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The Simple Strategy That Grew Simply Asia Into SA’s Best Eastern Restaurant

The culture created by Mr Chai Lekcharoensuk, founder of Simply Asia Thai Food & Noodle Bar, helped turn his dream of traditional Taiwanese food into a successful and growing franchise. Find out how he got it right.

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Little compares to the happiness that is felt across the table of a great meal shared with family or friends. Or to that moment when you experience the sights, smells and tastes of a new culture for the first time.

It’s an experience Mr Chai Lekcharoensuk, founder of Simply Asia Thai Food & Noodle Bar, wanted to create when he came to South Africa 25 years ago. Back then, he couldn’t find any Thai food that reminded him of home and so he opened Wang Thai Restaurant, in Cape Town, an upscale establishment that promised an authentic Thai dining experience: mouth-watering meals made by Thai chefs, using only the freshest ingredients.

“The success of Wang Thai inspired Mr Chai to make Thai cooking something everyone across South Africa could enjoy,” says Enzo Cocca, Group General Manager of Simply Asia. “And so, he changed the restaurant format from fine dining to family friendly restaurants – and the Simply Asia brand was born, with the first branch opening in Cape Town’s historic Heritage Square.”

simply-asiaThai food was not unfamiliar to South Africans at the time, as Thailand was a popular travel destination. But Mr Chai identified an opportunity to bring speciality, authentic Thai food and trading formats to the market and, by 2006, the company had opened 12 restaurants.

Today, customers can experience the taste of Thailand at 64 outlets across South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, as Simply Asia continues to grow its footprint across the continent. By the end of 2017, the restaurant count will increase to 66 – and 72 by the end of 2018.

Quality and authenticity

Every restaurant in the franchise chain operates on the same values that the very first restaurant was built on: quality and authenticity. It’s these values that Enzo believes sets Simply Asia apart in a market that is now crowded with a wide variety of specialist food styles and trading formats.

“Consumers have a lot of choice today. They can find high-quality, readily prepared food anywhere, from restaurants, to food trucks, to supermarkets. There are a lot of competent local and international traders entering the market every day, many offering similar cuisine.”

Related: Multi-Unit Franchising Growing In South Africa

So, how does Simply Asia keep customers coming back for more – and appeal to new customers?

The answer to that question is in the question itself: “Customer retention has been key to our growth,” says Enzo. “We have to stay relevant to our customers and still be able to attract new customers every day.”

Employees first

Simply Asia’s growth strategy centres on four pillars: training, innovation, partnering with the right people, and leveraging tools and technology that provide real-time insights into its operations.

“Franchise owners and their teams are continually trained and upskilled to ensure they always offer the best possible customer service and experience,” says Enzo.

He adds that a Simply Asia franchisee is not a hobbyist looking to make an extra buck but is a passionate businessperson who is committed to the values of quality and authenticity above everything else.

“Many of our franchisees own multiple stores and treat their investment as a serious business. We believe this strategy breeds a different calibre of franchisee – one who is driven and understands that the secret to success is hard work, respect and transparency.”

Innovation at all touch points

Underlying all of this is an aggressive approach to innovation, says Enzo. Innovation extends across product offerings and business models and it’s one reason why Simply Asia has maintained its relevance and appeal to new and existing customers.

“Innovation, to us, means delivering new experiences to our customers, whether that’s through more variety and flavours on our menus, our rewards programme that puts cash back in customers’ pockets, or through partnering with service providers like Uber Eats to bring convenience to our customers,” says Enzo.

In a market where customers are spoilt for choice and competition is high, the key to success is having access to the right information, at the right time, says Enzo.

Related: Key Franchising Trends To Consider For 2018

“We control the entire supply chain, from Thailand right to our stores. When you work in the restaurant industry, control of your business processes is important. Information must be real-time and reliable so that you can properly manage your inventory and quickly make the right decisions as situations arise. If you don’t have that information, you can’t see where you’re going.”

simply-asia1For Enzo, the various tools within the Sage Evolution and Payroll solutions give him access to that information and allow him to analyse data in real-time to easily pinpoint issues and opportunities.

