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Indonesian unicorn Kopi Kenangan is coming to M’sia, here are 9 bits of trivia about it

Opening its doors in 2017, Indonesian grab-and-go coffee chain Kopi Kenangan has quickly become one of the nation’s most recognisable brands. It claims to have over 600 stores in 45 Indonesian cities, employing a 3,000-member workforce.

According to an article by Tech In Asia, the coffee tech startup was planning to kickstart its overseas expansions by Q4 this year, starting with Malaysia. The article reported that the coffee brand aimed to open five to 10 stores in Kuala Lumpur and Bandar Sunway.

Now that we’ve eased into the fourth quarter, our eyes are definitely peeled for any sightings of Kopi Kenangan locally.

An obvious tell-tale sign of its arrival to Malaysian shores is the fact that they’re already looking for manpower to staff its stores. A month ago, the brand’s LinkedIn page posted that it was “urgently hiring” for locations in KLCC, Sunway Pyramid, Pavilion, NU Sentral, and MyTown.

Considering this urgency, it’s safe to assume that Kenangan Coffee will be opening its stores in Malaysia anytime soon.

With that in mind, we wanted to learn more about the coffee brand ahead of its Malaysian launch. Here’s what we found.

1. It’s Southeast Asia’s first new F&B retail unicorn

Much like the mythical creature that it’s named after, unicorns in business are rather special and rare. Typically, we see more tech-inclined startups achieving unicorn status, i.e. reaching a valuation of US$1 billion, but Kopi Kenangan is one of the companies that has broken that mould.

Image Credit: Kopi Kenangan

Of course, like most other brands today, the Jakarta-based company does incorporate tech elements, such as having its own app.

Joining the billion-dollar valuation club in January 2022, Kopi Kenangan is considered the first “new retail” F&B unicorn from Southeast Asia.  

2. There may be a name change for its Malaysian launch

For those who don’t know, Kopi Kenangan directly translates to “Coffee Memories” in both the Indonesian language as well as Bahasa Malaysia.

Image Credit: Kopi Kenangan

Any Malaysian would know that “kopi” is an easily recognisable and well-understood word in our country, but according to Marketing Interactive, the brand will be introduced as Kenangan Coffee in Malaysia and in other countries outside of Indonesia.

3. It has raised funds from Jay Z and Serena Williams

To get to a billion-dollar valuation, Kopi Kenangan has received funds from big-name venture capitalists such as Sequoia Capital.

Interestingly, its portfolio of investors also includes icons such as Jay Z and Serena Williams. Well, their companies, at least.

Now-retired tennis star, Serena Williams founded Serena Ventures in 2014 and is a managing partner for it. Jay Z is the man behind Roc Nation, the parent company of Arrive Opportunities Fund, which invested in Kopi Kenangan.

4. Before coffee, it was making tea

Prior to Kopi Kenangan, co-founder and CEO Edward Tirtanata had built a tea brand named Lewis & Carroll in 2015.

Image Credit: Lewis & Carroll

Oddly, the website for that brand seems to be empty. Yet, the brand is still running, if its active Instagram page is anything to go by, having just posted a picture today (at the time of writing).

However, it seems like Lewis & Carroll has rebranded to Bakery by Lewis & Carroll. Primarily a tea lounge serving artisanal tea, baked goods, and comfort foods, it has three locations in Indonesia.

According to the Jakarta Post, the co-founder also tried to enter various other industries such as coal mining and consultancy. In 2017, though, he realised that coffee was an “underpenetrated market”, leading to the founding of Kopi Kenangan.

Edward also told Tatler Asia that Kopi Kenangan was created to address the gap between instant and “third home” coffee brands. He said that affordable quality coffee was non-existent in Indonesia at the time.

5. Its coffee is made with high-quality local beans

Coffee lovers will know that Indonesia is one of the top coffee-producing coffees in the world. As such, it’s probably no surprise that Kopi Kenangan uses Indonesian coffee beans.

Image Credit: Kopi Kenangan

Indonesian coffee beans are known to have a full-bodied, bold, and rich flavour profile. If that sounds like your cup of tea (or coffee, really), Kopi Kenangan’s beverages might be up your alley.  

6. The company sends “mystery shoppers” for quality control

In an interview with Tatler Asia, Tirtanata revealed that Kopi Kenangan sends out mystery shoppers to control quality in every store.

As the name suggests, mystery shopping is a way to measure qualities such as sales and service, job performance, and regulatory compliance in a workplace. This process involves hiring an undercover person to pose as a customer.

We managed to find a mystery shopper of Kopi Kenangan on LinkedIn who described the job responsibilities to include testing the service standards and the taste of the products.

They also “make decisions for staff or baristas” who don’t comply with the protocols such as the dress code and standard introduction.

7. It was named as one of the winners of a global branding award

The World Branding Awards is an international award organised by the London-based World Branding Forum.

In both the 2020-2021 as well as the 2021-2022 edition of the award programme, Kopi Kenangan won in the Retailer – Coffee category.

8. Other than coffee, the team has brands for bread, snacks, and cookies

Scrolling through the news tab on Kopi Kenangan’s website, you’ll spot recurring names such as Cerita Roti, Chigo, and Kenangan Manis.

These are actually sister brands offered by Kenangan Brands.

Image Credit: Kopi Kenangan

Cerita Roti, a bread brand, offers products such as Roti Coklat Klassic, Roti Susu Manis, Roti Martabak, Roti Daging Asap Keju, and more.

Boasting 78 outlets across Jabodetabek and Medna, Chigo is a fried chicken snack brand that means “chicken on the go”.

It offers products such as boneless chicken, fries, and wings, with flavours including Mie Goreng Mantap, Louisiana Cajun, Garlic Parmigiano, and more.  

A soft-cookie brand, Kenangan Manis was launched in October 2021 with sea salt soft-baked cookies. It has since expanded to include flavours such as Mr. Hazelnuts, Red Velvet Madness, Berry Funfetti, and more.

9. It’s not a franchise

If you’re an entrepreneur who’s interested in any business opportunities with Kopi Kenangan in terms of franchising, you might be somewhat disappointed to learn that it’s not a franchise.

Image Credit: Kopi Kenangan

In a 2020 interview with Channel News Asia, Tirtanata supposedly “stressed” that his coffee chain is not a franchise. Each outlet is owned by him and his partners.

One reason why brands don’t franchise is quality control. Considering the fact that Kopi Kenangan goes so far as to hire mystery shoppers, perhaps this might be the key reason for them too.

What to expect

Through the LinkedIn posts and previous announcements, Kopi Kenangan has essentially already revealed that its launch in Malaysia is imminent.

Its popularity in Indonesia cannot be ignored, but it might remain to be seen whether it’ll get the same love here. After all, Malaysia already has its fair share of well-loved local coffee chains such as Bask Bear Coffee, ZUS Coffee, and Gigi Coffee.

Paired with the presence of global names like The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf as well as Starbucks, we’re curious to see how Kopi Kenangan will establish itself within the Malaysian coffee culture.

  • Learn more about Kopi Kenangan here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about F&B startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Kopi Kenangan




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