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With a fascinating past, the future looks great for Phuket’s own coffee brand

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: It has been 56 years since Cheng Long opened his Hock Hoe Lee coffee store in Phuket Town – and according to Ruengrit “Oh” Petchvorakul, husband to Cheng Long’s granddaughter and today co-owner of the Hock Hoe Lee brand, the beginnings weren’t that difficult.

“All you had to do was to sell good coffee. There wasn’t much competition and we quickly established our brand,” he explains.

Mr Ruengrit cites three factors as key to keeping a business up and running for over five decades. First is the quality of the produce, which continues to be a top priority.

“The market changed a lot over the years. Coffee comes in different grades of quality and we observed a big change in people’s tastes. People’s preferences are moving from low quality to high-quality products.

“Customers today look for the best coffee available; they know more about coffee. This is good for us, it allows us to sell high-quality coffee at better prices,” Mr Ruengrit explains.

The second key factor is customer relations.

“The founder of the company took great care of his customers,” says Mr Ruengrit. “We can’t just put coffee or tea on a shelf and wait for customers to buy it. We have to learn what the customers like and teach them about coffee too. We ask the customers what coffee they like. We want them to be our partners, someone who we learn from while they learn from us.”

The third factor is more practical and has a lot to do with the kind of produce Hock Hoe Lee deals in.

Coffee is a fragile commodity, something that cannot be kept in stock forever. As a result, managing the piles of coffee bags is crucial.

Exactly how crucial stock management is was something Mr Ruengrit learned the hard way when he and his wife decided to introduce western-style, fresh-roasted coffee to the company’s lineup.

“It was a disaster. At the very beginning the demand for our western-style fresh coffee was very low and people were complaining that it was too expensive. We actually had a big stock of fresh beans, maybe three tonnes, and it all was wasted, nobody wanted to buy it.”

Mr Ruengrit took care of the quality and wanted to sell it at an appropriate price, but had yet to learn about the importance of customer relations in coffee business.

“We thought we would just put the product on the shelf and it would sell, but it didn’t work like that,” he recalls.

What helped was every successful entrepreneur’s secret weapon: persistence.

“We decided to keep the price and keep going. We knew that we had a great product and we didn’t want to compromise on the quality. Over time, people slowly got to know our coffee and the demand started growing.

“Now we have a strong customer base and we sell around 10 tonnes of our fresh Arabica a year, compared to maybe one or two tonnes a year four years ago,” he said.

It took time and determination to make it happen, but in the end, it paid off.

“We started with just two kinds of fresh-roasted coffee, but with the growing demand we will be introducing a third one soon. I see it as a cycle. We develop a better product, introduce it to customers, they learn to like it and come back for more and for even better quality, and so it continues.”

When Mr Ruengrit revisits the difficult times before his new coffee took off, he recalls one particular, game-changing moment. It was when Voradech Maneesri, the general manager of the foto Hotel in Kata, and Wirachai Pranveerapaiboon, CEO of The Attitude Club, paid a visit to his shop and decided to buy his product.

“They said they will buy my coffee because they want to support me, support local business. I don’t think I had ever heard anybody say that before. It was a great boost of confidence,” Mr Ruengrit notes.

With this experience behind his belt, Mr Ruengrit confidently runs the business, sourcing coffee from a number of locations in Thailand, including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Ranong, which he then sells at his two shops in Phuket: one in Phuket Town and one in Rawai. And he looks to the future with more confidence, believing that it’s the past that’s Hock Hoe Lee’s greatest strength.

“My mission is not about how much we sell. It may sound strange, but now it’s more about the legacy. I want this place to remain a part of Phuket. It’s more fun than just doing business,” he said.

With his persistence, Hock Hoe Lee is here to stay.

To try Hock Hoe Lee coffee, visit the Hock Hoe Lee Coffee Factory at 28/9 Moo 5, Rawai, Muang, Phuket 83130. To shop for coffee visit the company’s store at 183 Ranong
Rd in Phuket Town. For more information and to buy coffee online, visit hockhoelee.com.

— Maciek Klimowicz

- Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Thai Airways to end its Samui flights this September

The Thaiger

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PHOTO: planespotters.net

Thai Airways is scrapping its Bangkok-Samui flights from September this year. The airline’s been flying Bangkok to Samui, return, twice a day in a Boeing 737 carrying up to 149 passengers.

It negotiated a contract with Bangkok Airways to fly the two flights into Koh Samui, which built and manages the island’s airport since 2008.

At the time, the national airline said it would be convenient for travellers flying though Bangkok on Thai Airways to to transfer to a TG flight to the island, booking through the one airline.

