The task of putting together the top 10 Malaysian franchises threw up some interesting statistics – 7 are involved in the food business, 2 are involved in education and 1 is in optical care.
An interesting observation was the difficulty in coming up with quality franchises. The local franchise scene is still fairly new with only about 450 franchises registered with the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry. But what is more telling is that less than half are active. Further, branding is still in its infancy in Malaysia and needs to be developed further especially while venturing overseas where customers do not know the brand. While Malaysian companies produces a lot of high quality products they are not very good at coming up with catchy brand names for their products or making their brand names known. Of course things are starting to change and we hope to see more such brands blossoming and propagating overseas.
A simple act of registering a trademark is all it takes to get on the road to developing a successful brand and later a successful franchise yet companies are hesitant to take this first step. The registration of a trademark happens only when the decision to expand overseas is made. Most franchisors don’t pro actively register their brand at the early stage.
Several criteria were used to determine which franchise would be included in the Top 10 list:
1. Malaysian origin – the franchise must have originated in Malaysia. There are some franchises that are Malaysian owned but did not originate in Malaysia such as Kenny Rogers Roasters, whose parent US-based Nanthan’s Famous Inc was acquired by Malaysian listed company Berjaya in April 2008.
2. Quality – the quality of the products produced by these franchises and the customer experience must be consistent.
3. Reputation – the reputation of the franchise is not diluted even after it has grown to a certain size.
4. Leadership – the franchises have stayed the course and not wavered in their commitment to the business or their customers.
5. Overseas Expansion – the presence of these franchises abroad has shown that their business models work not only in Malaysia alone but are good enough to be transplanted elsewhere.
Here are the franchises that made into the list and some of their unique selling points which put them ahead of their competitors:
The Chicken Rice Shop
As the name suggest, this outlet serves traditionally prepared-steamed, roast, honey, barbequed or braised chicken served with rice as well as other Malaysian dishes. It currently has 24 outlets with overseas expansion into Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. It has banked on its simple to remember brand name and transplanting the concept of simple hawker fare served in a clean environment to appeal to its urban clientele. Their main customer base are Muslims who up to now had difficulty getting halal chicken rice.
Was incorporated in 1997 and within a short span of time has become a recognisable name synonymous with ready to eat sweet and savoury snacks especially sweet corn sold in a cup. Daily Fresh has more than 350 kiosks in Malaysia, and another 1,600 kiosks overseas. Its strategy of spreading its brand new recognition has been the cornerstone of its success.
Nelson’s is also known for its corn in a cup flagship product and was franchised in 1995 after gaining acceptance and popularity among Malaysians. Presently, there are over 800 Nelson outlets operating worldwide. By using its own hybrid seed Nelson’s 28 processed by its own plants using innovative technology, it is able to ensure the supply and quality of key raw ingredients.
Old Town White Coffee
Old Town White Coffee has changed the local coffee shop landscape forever. Its distinctive yellow on brown colours used in all its outlets has been such a hit that it has spawned a number of similar looking chains all wanting a piece of the action. Old Town White coffee has now gone one step further by going public to finance its expansion efforts.
Q Dees has now grown to more than 100 pre-school education centres that use proprietary teaching-learning methods. Q Dees’ strong point is its innovative patented teaching techniques which puts it ahead of other education centres. It also continues to develop new techniques in education.
This café chain specialising in cakes, pastries and fusion food made its debut in 1997 and has established its brand name in Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, China and even Australia, among other countries. Its recipe for success is its focus on its core product which is its high quality cakes and the clever use of its brand name.
Provides an educational platform for kids and adults via 3 educational concepts: Smart Reader Kids, Smart Reader Kids Junior & Smart Reader English Language for Adults & Youth. Smart Reader started franchising its business in 1999 and today there are more than 260 franchised outlets spread across the country and 150 more abroad. What separates Smart Reader from other educational providers is its focus on an educational platform rather than on a kindergarten or learning centre combined with management and teacher training, legal advice and a carefully mapped-out systematic programme.
Focus Point has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years and currently has close to 200 eye care centres of which 85 are franchised. Its overseas debut was marked by an outlet in Brunei and will be followed by outlets in Singapore and Indonesia. It is listed on the ACE market in 2010 to finance its expansion plans. It has successfully used different brands such as Optical City, Opulence, Eyefont, ExcelView, Solriz and Wassup to differentiate its concept stores.
Established in1981, Marrybrown is a fast food restaurant which specialises in fried chickens and fries. What is exceptional about this franchise is that it took on Kentucky Fried Chicken head on and established a following in smaller towns in Malaysia before becoming big overseas. It tries to differentiate itself in the eating experience, for example its outlet in Kota Kinabalu uses swings as chairs which appeals to younger group of customers.
The Manhattan Fish Market
This restaurant chain specialising in seafood cuisine was first launched in 2002 at Mid Valley. With its catchy sounding foreign name based on the fish market in Manhattan and related paraphernalia at its outlets has proved to be a winning combination in attracting customers to its tables. It has since moved its base to Singapore but its origin is still Malaysian.