“In June 2017, we added 15 new items to our menus across our network of restaurants. As these items were perishable, we needed to optimise the ordering and delivery of fresh ingredients across our production facility, three distribution centres and, of course, all the stores,” says Enzo. “Sage gives us the insights we need, when we need them, resulting in zero wastage and optimal stock levels across the network.”

Transparency, trust, respect

Taking the guesswork out of supply and demand has given Enzo more time to visit Simply Asia stores and to spend time with managers, staff and customers. “At Simply Asia, we’re building more than just restaurants. We’re building opportunities for others and that depends on strong relationships built on trust and respect.”

Related: Nando’s Adopts Technology; Focuses On Food & Funny

Enzo has the following advice for anyone looking to either buy a franchise in a chain store, or to franchise out their own businesses: “The key to building a successful franchise group is to fully understand your market and your customers. This is your starting point. If you want to buy a franchise, be sure to interrogate the business model in detail and to get a clear picture of the actual results.”

The people of Thailand place a lot of value on hard work, balanced with friendliness and hospitality. Traditionally, people would greet others by asking if they’d eaten yet. This sums up the Thai way of life, which revolves around sharing and enjoying delicious food in great company.

“When you bring the flavours of another country into your community, something magical happens; a culture is shared between strangers. At Simply Asia, we enjoy nothing more than sharing an authentic Thai experience with our customers.”

*For more on the story, please watch the video here.

 

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Entrepreneur Today

A Conversation With Yourself Could Change Your Life

Thami Buti is a 24-year-old South African actor. He is amongst the 46% of South Africans between 20 and 50 years, who have no savings at all. He’s probably one of 90% of people who will retire with less than 50% of their income.

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Except none of this is true for Thami, because he’s had a conversation with himself – at six different ages – in Sanlam’s new educational campaign.

In Sanlam’s Conversations with Yourself campaign, Thami gets transformed into a 20, 30, 50, 65 and 80-year-old (actor Hlumelo Mzimkulu plays the 10-year-old) called YOU. And over a series of conversations, these characters in their different age brackets sit and share wisdom on life’s ‘what ifs.’ Disrupting the traditional approach to ‘finance talk’, the central idea is this: what if you could learn everything you need to know about life, from yourself? What if 65 year-old you could tell you – at age 20 – to stop buying so many cappuccinos and to invest more into an RA? And 30-year-old you could ask you at 80 how many kids you have – and how you afford to give them the lifestyle and opportunities you want for them?

Sonja Sanders, Head of Marketing and Client Experience at Sanlam Personal Finance, says each of the seven Conversations with Yourself films uses humour and insight to broach a different topic – and presents the accompanying product solve. “For example, the Conversation on Life and Retirement tackles retirement in a completely new way. Planning for retirement is often not a priority when you’re young. But what if you knew only 6% of South Africans are able to cover their monthly expenses once they retire? And what if you could ask your 65-year-old self whether you are one of the 6%? Would 20-year-old you still take that year off? Would you at age 30 still buy that flashy car?”

Using banter to bring home the fact that today’s decisions will define life when you’re older, the script takes a notoriously low-interest topic and makes it relatable.

The same goes for the highly sensitive topic of death, which no one wants to talk about — undoubtedly a problem in a country with an average age of death that stands at 64 years, and where 40% of the workforce is more likely to have cell phone insurance than life insurance.

Sanders says, “Conversations with Yourself takes an idea we’ve all had to the next level: The wish to fast-track into the future to see if our lives worked out the way we expected. Ultimately, you are your own partner in life. Everything you do now either benefits your future or jeopardises it. It’s often too daunting to imagine one’s future-self. But Conversations with Yourself connects the future to the present, and makes the experience real and impactful.”

