Ron Sim and Taha Bouqdib to invest S$136 million in new venture
The company, V3 Gourmet, which currently owns TWG Tea and Bacha Coffee, hopes to be the world’s leading affordable luxury group dedicated to developing and managing gourmet lifestyle brands, says its two business partners.
It is undeniable that TWG Tea and Bacha Coffee are well-known names in Singapore. In the 13 years since TWG Tea was founded, it has grown from a single Parisian-style tea salon in Republic Plaza to 70 stores across the world.
While Bacha Coffee’s growth plans were stymied by the arrival of COVID-19, it still experienced relatively quick success. In 2019, its historical flagship store in Marrakech reopened, followed in quick succession by the opening of its first store outside Morocco in ION Orchard later that year. Stores in France, Italy, Hong Kong and Malaysia are in the works.
Building on this winning streak, long-time business partners Ron Sim and Taha Bouqdib, have brought both brands under the newly minted V3 Gourmet Group, towards which they will invest more than US$100 million (S$136 million) in the next three years to grow brands in the F&B and gourmet retail sector.
“Luxury is less scalable, but affordable luxury is more scalable and sustainable. That’s where we see the growth to be.” – Ron Sim
LUXURY FOR THE MASSES
“We believe that the mass affluent market has tremendous potential especially in retail lifestyle. By that, we mean [things like] fine coffee and fine food, but [in terms of] affordable luxury. That is key,” said Sim, who is the founder of lifestyle products and wellness group V3.
In this case, affordable luxury refers to sophisticated yet accessibly priced experiences that sit in the white space between major luxury designer and mass-produced offerings. V3 Gourmet’s offerings will be targeted squarely at the mass affluent, a group Sim describes as the “60 per cent of people who sit between the top 20 per cent and bottom 20 per cent [in terms of affluence].”
“When you… plant seeds in strategic places… you can emerge stronger when the pandemic blows over.” – Taha Bouqdib
While V3 Gourmet’s stable is currently comprised of quotidian beverages, Sim explained that they are offering customers much more than that. “It is about enjoying the moment… The level of the environment, concept, quality of food and service. Everything comes into play.
“More importantly, it is affordable. I think that’s fundamental as the Asian wealth market grows. People are very mindful of the experiences they are looking for. From a corporate standpoint, luxury is less scalable, but affordable luxury is more scalable and sustainable. That’s where we see the growth to be.”
This isn’t the first time the duo is seeking growth opportunity in an uncertain market. Bouqdib established TWG Tea in the thick of the 2008 financial crisis and is confident about repeating its success. “When you are strong in a weak moment and you structure and restructure [the company for growth], plant seeds in strategic places… you can emerge stronger when the pandemic blows over,” he said.
“We believe that the mass affluent market has tremendous potential especially in retail lifestyle.” – Ron Sim
When asked about plans for new products, Sim mentions the possibility of sake, whisky and chocolates. “All can be done as we move forward, but how to do it with the right image, right position, quality and services is important,” he said, declining to talk about definitive brands in the pipeline. The company expects to hire several hundred employees in Singapore and internationally.
“What V3 will create is the finest retail and F&B brands in the world,” added Bouqdib. “And when we say in the world, we mean the world. We will expand globally and… have the same consistency around the world. We want to share concepts that make people happy.”
“We want to share concepts that make people happy.” – Taha Bouqdib