Malaysia’s Bryan Loo to launch Tealive in Australia amid global expansion plan

Out of the ashes of legal troubles, an impromptu rebrand and a creative copycat scandal, the entrepreneur behind the Malaysian bubble tea company Tealive is planning to take his company “global” by 2020.

Bryan Loo, who launched his own bubble tea brand earlier this year after splitting from the Taiwanese chain La Kaffa, is to open a Tealive outlet in Melbourne, Australia, by next February before entering another four countries by the end of 2018.

The chief executive officer of Kuala Lumpur-based Loob Holdings said the Australia opening would serve as a “gateway to the Western world” as the company plots to open 1,000 stores in 15 countries in the next two years.

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia, Loo said: “We see Australia as a learning curve for then bringing the lifestyle tea brand to markets like London. If we can crack the formula in Australia, we can take it to the UK and Europe.

“There is a lot of opportunity for us to break through the clutter and sameness in the markets. There are a huge number of Asian bubble tea brands who have not been able to target any Western markets, and there are a lot of markets that have not been penetrated.”

Having teamed up with Australia-based The Sphere Agency, Loo said the first Melbourne Tealive outlet would be located in a “suburban area” where less than five per cent of the population is Asian so the brand can “mix with the local community.”

Once launched in Australia, markets such as London, Europe and China are next in the pipeline of Tealive roll-outs. A pitch for a creative agency to launch the brand in China is currently underway. 

Loo’s global ambitions follow a difficult year for Loob Holdings. The company was the franchiser for La Kaffa International’s Chatime brand in Malaysia for the past six years.

However, in February this year, La Kaffa terminated its agreement with Loob Holding, allegedly over royalty fees and unapproved ingredients. Following this,  Loob Holdings rebranded the Chatime outlets in Malaysia as Tealive.

The new brand met a difficult start after La Kaffa attempted to take out a legal injunction preventing Loob Holdings from using the franchise stores to use as Tealive. The case was dismissed by a Malaysian judge in May, giving Tealive access to the 161 ex-franchise stores.

Around the same time, Malaysian motorcycle group Mutha Puaka accused Tealive and creative agency TBWA of copying its motto ‘Never Bully the Weak. Never Fear the Strong’ – something both parties denied.

Commenting on the row, Loo said: “I think they wanted to sue, but they had no evidence. It’s not happening at all. They just wanted to ride on the bandwagon of our brand transformation.” Mutha Puaka has been contacted for comment.

In the months following the rebrand, Tealive opened two new outlets in Vietnam – one at the  Vincom Centre and one at the Ben Thanh Market – and will open a third by December.

Commenting on the past 12 months for Loob Holdings, Loo added: “Having been in the business for six years, I would never have expected [La Kaffa’s] takeover attempts. But rather than looking at it as a crisis, we see it as a blessing because it means we can become our own brand.

“Now we are in control of our own future. Moving forward it’s looking a lot more promising for us. Now it will be a case of transforming from a franchisee to our own company. There will be a lot more accountability and responsibility. We want to now properly proclaim our presence today.”



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