Updates from IBD Cambodia – Team Samai

FTMBA students Jenelle Harris, Bruno Vargas, Neha Kumar, Charlie Reisenberg and Marcelo Kabbach spent their Summer IBD project working with Samai Rum Distillery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodia’s First Rum Distillery

Our team of five was assigned to consult for Samai Rum Distillery, located in Phnom Penh. Founded by Daniel Pacheco and Antonio Lopez de Haro in 2014, Samai is Cambodia’s first and only distillery. Samai relies solely on products grown in Cambodia, including sugar cane molasses from the Cambodia countryside. As a growing enterprise, Samai looked to us to help strengthen their internal operations (finance, accounting, and inventory management) as well as refine their marketing and expansion plans to ensure steady sustainable growth.

A Day in the Life of the Cambodia IBD Team

Thursday, May 19, 2016

After spending the week getting caught up to speed on the inner workings of Phnom Penh’s food and beverage scene, our team was eager to get our hands dirty in a liquor masterclass, taught by Master Mixologist, Paul Mathews. For two hours we learned about the flavorful blends of various grades of gins and tricks for how best to combine them with complementing tonics and garnishes, such as cinnamon, cucumber, and lime. In attendance were many Phnom Penh restaurant owners, bartenders and other local expat movers and shakers including a mezcalier – one of only thirty in the world.

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Team Samai at the gin masterclass hosted by Samai’s primary international distributor, La Familia, at their retail store, La Casita.

Following the gin masterclass, the crew headed back to Samai to experience their first Samai Rum night. Every week the Samai Distillery opens its doors to the public so that new and devoted Samai customers can enjoy hand-crafted cocktail beverages prepared by Samai’s internal team of bartenders. The most popular cocktail on the menu is the infamous 21 Points, cheekily named by co-owner Antonio. (A while back local bartenders were challenged to create Samai cocktails to be ranked out of 20 points. This drink scored 21.) 21 Points features the Samai Dark Rum, cola, lime, bitters, and fresh sugarcane. We can attest that it is as delicious as it sounds! We spent our evening interviewing customers, bartenders, expats and locals to gain deeper insight into their perspective of Samai and the overall beverage scene in SE Asia. These insights were an invaluable contribution to our formulation of marketing and expansion strategies.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

The next morning we met with the founders to present our initial findings. Given that Samai is a growing start up, our scope had fluctuated quite a bit over the past few weeks as we learned more about their business needs. In week 1 the team presented a new inventory tracking tool, content and reformatting recommendations for their in-progress website, an updated financial model, an expansion forecasting tool and initial research into new bars that Samai should consider supplying to in the coming fiscal years. All of these tools will enable Samai to approach growing (particularly internationally) very strategically and thoughtfully, taking into consideration the relevant financial, sales and production constraints. They will also be able rely on a strong marketing framework so that their story is communicated to the world in a consistent and meaningful way. Needless to say, it was a productive first week!

After meeting with the founders for two hours and getting their feedback on our submissions and next steps, we prepared for a weekend trip to Singapore. Given that Singapore is on top of the list for Samai’s expansion, we decided as a team to travel there to visit our target bar/restaurant list in person to provide them with more pointed expansion recommendations. We focused our itinerary on the Singaporean venues featured on the infamous World’s 50 Best Bars.

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