One man is trying to single-handedly spread the message of kebab throughout Vietnam.
Human Asia has this exclusive interview with Thach Le, the man behind those kebab carts in Vietnam.
Tell us about the beginning. Why did you start Torki Kebab and why Middle Eastern food in Vietnam?
Thach: I started my career with kebab bread under the name Torki since I was 24 years old. At that time, I used the combination of kebab bread and coffee model. After four months, I didn’t succeed. However, with a strong passion in fast food as well as the support from my girlfriend, I overcame that most difficult time.
Later on, through pure hard work and understanding what my strengths and weaknesses were, I started something else and restarted my career with the kebab bread cart model – Torki Kebab. This time, I focused on kebab bread only, and didn’t follow the previous business model.
Kebab bread entered the Vietnamese market around ten years ago. However, there is no well-known brand and professional franchise in Vietnam. Torki Kebab is the pioneer in the field, and our main focus has always been paying attention to our customers’ needs and provide them with convenience.
So with the same level of passion as before, my partner and I worked hard through many difficult times until today, where we have conquered the market for Middle Eastern food in Vietnam. I believe that introducing new dishes from other countries is a good idea in general, but the key point is that the food has to fit the taste of the local customers, and in our case, the Vietnamese people. This is how we managed to efficiently run the business and expand to many franchised shops.
Where are your shops located, and what are your expansion plans?
Thach: We have several shops now. Our main store is in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. We also have several franchised stores located in District 11 and Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City, in Lam Dong Province, and in Da Lat City.
Our business model goes hand in hand with our business model, and that is to build and transfer the brand name, as well as training and guiding the system. Our goal is to become the largest kebab bread franchise in Vietnam.
Tell us about the market for kebabs in Vietnam. Is the market receptive of this type of food?
Thach: Vietnam has a young population and so we tend to absorb new things readily. Vietnam is a country with a significant development in its economy, especially for startup businesses in the fast food industry.
The market for fast food in Vietnam has a very high potential, but at the same time very competitive, especially from overseas brands with franchised models. Local brands like Torki Kebab believe that direct competition is not good way when it does not bring any further benefits to the consumers. So Torki Kebab is targeting younger customers who are price sensitive, but who still demand good quality food.
Also, the kebab cart model is flexible and mobile, and this model can support young startups who want to start a business with minimal risk, and minimal initial investments.
Why do you think customers keep coming back to your shop?
Thach: Our service is fast, friendly, enthusiastic, and honest. We serve good quality food with these key elements: the food is appropriate to the Vietnamese people’s taste, and it’s fresh and hygienic. We continuously innovative to suit our clients’ needs and wants.
Who are your direct competitors?
Thach: Kebab Turki from Indonesia.
What was the most difficult thing in starting up this business?
Thach: Convincing my family to quit my job and start my own business was the first challenge at the beginning. This is also a common obstacle for young startups like me. However, starting a new business is very interesting and has the endless potential for innovation and creativity. The biggest challenge now is to maintain the high level of food quality and services in our franchised stores as well as standardizing the processes.
What were your dreams growing up?
Thach: I was born in a central Vietnam area called Binh Dinh province. I am the only child in the family. I’ve always been independent since I was a child because my mom was often away working outside of our hometown. I did many different casual jobs when I was young, and in hindsight, those jobs gave me the experience I needed to start my business.
When I was a child, I dreamed that I could become an artist. I had many good creative works of art, but it was difficult for me to follow this dream as I grew older and found myself in financial difficulties. Now my dream is to introduce and spread an efficient business model to young people and investors.
Did you always want to become an entrepreneur?
Thach: Yes, I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship. With this passion and hard work, I want to bring various new products to the market, and further expend my business outside of kebab bread. It means I will not only sell kebab bread, but also other food in the kebab bread cart under the Torki name.
If you were not doing Torki Kebab, what profession would you be doing?
Thach: I might have opened a franchised coffee brand. That’s also one of my dreams.
What keeps your day busy?
Thach: As a startup with limited financial budget, my day is really busy doing everything like contacting suppliers, delivering ingredients to our franchisees, help my staff to prepare the ingredients, and marketing to find new franchise partners or investors.
I also have to keep track of our cash flows. In addition, I regularly contact my franchise partners to ask them about their businesses and to give them advice if needed.
Give some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Thach: “Do not quit your dream, simply because of your failures”