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Meet the man who brought bubble tea to Malaysia
02:33 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Loo lived above his parents' shop and watched them doing business as a young boy

He says he was truly exposed to the modern tea drinking culture in Taiwan

He opened his first Chatime store in September 2010, and now has 172 stores with 880 staff

CNN  — 

Some entrepreneurs are simply born with a knack of sniffing out a good business. Bryan Loo is one of them.

Loo was a salesman at a biotech company with no background in the food and beverage business when he decided he wanted to bring bubble tea to Malaysia.

Raised in the smallest state in Malaysia, Loo attributes his success to his parents exposing him to business at an early age. He lived above their shop and watched them doing business as he grew up.

Entrepreneurial streak

It was by chance then that he realized the gaps in the Malaysian market for tea. People were talking about tea but didn’t have a place to go for a “proper, modern” tea, he said.

There were plenty of chains such as Starbucks and Coffee Bean in Malaysia, but nowhere to grab a cold drink in the hot and humid climate.

What you need to know about Asia’s melting pot

Bubble tea, which fuses Asian tea with milk or fruit syrups and sometimes contains balls of tapioca, originated in Taiwan and has most recently spread in popularity around the globe.

Loo went to Taiwan, where he says he was truly exposed to the modern tea drinking culture. “It was entirely eye opening.”

Never take no for an answer

After much research, he approached the top ten brands of tea makers to see if they’d expand with him in Malaysia. None of them had any interest to expand into Malaysia’s market. “I met them one by one, I got rejected.”

And then through a stroke of luck, Loo’s friend mentioned a Taiwanese company called Zhi Qu Cha Tsai. To his surprise, his contact at the company was open to talking.

So the then-24-year old flew to Taiwan and bought the franchise, changing the name to Chatime to fit into the Malaysian market better.

Rapid growth

The rest is history. Loo opened his first Chatime store in September 2010, and now has 172 stores with 880 staff across Malaysia.

Chatime makes 1.2 million cups of tea a month and has an annual revenue of more than 100 million ringgit ($22.9 million).

Loo now also has a pizza chain and Malaysia’s first sparkling water machine. He works alongside his “first and only love,” his wife, who is also the company’s financial controller.

It seems there’s no stopping this young, successful entrepreneur. He hopes his company can lead the way for other ASEAN countries, inspiring them as a role model.

“We are multi-cultural country, able to interact with people better and are able to understand local cultures,” he said, adding that Malaysia makes a young and vibrant ASEAN hub.