It was also considered a breakthrough at the time ending a monopoly on the Bangkok-Samui flight sector. Bangkok Airways dominates the route offering around 19 flights daily each way.

Thai Airways are justifying cancelling the service this September following the signing of a codeshare agreement with Bangkok Airways last year. The airline can ticket its European or Asian passengers through to Samui using any of the Bangkok Airways daily flights at agreed fares that are competitive for TG to resell.

The monopoly for Bangkok Airways means that flights cost up to more than double for similar distance routes around the region.

Samui Island’s airport was developed as the first privately owned airport, but faced constant criticism from hoteliers on the island who claimed Bangkok Airways made it difficult for competitors to serve the island.

At one point the government threatened to build a second airport on the island, but land appropriation costs were too high. However, the tactic did result in THAI gaining landing rights for two flights daily.

According to Airlineroute’s timetable information, Thai Airways will end its TG281 service that departs Bangkok at 0745 and TG 287 that departs Bangkok at 1530 on 2 September.

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BMW eyes bright future for electric cars in Thailand

The Thaiger & The Nation

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That growth makes Thailand number three in the world in terms of market acceptance of PHEVs, according to Krisda Utamote, BMW Group Thailand’s director of corporate communications.

Christian Wiedmann, president of BMW Thailand, says the German carmaker would continue churning out new electric vehicle models due to confidence in its global market expansion, with Thailand included.

“In Thailand, BMW is expanding the market for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) over the past three years. Sales have increased 44 per cent per year,” Wiedmann said recently at the BMW head office in Munich.

Wiedmann told Thai media the focus for BMW Thailand would now be on selling PHEVs, which had seen a rapid market growth worldwide. At this point, BMW will not import battery electric vehicles [BEVs] for sale in Thailand as it is still trying to determine the local demand and consumer response to fully electric cars, said Wiedmann.

Unlike PHEVs, that also can run on petrol, BEVs are powered entirely by electricity and have no engine or fuel tank. Wiedmann said that like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, Thai motorists have concerns regarding fully electric cars.

“We will see if there is a market for BEVs in Thailand,” he added.

Christian Wiedmann, president of BMW Group Thailand. PHOTO: PTT/Kampon Termkijanan

Many motorists are worried that they may run out of power while driving a fully electric car for a long distance. Charging stations are not yet widely available like petrol stations, particularly in the provinces or rural areas. However, thanks to improved battery technology, newer models of BEVs can run a longer distance for each charge, up to 250-300 kilometres for the BMW i3, which has a “range extender” to generate more power to the battery.

The compact i3 model is popular in Europe and the US. But BMW has no plans to officially market it in Thailand anytime soon, according to Krisda. He added that certain Thai agencies imported i3 cars mainly for research purposes.

Fully electric cars are more suited to smaller countries in Europe, while motorists in countries with larger areas and longer distances like the US may prefer plug-in hybrid vehicles, said a BMW expert who asked not to be named.

BMW offers charging services for EVs through its subsidiary ChargeNow, which has more than 100,000 charging stations the world over.

In Thailand, ChargeNow offers charging services to electric vehicles of all makes registered with its website, and not just BMW’s EVs, Krisda said. It plans to build 50 public charging stations at BMW dealerships and partnership locations by the end of this year.

Another partner in the charging services, GLT Green (Thailand) Co Ltd, which specialises in EV charging technology, has set up 73 charging outlets throughout Thailand and is adding another 47 outlets by mid-2018, according to the company’s business development manager Chayaphol Leeraphante. Altogether, GLT Green plans to set up as many as 160 charging outlets this year, he said.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Nation

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Business

Property report tips Phuket property boom

The Thaiger & The Nation

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According to Knight Frank Thailand’s research, the Phuket condo market is expected to perform better in line with the brighter economic situation and the growing population of the island.

Increasing supply and higher selling prices will be the key drivers, while demand is forecast to improve slightly. The number of launches in Phuket is predicted to increase and Thai developers as well as joint venture developments will be key players in the market.

According to research, demand across the market will continue to be driven by international homebuyers, investors and expatriates, especially those from China, Russia and Australia.

“Besides, the expectation to see a larger portion of buyers from South Korea. Average asking prices per sqm are anticipated to rise in all areas, while increasing demand for luxury condominiums may see prices approaching a new high in 2018, especially properties by the sea,” the report from Knight Frank said.

It said one factor that is expected to significantly help boost the property market in Phuket is the Smart City project that aims to develop the province and to set the city up as a hub for the digital industry.

The project is due to be completed in 2020.

More about DEPA and the Smart City HERE.

Search for over 7,000 Phuket properties HERE.

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