Related: How To Start Saving Money Today

South Africa’s problematic savings culture has been well documented. In the retirement space, Sanlam’s Benchmark research has identified millennials as the generation most at risk of having insufficient savings, mainly due to their DIY approach to money matters, their mistrust of financial service institutions and the fact that they don’t identify with retirement as a goal. It’s a generation known for overconfidence despite their poor financial literacy. Millennials prefer self-directed advice – so what better way to deliver it than through a ‘conversation with yourself’?

“As WealthsmithsTM, Sanlam wants to empower people with the knowledge and tools to enable them to make positive financial decisions today. This should set them up for success both now and into the future. Conversations with Yourself helps people to appreciate that the planning they do today has significant implications for their future self. Ultimately, the campaign uses progressive storytelling to share a story to which any generation can relate. The story of you,” concludes Sanders.

Visit Conversationswithyourself to watch the films and start your own conversation.

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Entrepreneur Today

10X-e Partners With Alphacode To Accelerate Five Top Companies In South Africa

South African Scale Up specialists, 10X-e, will partner with SA’s premier fintech incubator subsidiary of RMI, Alphacode to support SA’s top Fintech’s on their path to scale.

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This collaboration will initially see five of SA’s highest-profile fintech companies investing two years scaling up using 10X-e’s much lauded 10X program. 10X-e’s founder, Jason Goldberg, says that this accelerator program helps scale-up teams learn and apply the 12 disciplines for rapid and sustainable growth.

“We are delighted to be working with AlphaCode –  SA’s premier fintech support brand – to help some of SA’s top Fintech  entrepreneurs scale-up” says Jason.

The first five elite fintech businesses selected to join the program are Entersekt, Livestock Wealth, Click2Sure, Invoice Worx and Isazi Consulting.

“Globally leading mobile authentication and security specialists, Entersekt are set to be South Africa’s next ‘unicorn’ while Livestock Wealth is changing the investment landscape by offering the ability to own and manage your livestock via an app from Sandton (or anywhere), outsourcing all the dirty work to their specialist operators. Click2Sure was founded by Dan Guasco – the original founder of what became Groupon SA, and Isazi Consulting (who started already in late 2017)is led by one of SA’s leading teams of data scientists and artificial intelligence experts” Jason continues.

“Another accolade for this cohort is that three of the five businesses are majority black-owned tech ventures, and most certainly earned their place on the program on pure merit terms. We’re really proud to be supporting these globally competitive entrepreneurs.”

Related: Jason Goldberg Asks Are You (Realistically) Ready To Scale Your Business?

Jason notes that, even for elite entrepreneurs and ventures like these, specialist scale-up accelerators like the 10X Program can be the difference between scaling and failing.

“There’s no doubt that accelerators specialising in how to scale a business are invaluable for most entrepreneurs at this delicate stage in a business journey. Growth often kills when businesses cross a threshold of complexity not experienced before. Most great entrepreneurs are scaling a company for the first time. Fortunately, there is a defined ‘physics’ of rapid growth;  rightly applying the 12 Disciplines of 10X Entrepreneurs – the heart of the 10X Program – you can dramatically increase the rate and sustainability of growth,” he says.

“We are dealing with the ‘crème de la crème’ of South Africa’s entrepreneurs dealing with the most extreme growing pains, so the need for guidance from seasoned Scale Up leaders who’ve ‘been there’ is key to both the success of the business and to its contribution to our economy. We look forward to helping these Founders navigate the Bermuda Triangle of growth successfully” Jason concludes.

The partnership with Alphacode will see game-changing support provided to these businesses worth around R1million over a period of 2 years as they are hand-held by industry experts on the treacherous path to scale.

Related: Do You Have That 1 In 100 Business That Can Scale And Land An Investor?

About 10X-e:

Scaling – the Bermuda triangle of growth – is hard, and fraught with failure. Very few of even the top 1% of ventures succeed at scaling, mostly due to poor execution, due to lack of experience scaling businesses. The 10X Program brings the ‘Science of Scale’ and seasoned Scale Up Leaders to help founders navigate the Bermuda Triangle of growth

Our team has helped some of the Continent’s most exciting high growth businesses scale up through the most treacherous parts of the journey. We tailor make multiple workshops to the specific needs of you, your team, and your business. Our workshops serve to address the most pressing challenges that your business faces, helping remove the hurdles towards 10X growth.

