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Early starters: T&C Coffee

Cambodia has long had a coffee culture, but as recently as a decade ago there were no modern cafés in Phnom Penh.

Enter Kuoch Sokly and Chy Seyla, who in early 2003 opened T&C Sihanuok Boulevard near Olympic Stadium, turning a new leaf in Cambodian café culture history.

“When we opened our first T&C outlet, people asked us why anyone would pay $1 for coffee in a big air-conditioned café, when they could buy a cup on the streets for 2,000 riel,” Sokly says.

But having spent time overseas, the two young men sensed they were onto something and that they were ahead of the curve.

Before long, civil servants and businessmen were gathering at the café to hold meetings over coffee and food, Sokly says.

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The key to success, he adds, is not only modern décor, but also amenities such as free Wi-Fi.

By the end of 2003 T&C had opened its second branch on Monivong Boulevard, and by 2006 it had six branches in Phnom Penh. The first café chain in the capital to offer free WiFi, T&C today has 14 branches citywide and employs 200.

Sokly says he’s proud of the contributions his pioneering coffee chain has made in terms of training staff in the café and hospitality sector.

Today, the T&C outlets see a steady stream of customers and the cafés have become mini-business centres.

“We’ve turned our cafés into a rendezvous venue for businesspeople, creative types, and many others looking for a quiet haven in the bustling city,” Sokly says.

In a bold new move, the two business partners say their latest ambition is take advantage of Asean integration and work with a Singapore partner to take their brand to global markets.

“It has to be done in timely manner with Asean integration in 2015,” says Sokly.

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