Unique experiences are what independent travellers are seeking nowadays and taking a cooking class in Thailand is one of the most cultural activities one can experience while in the land of smiles.
Bangkok-based start-up Cookly is tapping into this trend. Its three co-founders - Benjamin Ozsanay, Etienne Marleau-Rancourt and Kowit Charoenratchatabhan - launched their platform in 2015 with a focus on cooking classes in Southeast Asia.
They started with Bangkok and Chiang Mai but soon realised that nearby Vietnam and Bali are also known for their culinary offerings and would likely appeal to their clientele.
Over the following few months they started to partner a growing number of cooking schools across Asia and by early 2017, Cookly was already offering its services in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Japan.
So how did a small team in Bangkok manage to conquer Asia's culinary destinations? The idea was conceived in the continent's food capital, Bangkok. Following "lean start-up" strategies, the team tested and validated their business model in one significant market, before moving on to the next destination.
Acquiring new cooking schools was mainly managed by the team in Bangkok, and in some cases with the help of local ambassadors.
"Working with small businesses definitely made things easier compared to working with individuals" says Marleau-Rancourt, Cookly's COO.
"Cooking schools had already existed before the digital age. It was in their interest to grow their business and our solution helped them to manage and increase their business."
The main factors for Cookly to consider when deciding to open in a new market were supply, demand and the number of tourists in that destination. One good example is Japan. The country's tourism industry had been witnessing an all-time record, with foreign visitor numbers growing by 55 per cent in two years to reach 24 million tourists in 2016. Japan currently represents Cookly's second biggest market in terms of revenue. Dominating its niche market is what has given Cookly its great advantage.
The start-up has positioned itself as the go-to expert for cooking classes and has built its success around the needs of both cooking schools and tourists. "We know who our customers are and how they behave," says Marleau-Rancourt. As of today Cookly has tourists from more than 70 countries.
Cookly has this summer extended its reach to Europe, covering Italy, France and Spain. Every market demands its own strategies but having Thailand as their key market to test and validate new ideas was key to the company's success. Cookly aims to be operating globally by next year. www.cookly.me.
Etienne Marleau-Rancourt, Co-Founder & COO dtac Accelerate batch 5