposite Lucky Supermarket and next to Caltex petrol station.
Following the success of CD World, they opened BB Word, having decided that there was a market for chicken and burgers. They were right. Today there are five BB World outlets, the busiest of which is in Sorya shopping centre.
He spotted a property near CD World and called the number on the “For Rent” sign. They next day they signed a lease agreement, made a deposit and didn’t know what to do. Six years later that building was bought by a Korean company and became Golden Tower, requiring BB World to have to move out.
On a trip to Vietnam they saw a busy coffee shop brand called Trung Nguyen, also a coffee supplier, and opened a shop near Olympic market in 2003.
Later, after some conversation with Trung Nguyen about franchising, they changed the name to T&C, which means Tea and Coffee and the actual name was Tea and Coffee World, in keeping with the theme names with “world” at the end: CD World, BB World, Pizza World.
Today there are 12 T&C outlets in Phnom Penh. All 22 outlets of Kouch’s businesses employ a total of more than 600 people.
“My philosophy is that people to have success together and grow together.”
Kouch encourages young entrepreneurs to do something different, to offer something new to the public.
“Business means take risk, but the main thing is convincing yourself. The main challenge is to yourself to prove you can do it. The business is not all about money. It is all about concept planning. Don’t complain. A lot of people complain but never do anything.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]