MARUT Chumkhuntod is brewing up an ambitious expansion plan for his Class Cafe chain that will see it spread from its base in the Northeast to take on the big domestic and international coffee house operators nationwide.
“We are in expansion mode and are open to any arrangements for outside funding – be that from venture capital funds, angel funds or bank loans,” said Marut, 39, who opened his first Class Cafe coffee house on Jomsurangyard Road in Nakhon Ratchasima in 2012.
Marut said he moved ahead with more outlets in his hometown as he saw the potential in the city for business opportunities, given its status as a regional economic centre.
“I wanted to open my own coffee house that would serve the premium segment of the market for coffee lovers in the city,” Marut said.
“The coffee house market in Nakhon Ratchasima was not that active at the time, with Starbucks and True Coffee having only opened one branch each in the city.”
Six months after the first Class Cafe opened, Marut opened a second branch on Chang Phuak Road in front of the city’s Maharat Hospital. A third outlet followed in 2013, near Por Pat Hospital in a quieter area of the city.
So far, eight Class Cafe outlets have been opened in Nakhon Ratchasima and one in Buri Ram province. The company will open a 10th store, in Khon Kaen, within two months.
“We are in discussions with many financial consulting agencies as part of a study to make an initial public offering of shares and list on the Market for Alternative Investment in the next three years,” he said.
“We expect to add a further 20 coffee houses to our portfolio in the next three years before listing, taking our total number of stores to 30, and cover all the major provinces in Northeastern region, including Udon Thani, Mukdahan, Nong Khai, Surin, Sisaket, and Ubon Ratchathani,” Marut said.
He said that for such an expansion, the company would focus on large premises with co-working spaces to be open around the clock. “Our annual sales are expected to increase from the Bt50 million targeted for this year to more than Bt200 million in the next three years,” he said.
Marut said that after the proposed listing, the company aimed to scale up the number of Class Cafe coffee houses to 100 and cover, potentially, all provinces across the Kingdom.
“We want to make Class Cafe a coffee house brand that creates opportunities and enables us to grow together with local startups,” said Marut.
“We are not selling only a coffee experience, but want to serve as a life companion as well as a centre of community life for particular lifestyles.”
Marut graduated with a computer engineering degree from Assumption University in 1999.
He then spent almost 20 years working for a number of e-commerce and telecommunications firms - Internet Thailand, GMM Grammy, Hutchison CAT Wireless Communication and Nokia Thailand - especially in the fields of digital marketing and wireless services.
“It is a dream of many working people to start their own business with a coffee house and leave behind a day job. This is because coffee houses have becomes a part of their daily lives and such people have a strong association with other working people,” Marut said.
“I used my own style of digital marketing in a storytelling platform to promote the Class Cafe brand, and thus connect the brand with potential customers in the area while creating a feeling of exclusivity,” he said, adding that Class Cafe as a brand conveys a sense of its own culture and identity to differentiate itself from other players in the cafe battleground.