CEO Series

Bryan Loo Reacts To Viral FB Post Comparing Bumiputra-Owned Chatime To TeaLive

Facebook user Abu Mu’aaz Munir Azizan asked a question: should we pick Chatime or Tealive? And this seems to have resonated with his audience as his post has gained at least 6K shares at the point of writing after going up just yesterday.

If it was just a simple poll, that would hardly be any news, but he also made several arguments for the brand of his choice, which might account for his post’s virality.

There are still some Malaysians who believe that Tealive is just a renamed Chatime, but we’ve explored before what was really going on. The whole “rebranding” came from the news that Chatime was terminating Loob Holding as a master franchiser.

Bryan Loo then took on a self-appointed task of changing all of his Chatime outlets to Tealive within La Kaffa’s (owner of the Chatime brand) grace period. The two parties are now entangled in a lawsuit and there is some uncertainty if the ex-Chatime outlets can even continue operating as Tealive.

First, we should note that the choice isn’t as one-or-the-other as this post implies. For a Malaysian with a hankering for bubble tea (or similar drinks), there are still conflict-free options.

For one thing, Gong Cha is still available. There’s also newly-opened Koi making its mark in Malaysia, not to mention the multitude of hawker stall bubble tea sellers that no doubt are making their way to Bazaar Ramadhans this year too. Also, post-rebranding, Chatime is not available (yet) in quite a few locations, making a choice unlikely or unnecessary, unless you go all out on your way to get a cup.

But with the drama (and lawsuit) between Chatime and Tealive on top of the somewhat similar branding and look, then perhaps the Facebook poster has a point when he compares both exclusively.

The Three Main Arguments Presented

MD Yakult Malaysia, MD Will Group (Chatime Malaysia), Scha Alyahya, Awal Ashaari, Exec Director Will Group Ms Widayu (Image Credit: ChatimeMY’s Twitter)

1. The post argues that Bryan Loo’s early reaction to the contract termination played on emotions more than facts.

According to Abu Mu’aaz Munir Azizan’s post, La Kaffa, a “big company that places importance on quality”, found that Loob Holding has breached their contract by using ingredients that were not recognised by La Kaffa. Bryan “who tried to fight those accusations, finally admitted in a statement that the reason for this is that the ingredients that were recognised by La Kaffa are too expensive”.

We did do a bit of a search to see if Bryan had ever made any statement (in particular about the expensive ingredients) as claimed by the poster above, but were unable to turn up any results.

The post goes on to say that Bryan then “tried to win the hearts of Malaysians by assuring that the ingredients used were halal”.

2. Loob Holding failed to negotiate a cheaper contract, unlike Will Group, spearheaded by Aliza. 

According to the post, “one of the previous top-performers for the Loob-owned Chatime decided to stay with La Kaffa”. This franchisee who owns a few outlets is called Will Group, and the post pointed out that this is a Bumiputra company.

“Owned by Aliza Ali and also invested in by YM Cik Puan Muda Pahang Julita Aishah, they’ve been named the new Master Franchiser of Chatime and they were able to negotiate a better deal with Chatime”.

He continued that in the new deal, the purchase of raw materials (from La Kaffa) is now bought using Ringgit, instead of USD. And to push that forward, Will Group negotiated that La Kaffa turns Malaysia into a raw material hub for Chatime across Asia.

The post goes on to say that before, La Kaffa bought cocoa from Malaysia to process in Taiwan, which apparently Loob Holding then bought back to Malaysia to use in the teas—which is why Bryan Loo allegedly found the prices expensive.

3. Will Group is planning to open 40 more locations all over Malaysia. 

The post again says that 40 is nothing compared to 160+ or so of Tealive outlets. But in her BFM interview, Aliza gave her commitment that Chatime Malaysia will continue to remain consistent in terms of quality and taste. Abu Mu’aaz Munir Azizan compared this unfavourably to Loob Holding, that “cuts corners to save money”.

Bryan Loo’s Response

(Image Credit: VKeong)

For point number one, it’s already been discussed in a lot of detail, there’s not much that can be added into the conversation.

Bryan Loo definitely made emotional pleas to Malaysians when the news just broke out and he did play up the Malaysian sentiment to bring support on his side, and this arguably worked to his favour. But whether this is a strategic move or a manipulative ploy can only be left to the opinions of the Malaysian wallet.

As for the issue of the certified products, that’s been discussed by Bryan Loo countless times as well. Bryan continues to assure customers that Tealive’s sources are halal, while La Kaffa said that they only raised the concern because they understand the sensitivity of Muslims to these things in Malaysia.

For this, we think that the users should be able to make their own judgement calls based on their own discretion and to look out for halal certification issued by JAKIM if that is what really matters to them.

In a phone conversation with us, Bryan even made references to that. “It’s halal. All the ingredients are halal,” he reiterated.

“We operate in Malaysia, and in whatever we do, we’re aware that we are in Malaysia and we’re doing the F&B business here. All of this is under control and under concern. We’ve been established since seven years ago and we climbed to get to what we are. We’ve been through all the hurdles, one after the other. So I don’t think we will bow to the negativity.”

But as for the other allegations in the post, Bryan thought there was no point in refuting them all one by one. He stated that when it comes to similar allegations, Loob Holding has always been reactive, never proactive. They have not levelled any accusations on any opposing team, except when in self-defense.

“I know that people say a lot of things, but I always pat my shoulder and say, just focus. The rest is not important,” said Bryan.

“Stay close to our own faith and really focus on the business. This is what I believe in. The last thing we can do is control what people say. But what we can control is our passion for the business. And that matters the most to me personally. So it’s not that I don’t want to comment on anything, it’s just that we should not pivot because of all of the negativity. I should instead focus on what I am trying to deliver here.”

“Not only that the product should speak for itself, but the team, the management behind the scenes, and our vision and mission for the brand—I think it will eventually speak for itself. This is what we focus on, and the only thing that will break us is if we lose our focus.”

Editor’s Note: We’ve reread the original post and realised that we’ve misinterpreted a certain part of the post. We’ve since updated the article to remove several unrelated paragraphs. We would like to apologise for any misunderstandings caused and for taking Abu Mu’aaz Munir Azizan’s post out of context as that is not our intention.

For better or for worse, Chatime and Tealive have made it into the limelight again. However for now, it seems that public sentiment isn’t really going either way. Most of the shares are just along the “Oh, so this is what happened,” variety. The original poster might have had his own opinion and conclusion, but depending on how the lawsuit eventually pans out, all this might not even be relevant. And at the end of the day, it’s all about business and the sales, and that fight hasn’t come to an end yet.


Feature Image Credit: Original image modified from a CNN video.

 

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