For more information on the 10X Accelerator Program, visit: www.10x-e.com

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Chairman Of Futureproof, S’onqoba Maseko On Instilling New Ways To Accelerate Our Youths

In the near future, traditional employment opportunities will no longer exist. SA needs to prepare our children for the fourth industrial revolution, now.

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Futureproof is proud to introduce the chairman of our board, S’onqoba Maseko. S’onqoba received her Honours Degree from Wits University and is just three exams away from being a fully-qualified Actuary. The 31-year-old S’onqoba, originally from the banking industry, has previously filled several key roles at The First Rand Group, including; executive assistant to the Group CEO, Sizwe Nxasana and the head of the FNB Innovators Programme.

She is the founding COO of the Sifiso Education Group – a disruptor in the education space which also is the owner of Future Nation Schools. S’onqoba is also the Managing Director of an advisory and implementation consultancy for SMME’s called Perpetu8.

Naturally, combining her skills and experience with a passion for education and entrepreneurship has made her the perfect fit for Futureproof! S’onqoba believes that education is crucial. “It’s a game changer for the nation, the continent and the globe. It requires us to prepare children for an uncertain future in the best way we know how,”

“In a country such as ours, Futureproof instils the entrepreneurial qualities needed to not only run a business but to navigate through life,” S’onqoba continues.

Related: Futureproofing The Next Generation Of Entrepreneurs

The current education system does not cater to the needs of our local and global economy. In the time of innovation, our teachers are not equipped to deal with this change and soon enough, traditional employment opportunities will no longer exist. Speaking to this topic, S’onqoba says: “It’s not about only content – you can Google anything. It’s about skills such as critical and analytical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and technology”.

With the lack of skills available to prepare our country for the fourth industrial revolution, S’onqoba says that we need to find ways to unearth existing skills and to impart new skills that are more aligned to what industry and the country needs. “We need to reframe our thinking: we need entrepreneurs, technical specialists, technology whizz kids. We need creatives, thinkers and solution-orientated problem solvers”.

“We need to make school content and theory relevant to the current and future world. We need a curriculum, approach and a pool of skills that align to the world and the future predicted. Grade 1 learners this year will finish school in 2030. Are we teaching them what they will need to succeed?”

She believes that the high unemployment rate of our youth is largely due to a lack of skills. “We have so many job vacancies yet so much unemployment. We still have companies wich only recruit based on formal qualifications and see this as the only way to have the required skills. This is outdated, and the world is moving beyond it”.

With South Africa now in technical recession, S’onqoba stresses the need for the country to pull up its boot straps and get on with the hard work that needs to be done. “Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is not working as well as it should. It’s broken. We’re spending billions as a country whilst seeing very little impact and return of that investment”.

Caring for the needs of all stakeholders, S’onqoba believes that one of the reasons for Futureproof’s success and phenomenal growth is because the business simply ‘gets on with it’. “No excuses, no time wasting” she explains.

Related: How Are South Africans Feeling About The Work Environment?

As a flourishing entrepreneur in a tough economy, S’onqoba shares some of her key learnings and says that an entrepreneur cannot survive without grit, curiosity and EQ: “Set up a business for scale from day one – think of your end state and build your business with that in mind. Recruit people who ‘get it’ and then develop them to be the best version of themselves so that they can add great value to your business,”

“Fill your board with passionate, skilled specialists who don’t only look to monetary income but are driven by passion, community and purpose.  Manage your time like its money; in fact, it’s more precious”.

We need to build sustainable businesses that employ more people and grow in revenue and turnover. “We need businesses that embrace the future and technology to solve the problems we face in an efficient and customer centered way without legacy and an inability to innovate standing in the way.” she concludes.

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