Gulf Bank Showcases CAF Coffee’s Regional Success Story
Gulf Bank’s ''Let’s Talk Business'' podcast narrates the story of local startup, CAF Coffee
- Bandar Bouresli: CAF has exceeded 40 branches in Kuwait and abroad
- CAF Coffee is now the largest Kuwaiti franchise chain in the region
- Bouresli: We have 300 employees, and are planning to launch our first branch in Europe by the beginning of next year.
- Bouresli: Kuwaitis are steadily becoming more interested in pursuing the self-employment route, especially after witnessing just how worthwhile working in small and medium enterprises can be.
- Bouresli: If you believe in an idea and set your ground rules for success, you should quit your job immediately
"Reclaim your time and hard work, and work on a project that is in your best interest." This guiding principle is what prompted Bandar Bouresli, Investment Director at CAF Coffee to forego the notion of a stable salary, leave his job at a prestigious investment company, start his own business, and become an entrepreneur.
Where did the idea of CAF Coffee come from, and what were its most important keys to success? How did the brand expand to the GCC and how does it plan to enter the European market? How did CAF deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic? Generally, what were the brand’s major obstacles, and what factors contributed to its success?
To find out the details and origin of the story, Bouresli was a guest on Gulf Bank’s “Let’s Talk Business” podcast, hosted by Tareq Al-Saleh, Deputy General Manager of the Economic Research Unit at Gulf Bank.
The program, hosted by Tareq Al-Saleh, Deputy General Manager of the Economic Research Unit at Gulf Bank, presents entrepreneurial stories within a simplified economic framework, targeting budding entrepreneurs who are considering starting businesses of their own. The Bank’s new podcast is part of its overarching strategy of fostering economic and community sustainability in Kuwait.
CAF Coffee’s Beginnings
Founded in late 2016, CAF went on to achieve great success within a few short years, and was widely accepted in the Kuwaiti market. As a brand, CAF went on to revamp the concept of franchising, making Kuwait into an exporter of brands, and not just an importer.
Bouresli says, "At this time, the coffee industry was undergoing major changes, and people's moods and tastes were also shifting to a deeper focus on coffee types, blends, and methods of preparation. A multitude of ideas emerged, one of which was the global Blue Bottle Company, which was considered a revolutionary concept in the world of coffee, and which contributed to introducing artisanal coffee from the West to Kuwait.”
A Kuwaiti Coffee
He added: “We had an idea to own and invent our own coffee, and we established the brand as a group of young entrepreneurs who wanted to have a Kuwaiti-born coffee business. We really wanted to reinvent the concept of franchising. At the time, there was not much confidence in the idea of a Kuwaiti-born coffee business becoming a global trademark, but that was our goal: to expand our own business, instead of importing someone else’s.”
He continued, "Honestly, this concept fascinated me and I was keen to be a part of this change. I decided to join a group of entrepreneurs and achieve our dream together. We founded our first branch at Crystal Tower in Sharq, and undertook the journey to have a Kuwait-born CAF Coffee reach the world.”
Keys to Success
He pointed out that one of CAF’s major keys to success is its understanding of the local market; the founders, who grew up in the market and were familiar with locals’ general tastes, found it easier to align their business interests with local trends, and coffee brought them together.
Bouresli continued, “Being close to the community and listening to their ideas is the secret behind our creativity. It helped us create products that were widely accepted; for example, we recognized that there was a popular type of ice cream in our community and decided to add it to our coffee, forming a new product that people loved.”
Regarding his opinion on making your business your primary career focus, Bouresli said, “I personally found that having a job while trying to maintain a business can make it difficult to succeed. If you truly believe in your business, your belief in the project makes it easier for you to make the difficult decision to give up a job and its benefits. If you believe in an idea and take the time to set the ground rules for success, you should quit your job immediately.”
Bouresli pointed out that the beginning stage of a business is often the most difficult part, noting that if entrepreneurs manage to survive this stage, they have survived the most difficult phase of owning a business. With CAF, the founders collected capital from their savings and loans, and their challenge came in figuring out how to recover those amounts and compensate for the salaries they had given up.
He said: “From the start, our plan was to expand the brand into the Gulf countries, and in our first year, we succeeded in achieving this goal. After a successful launch in Kuwait, we expanded to Qatar and then Saudi Arabia, nine months later. We also recently expanded to Bahrain, the UAE and then Oman.”
Bouresli added: “Today, we have about 40 branches in the region, making us the largest Kuwaiti franchise chain in the region, with 30 branches in Kuwait, 12 in Saudi Arabia, and 2 branches in Qatar. Soon, we will open our third branch in Qatar, along with two branches in the UAE (in Dubai and Abu Dhabi). We are also entering the Egyptian market and, by the end of the year, we hope to have launched our first branch in Europe.”
He pointed out that CAF chooses its partners abroad carefully, according to specific criteria that includes the partner’s belief in the brand, their understanding of the way in which CAF operates, and their understanding of the coffee industry. In addition, CAF factors in their partners’ financial solvency to ensure their model fits with CAF’s five-year business plan.
Regarding the challenges posed by the pandemic, Bouresli said, “The pandemic posed a great challenge for our business. Because it was a new crisis, everyone dealt with it in their own way. For us, we went from business as usual to reporting zero sales overnight. However, we are so thankful for the team that we have. Currently, we have more than 300 employees in Kuwait and abroad, excluding foreign branches.”
He pointed out that Kuwaitis are steadily becoming more interested in pursuing the self-employment route, especially after witnessing just how worthwhile working in small and medium-sized enterprises can be. He noted that younger generations have an incredible amount of capabilities and skills, and attracting them has become easier than ever because they are so tech-savvy.
Bouresli concluded the interview by saying, "If you understand your product correctly, know your competitive capabilities, manage your product, maintain competitiveness, and work on your branding, marketing and delivery, your brand will grow, and demand for your product will increase.”
"Let's Talk Business" is a podcast by Gulf Bank, dedicated to presenting entrepreneurial stories within a simplified economic framework. Episodes air on Gulf Bank's digital and social media channels, with past episodes including interviews with the founders of Oogoo, Local Flavor, Suffix, Circuit Plus, Just Clean, and more.
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