Choi Seung Yoon is a figure of success in the Korean café and beverage industry. Within a short span of three years he has made his company one of the fastest growing in Korea. It has already got some international attention with a franchasie café opened in both Japan and Taiwan. Choi Seung Yoon talked to Dr. Lakhvinder Singh in his office in downtown Seoul about his future plans to expand to global stage.
Can you tell me about the history of Ogada and your own background in the Korean beverage industry?
One day, while walking the streets of Seoul, I could not fail to notice that the street was full of coffee franchise stores, but nowhere were any Korean tea stores to be seen. I thought ‘why not open a teahouse selling Korean tea? It will be a great success’. That’s when I started doing research about our tea. 2 to 3 years later, I decided to open a takeout store near City Hall, and that’s how Ogada started.
Why was the name “Ogada” chosen for the company? What kind of brand image does your company portray?
The name Ogada is an abbreviation of the meaning ‘Five Beautiful Korean Tra¬ditional Hanbang Teas’, ‘Hanbang’ mean¬ing Korean traditional medicine which helps cure one’s body and spirit. Ogada also means ‘to come and go’ in Korean, which shows our identity as a takeout teahouse which serves beautiful Korean teas excellent in both smell and taste, and nutrition to our customers. Our logo is a figure of a drop of Korean traditional ink spreading in an indefinite from, which signifies the unlimited potential Ogada.has in expanding its brand throughout the world.
How has your company modernized the concept of Korean beverage without compromising authenticity?
The biggest reason why people these days consider traditional Korean tea as un¬familiar and distant is mainly because of its bitter taste and old image. While using similar ingredients used in traditional tea, we tried to create less bitter, and more easily approachable drinks using various fruits and berries that are more familiar to people. We also came up with menus such as persimmon ice flakes and citron slushes which use traditional ingredients but which are fresh and new as well.
What is the organization of Ogada? What are the different divisions of your company?
The head office and manufacturing factory is located in Yangpyeong-dong of Seoul. We consist of five divisions, includ¬ing logistics, marketing, sales, administra¬tion and operation division. Every employee’s voice and opinion is appreciated. We value everyone’s char¬acteristics and ability. By respecting and learning from each other, we develop our¬selves and advance forward..
How many franchises does your company have in Korea?
We currently have 60 stores through¬out the Korean peninsula under either direct management or franchise agree¬ment. We also have a store in Tokyo Ja¬pan, which opened in July under license agreement.
What sets your company apart from the other Korean beverage franchises within Korea?
Most franchise stores focus on sell¬ing drinks such as coffee and smoothies, which are mostly of foreign origin. On the other hand, Ogada can be distin¬guished from these franchise stores in that we make an effort to promote Ko¬rean culture around the world through our beverages and that we take deep concern about the well-being and happi¬ness of our customers by using carefully selected, high-quality ingredients in our beverages. We make our best effort to use domes¬tic ingredients grown under strict super¬vision and management in order for our customers to feel safe and have trust in our beverages. Juice and slush are made without any additive which satisfies both consumers’ concern in health and taste. Our teas are brewed for 24hours using traditional methods. All teas are made under super¬vision of oriental medicine doctors. By reinterpreting and standardizing Korean traditional tea, we managed to attract not only domestic, but also for-eign customers as well. This March, we captivated the participants from up to 50 different countries during Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, and have participated in various global exhibitions and events as a brand representing Korean food & beverage industry. Our first foreign franchise store was launched in Japan this July, and Ogada plans to open a branch in the Korean Pavilion of In-cheon International Airport.
We also think of the environment by recycling the leftovers of tea ingredients to use them as fer¬tilizers Ogada is not just about providing excellent qual¬ity Korean traditional tea to customers rich in fla¬vor and taste. It is more about taking deep concern our customers’ well-being & happiness, and be¬coming the foundation stone in the globalization of Korean culture.
How has the Korean beverage industry changed since the founding of your company, and how has your company adapted to these changes?
The saturation of the coffee industry is one of the greatest factors that contributed to Ogada’s success. Currently, there is little room for growth for the coffee franchise stores in Korea, and they themselves have been changing their beverages from coffee-based drinks to hand-drip drinks and beverages using fruits and berries. We be¬lieve that the well-being needs will continuously grow among consumers, where Ogada has a great strength by brewing tea using high quality ingredi¬ents without any additives. Ogada wishes to pres¬ent a new relaxing lifestyle full of pleasure to our consumers.
Where do you see the Korean beverage industry heading in the next few decades? How will globalization factor into the Korean beverage industry?
Coffee has been leading the Korean beverage industry for nearly 15 years since the intro¬duction of Starbucks to the Korean penin¬sula. There’s little doubt that coffee is still the most sold beverage in Korea. However, we have certainty that the trend will change in the years to come, and Ogada will be in the forefront of the beverage renaissance. We want to be ready and prepared for the upcoming changes. Also, we believe that globalization will further bring Ogada op¬portunities to expand, as proven in the case of our licensed store in Tokyo. As more con¬sumers around the world become health conscious and aware of Korean culture, we will be able to reach more consumers around the world.
What kind of plans have been put in place for Ogada to enter into these markets? Although Korean traditional tea is some¬what familiar to the elderly and those in their 50s, younger generations tend to find tea unfamiliar and distant. We had to come up with a modernized version of Korean tra¬ditional tea that is not only good for health, but also tasty and delicious for the rising generation. Therefore, we teamed up with orien¬tal medicine doctors and various experts and devised menus that we currently have which many generations from young to old enjoy.
In addition, unlike coffee which is made within each franchise store, we decided to brew and manufacture most of the teas and concentration in our manufacturing facil¬ity located near our head office. It is mainly due to the complexity of brewing Korean traditional tea, which sometimes requires as long as 24 hours to make a single cup of tea. By doing so, we were able to maintain the high quality of our drinks in all of our franchise stores. When brewing our tea, we made it a rule to only use unprocessed ingredients grown within Korea, in order to not only think about our customers’ well-being, but also help domestic famers suffering from for¬eign imports on agricultural products.
What are some other short-term and long-term goals for your company?
In the short-term, we have plans to in¬crease the number of franchise stores from the current 60 stores to 100 in 2012. Based on the Hallyu (Korean cultural flow) boom, we are also expecting op¬portunities to expand in South-eastern asia. In the long-term, we want to ex¬pand to China and England, which are both countries famous for tea. We wish to be-come a global brand, and hope consumers recall Ogada when they think about tea, as peo¬ple do nowadays with Star-bucks when they think about coffee. To reach these goals, we will devote ourselves to our mission statement ‘To show utmost con tribution and effort for our customers’ happiness’, rather than focusing on ex¬pansion in terms of quantity. To truly contribute to our customers’ well-being and happiness, we plan to take step by step in expanding our busi-ness activities, and start from the inside by providing a joyful and comforting working environment for our employees based on Ogada’s philosophy.
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