EDWARD TIRTANATA tried many different businesses, from selling clothes to trading coal. Until one day, he struck gold with an F&B startup that quickly became a unicorn. Contasia Christie reports.
Every success story has a colourful and inspiring background that we can learn from. This is how Edward Tirtanata, one of the founders of Kopi Kenangan feels. After successfully establishing Kopi Kenangan with the help of partners JWC Ventures, venture capital Sequoia India, and other funding injectors, Kopi Kenangan has evolved but it has not been without challenges.
To avoid a wave of layoffs and ease the burden on the company during the pandemic, Edward took the initiative to take a salary of only one Rupiah from his start-up revenue up until the pandemic was over. In addition, Kopi Kenangan donated 50,000 cups of coffee and other medical supplies to medical personnel who were battling the pandemic. This effort reflects his principle in business which is to prioritise customers and employees over investors. This drove Kopi Kenangan’s rapid growth until it achieved unicorn status and began expanding.
Hi Edward, thanks for having us. As we’re entering the first month of the year, let’s start with a recap. How’s 2022 for you personally and for Kopi Kenangan as a whole?
Kopi Kenangan successfully transitioned from a local coffee shop chain to a global coffee shop chain and widens its reach to the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FCMG) industry as well in 2022. In January 2022, we launched into the FMCG market with our ready-to-drink coffee, Kopi Kenangan Hanya Untukmu, and the excitement was so high that we became Indonesia’s third-largest ready-to-drink coffee player. We also managed to open our first five stores in Malaysia in the fourth quarter of 2022. This is the fulfilment of our vision and mission, as stated on every cup of coffee, “From Indonesia to the World”. We want to bring Indonesian coffee from Takengon (Aceh), Solok, Manggarai (Flores Island) and many other places in Indonesia to other countries, starting with Malaysia. And hopefully, there will be more countries in the following years.
What keeps you busy these days? Are you excited to face new challenges in 2023?
Because several official brands have joined the Kenangan Brands group, and we have also launched in Malaysia, I am travelling a lot to other regions and countries. But it’s all worth it for me because my five-year-long dream has finally come true. If we say “from Indonesia to the rest of the world” in 2017, I am now living that dream. We are very proud and very excited. Although I have to go to 67 different cities and countries, I am delighted!
What is the inspiration for Kopi Kenangan, and why do some of the menus have creative names like Kenangan Mantan and Milo Dinosaurus?
There are two things in branding: can you be better or can you be different? Back in 2017, I noticed that no one had given their coffee shop an Indonesian name. After brainstorming, we saw that the name Kopi Kenangan was suitable. Then we wondered, what memories are hard to forget? Exes! Who can’t forget their exes, right? So, we assumed Kenangan Mantan were sweet memories that no longer existed but were still remembered.
In October 2022, Kopi Kenangan finally launched its first store in Malaysia in Suria KLCC. How has the Malaysian market responded to your products so far?
The response was incredibly enthusiastic! In Malaysia, we can sell more cups on a per single-store basis than in Indonesia. Furthermore, in terms of profit and margin, it is higher than in Indonesia. That is something we are very proud of. It’s all because many Malaysians appreciate and love Indonesian coffee beans, and they become repeat customers.
Did you survey before opening in Malaysia? Why did you choose that country?
We wanted to choose from ASEAN countries; perhaps Malaysia’s regulatory framework is simple enough for us to start there first. It was also the right timing.
As we already know, coffee culture has been rising in Asia. What do you think is the biggest difference between the coffee culture in Malaysia compared to Indonesia?
Unexpectedly, Malaysia’s coffee culture is the same as Indonesia’s, and they also like Kenangan Mantan coffee. But we gave it a different name, Kenangan Latte.
As the Co-Founder of Kopi Kenangan, how do you feel when you finally see your brand expanding globally?
The fact that our brand is expanding globally is something to be proud of. Personally, I want to show that Indonesian brands can compete internationally and become global brands. Actually, I’m very excited, but there are still many challenges that we must face, such as inflation, and there are still many headwinds. But we are still excited because the development has already started with Kopi Kenangan.
In 2021, Kopi Kenangan hit Unicorn status. What does this status mean to you personally?
This achievement is merely status. But, in the end, it all comes down to the fundamentals; how profitable and how much revenue we have. This is a significant step toward becoming even bigger. However, we are internally focused on the company and our stores’ performance.
Aside from expansion to Malaysia, you also took over Flip Burger as one of Kenangan Brands’ brand. Are there any reasons why you chose Flip Burger in particular?
We already have Chigo and when we decided to open a fast-food restaurant, there was a lot of demand for burgers because fried chicken gets boring after a while. We could see that Flip Burger had a lot of potential; it tastes great, but its distribution wasn’t as widespread as Chigo’s. This is what motivated us to acquire Flip Burger to provide customers with a diverse range of food options.
After this acquisition, what is your next plan for Chigo X Flip?
We will, of course, make the menu more creative and innovative. So, let’s say a group of people goes out to eat; they have a lot of options. Whether they want burgers or chicken, they can get it here.
Last year, you said in a press statement that your mission is to be the most-loved consumer brand in Southeast Asia and, as part of the five-year vision, Kopi Kenangan remains committed to rapidly expanding its footprint to thousands of stores across Southeast Asia and broadening your offerings. Can you elaborate more about this five-year vision?
We definitely want to double down on our success as a global brand in the next five years, and we will expand to more countries. Hopefully, our global expansion will help introduce Indonesian coffee to the world. After becoming a start-up unicorn last year, our next target is to begin going public or IPO. Hopefully, the process will be straightforward.
Do you have any advice, especially for the younger generation who are interested in diving into the F&B industry?
For young people who have a dream and want to realise it as I did five years ago, my advice is “just do it”. Because many of us have ideas or dreams but are not brave enough to take our first step. All businesses have risks and nothing is easy. We might miss our best opportunity if we don’t act now. Just start, either start small, start fast and feel fresh.