Global Franchise Architects (GFA), with the vision to have a single operating system for multiple brands in multiple cities has more than seven brands in its portfolio with 200 stores in 10 countries today. In an interview, Joseph Cherian, CEO, GFA Global Services talks about the journey so far.
Ramanjit Kaur (RK): Share with us the origin and growth of GFA and its various brands.
Joseph Cherian (JC): Fred Mouawad, the founder of GFA, was always intrigued by the power and growth of retail brands that are recognised, visible, and accessible to a broad customer base. In 1996, he contemplated the possibility of opening a pizza restaurant in Chennai, India. At that time he felt it was difficult to take up a franchise of an established international chain without being a large corporation and having direct experience in the restaurant business. Therefore he launched his own brand ‘Pizza Corner’ in 1996. In 1997, Fred saw a similar opportunity in Thailand in the Coffee category and set out to found Coffee World in Bangkok, Thailand. A few years later, in 2004, Fred bought out the shares held by his equity partners and formed Global Franchise Architects (GFA).
Fred's vision behind GFA was to build one company with one operating system to manage multiple brands in multiple countries.
RK: What inspired GFA to take the franchise route?
JC: Franchising helps to scale up business and makes it easier to enter markets which require strong local knowledge. It also helps the franchisor to leverage the investments in infrastructure, training and other support related functions.
RK: What are the best practices and initiatives introduced at GFA in terms of value and quality products?
JC: At GFA we are consistent in our efforts to provide something new for our customers through our limited time offer every 60 days across all GFA brands. We have introduced the Rs. 69 Pizza Category for our Pizza Corner brand, Super Premium Ice Cream starting at Rs 50 for our Cream & Fudge Factory etc. This clearly demonstrates our initiative in offering superior quality products at a great value.
RK: What is the eligibility criterion for selecting the franchisees of your company?
JC: We at GFA look for highly motivated organisations or entrepreneurs with a sincere commitment to building a retail brand in their territory. More specifically, we believe that to succeed in the franchise business one needs to have the 3 Cs: Capital, Commitment, and Competence.
RK: What percentage of GFA’s presence is franchised and in which all cities?
JC: 35 per cent of our stores are franchised and spread across Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kerala. For the eastern region, we have an area franchisee for all GFA brands.
RK: What support do you provide to your franchisees?
JC: We provide support in the market study to analyse and assess the potential for each brand in each specific market; store design, store construction, recruitment of the staff, research, development and marketing. We also provide training at the GFA Academy. We also have our Global Academy based out of Bangkok. We provide course materials that assist in conducting local training classes with practicals on the job training. The courses are designed to provide one with the key skills required to run the stores with a focus on quality and an understanding of what it requires to continuously improve the overall customer experience.
RK: Have you faced any challenges during the initial phase of business establishment? If yes, what were they? How one can overcome those challenges?
JC: Finding the right location is always a challenge. We need to find a location that will ensure right footfalls and visibility. Over a period of time GFA has gained enough expertise in this area, which comes as an advantage to the franchisee. Another area we see is a constant challenge is finding the right people and retaining them. We at GFA believe that people are our most important assets.
RK: What are the company’s future plans in terms of expansion through franchising?
JC: We would continue to grow with single unit franchising in south. East is already area franchised and we are looking forward to finding the right area franchise partners for north and west.