Five minutes with... Milkcow UAE general manager Siyuan Zhang - Gulf Business
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Five minutes with… Milkcow UAE general manager Siyuan Zhang

Five minutes with… Milkcow UAE general manager Siyuan Zhang

Milkcow UAE is planning five ice cream shops/kiosks in the country ahead of its JBR launch

Why have you decided to bring Milkcow to the UAE?

It was definitely the taste of the ice cream at first. Personally, I am a huge fan of ice cream and I strongly believe high quality produce is an absolute priority. Once the product is in place everything else can be managed accordingly. The United Arab Emirates has a variety of European or American café brands, but there are very few that are Asian inspired. At the same time, more and more Asian tourists are visiting this region for leisure, business and to live, which has subsequently increased the demand. The last reason is the constant creation of new products and innovation in their menus. In the UAE, there is a constant influx of new products and things can become dated quickly, however, there is never a dull moment at Milkcow. I believe it is this creativity that gives the brand its unique fun experience and vibe.

What differentiates the brand from other ice-cream chains out there?

It is a brand that can provide a fun, relaxed atmosphere to all customers while having their delicious ice creams or coffees. The brand is synonymous for its greetings, friendly interactions and beaming smiles. Unlike some other brands, the company is constantly introducing new products to the market, so we are confident that our customers will never get bored and have something exciting to try at each visit.

Having lived in the UAE for two years, I am aware of the abundance of modern cafes and confectionary outlets from Europe, but the very limited selection of Asian ones. What differentiates Milkcow from its competitors is its fresh-made, soft milky ice cream with unique toppings accompanied by a fun experience, as opposed to other ice cream brands that have their ice cream manufactured and imported from outside the UAE. Customers can choose their own toppings or choose from our pre-designed menu, and as mentioned, new products will be introduced on a regular basis so there will always be a surprise in store at Milkcow as well as our signature friendly atmosphere.

Will the brand’s approach in the Middle East be different to its home market in South Korea?

The main brand’s approach would be the same as home market in South Korea, which is sharing the happiness and providing great service, high quality products and delightful and comfortable place to hang-out for the customers. However, as each country has its own culture and actual market needs we are also going to adjust the approach accordingly. For example, we are going to introduce monthly special menu and some unique toppings that you can only find in this region.

What are your initial plans for outlets in the UAE?

I am looking for partnership opportunities with both individuals and companies that are interested in joining the franchise and opening their own shops. The sub-franchise model can be either individual café shops or kiosks in the malls. I am currently preparing guidelines for the Milkcow UAE franchise that will help the sub-franchisees to set up their shops quickly and efficiently. With my supervision, the whole setup process will be much smoother overall. Currently, we are looking at markets in the whole country, but the major focus is in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Our initial plan is to open around five shops/kiosks in these two cities within two years. Due to the new upcoming theme parks and shopping malls, this plan may be achieved faster than we expect.

Do you plan to expand to the wider region?

We would love to expand to the wider region but will of course review the feedback and comments following our UAE launch first. I don’t want to rush expanding outside country until we have set a good foundation in the UAE market. Having said that, it is definitely a desire to expand the business in the wider region.

Do you have any plans to bring other Asian brands to the region?

This is absolutely something I am looking to do. There are lots of great Asian brands that can be brought to Dubai and the Middle East. I believe these would fill a gap in the market and provide more new food and beverage choices to the people here.

Are you hiring?

We have already fixed the employees for our first store, but there will be opportunities for the future stores and a management team soon.

What is your leadership style?

Due to my background of learning and development and human resources, I like to listen to my colleagues’ suggestions and ideas and guide them to success. They are the ones who directly interact with the customer so it is important to share the vision and ideas with them. Then, they are able to deliver them to our customers. As soon as they are on the right track, I like to give them opportunities to try different things and have more responsibility. They will not only learn how to deal with different tasks under pressure, but they can also think from different perspectives.

Further to this, I believe working together and being a good role model are also important for the business. Employees always follow the behaviour of their managers. Both the manager of the shop or myself needs to do everything properly, and make sure our staff is following the correct procedures. I like to inspire the team to work towards goals. When we achieve them, then we move on to the next one. The more goals we achieve, the closer we will be to success. Overall, with passion, creativity and hardwork, I am sure my team will enjoy working with Milkcow UAE and achieve both personal and business goals in the future.

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