Xiaoban Café Organic Soya Desserts
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Vietnam: Soya bean cafe rides on growing consumer boom

A name familiar to Singaporeans - Xiao Ban Soya Snack Cafe.

Just a few months after opening the outlet last year, it has now 3 outlets in the city of Vietnam, one of which is run by a franchisee, with plans to open another 3 more in Ho Chi Minh City and 2 in Hanoi this year. Xiao Ban has also expanded its outlets to Taiwan and Cambodia.

Funny story, a leafy tree grows outside the bright orange storefront of Xiao Ban outlet in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, which partially obscures the signage and the shop next door. Weeks after the opening, Mr Picasso Hong, Group Chief Business Officer for Asia-Pacific, was surprised when a worker turned up to trim the tree. "He said we have to pay for the tree pruning. If we want to trim more, we have to pay more," says the Singaporean entrepreneur. The worker said he would be back the next month, but returned within a week to trim the tree and requested for more payment. Curiously, the shop next door, which is owned by a local, does not have to pay, says Mr Hong.

Navigating the complex business and regulatory landscape in Vietnam is one of the many challenges the company has faced since entering the market in 2015, says Mr Max Yeow, it's Asia- Pacific Group Chief Operating Officer. "You really have to familiarize yourself with the business environment before you go, and learn from what locals do," he tells The Sunday Times.

Xiao Ban is run by 4 friends - Mr Picasso Hong, Mr Max Yeow, Ms Esther Yan, Chief Retail Officer and Mr Ken Li, Founder and Chief Production Officer. Mr Li's father started the famous Lao Ban Soya Beancurd. Besides the regular soya beancurd, its also sells waffles, gelato and soya lattes - the last is special product catering only to Vietnam's coffee culture.

Article as featured on The Straits Times published on APR 2, 2017, 5:00AM SGT

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