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V3 Gourmet President And CEO Taha Bouqdib On His Journey Reviving The Now 114-Year-Old Bacha Coffee Brand "I know that Bacha Coffee is a concept that can catch on very quickly; however, I am also equally obsessed with choosing prime retail locations for the brand, to ensure that from the start, Bacha Coffee is a destination, not just another coffee brand on the street."

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

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V3 Gourmet
Taha Bouqdib, President and CEO of global luxury gourmet lifestyle group V3 Gourmet

In January 2024, when Bacha Coffee, a Moroccan luxury coffee brand that originally came into being in 1910, opened a new location at The Dubai Mall in the UAE, it also became a gateway for customers to viscerally take a journey through the walls of a grand palace in Marrakech, the Dar el Bacha- which, as it so happens, is where the brand's story began. As enchanted as I was when researching the history of the Dar el Bacha, I think it's best I leave it to be described by someone who has actually experienced it first-hand, and that would be Taha Bouqdib, the President and CEO of global luxury gourmet lifestyle group V3 Gourmet, whose enterprise has today converted Bacha Coffee into a global brand.

"In 2017, I was invited to Morocco for a ceremony attended by His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco to mark the launch of the Dar el Bacha Museum of Confluences, which was previously the palace of the Pasha [governor] of Marrakech," Bouqdib recalls. "The Dar el Bacha (which translates to "House of the Pasha") was originally constructed in 1910 as a residence and a gathering place for guests, celebrities, and noteworthy personalities of the time, situated just adjacent to the workplace of the regional government of the day. After the Second World War, the Dar el Bacha complex had been closed for 60 years, but during the tour, I was invited to reopen the café, which had yet to be renovated, and was still closed to the public. From that moment, I was smitten, and I immediately took the initiative to revive the brand, starting with renovating the entire building in accordance with the very strict guidelines, as it is a protected heritage site."

The Bacha Coffee headquarters at the Dar el Bacha in Marrakech. Source: Bacha Coffee

Thus began Bouqdib's journey in reviving a brand that carried over a century's worth of history, and it led to Bacha Coffee opening its doors to the public once again. "When we eventually reopened the original Bacha Coffee in 2019 in Marrakech, I saw that customers flocked there from all around the world, not just once, but they came back every day, even if they were only staying in Marrakech for a short time," Bouqdib says. "It was at this point that I thought this is interesting, and that this concept would attract a variety of different nationalities and cultures. 'Let's open in Asia,' I thought. And since I already had investments in Singapore, I decided to open the second location at the ION Orchard, a premier shopping mall there."

But that was only the beginning of the brand's growth- since then, Bacha Coffee has been transformed into a global concept with offerings including coffee rooms, coffee boutiques, coffee bars, travel retail and takeaway counters, as well as an international wholesale distribution network. Today, the brand serves over 200 varieties of 100% Arabica coffees from 35 different regions, as well as accessories and coffee tableware. Additionally, in the last six months alone it has seen the opening of new locations in Hong Kong, Taipei, Kuwait City, Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and of course, Dubai. And this series of expansions, Bouqdib says, has been a very calculated one.

The Bacha Coffee Breakfast Set. Source: Bacha Coffee

"I know that Bacha Coffee is a concept that can catch on very quickly; however, I am also equally obsessed with choosing prime retail locations for the brand, to ensure that from the start, Bacha Coffee is a destination, not just another coffee brand on the street," Bouqdib explains. "We will open select locations in every fashion capital around the world over the next three years, starting with Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Simultaneously, we are bringing the brand to the rest of the world through our e-commerce platform and very select, premium online marketplaces. Today, we fulfill orders to over 40 countries, including the United States, France, Japan, and the UAE, in their local languages and currencies. In 2024, Bacha Coffee will grow its footprint to 50 locations globally, with multiple new boutiques, coffee rooms and flagship concepts slated to launch in key markets around the world. We have plans to open in South Korea and Indonesia next, as well as expand in Europe towards the end of the year."

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The first step in achieving the 2024 targets has thus been the newly-opened Bacha Coffee Room and Boutique located along the Fashion Avenue of The Dubai Mall. Designed as an alfresco concept, this particular branch has been festooned with hand-painted motifs and an ochre-hued coffee wall that is a direct homage to the Bacha Coffee legacy. "Bacha Coffee prides itself on transforming an everyday commodity to an experiential one," Bouqdib adds. "While coffee is, and will always be, the star in every cup, the Bacha Coffee Room experience goes beyond the intricate décor to reimagine the vibrancy of the original Dar el Bacha, allowing guests of today to live in what was once the epitome of luxury, enjoyed only by those who could. This can only be conveyed in the most authentic manner beyond just taste, smell, and sight, through a conjuring of emotions in the theater of opulence that is Bacha Coffee, and every detail that guests see -and don't see- plays its role in achieving that."

Taha Bouqdib, President and CEO, V3 Gourmet. Source: V3 Gourmet/Bacha Coffee

This commitment to go the distance to create a favorable ambience has been intrinsically connected to Bacha Coffee's success so far- but it is also a facet of the brand that can sometimes override any and all monetary ambitions it has, says Bouqdib. "Bacha Coffee is, first and foremost, an experiential brand- each concept we create as part of the Bacha Coffee experience work together to make that aspirational quality that then generates revenue from a business perspective," Bouqdib adds. "We aim to create a passion for the brand, rather than sales targets. While we are first and foremost a retail brand, all our concepts participate in engaging our customers, and without them, I don't believe that Bacha Coffee would be as prosperous as it currently stands. As such, we have something for everyone, and we offer the same service, quality, and small touches, such as complimentary gift wrapping and gift cards, no matter how much you spend. In so doing, we aim to cater to customers young and old, and at every level of coffee connoisseurship, to create longevity for the brand."

Now, allow me to pause the story on Bacha Coffee for a moment to allow any entrepreneurs- particularly those in the F&B space- reading this to take away some vital advice from Bouqdib. After all, besides his work at Bacha Coffee, he's also known for being the co-founder of TWG Tea, a luxury tea brand that he founded in 2007, and then led for 15 years. Having thus worked in this space for over 30 years, Bouqdib advises entrepreneurs that striking a balance between creating a memorable customer experience and focusing on the core product itself is "everything" in the luxury sector. "An exceptional product needs equally exceptional packaging, service, and ambience to make a lasting impact on the customer," he continues. "Every detail needs to be addressed. For us, we can only claim that we have quality coffee if we prepare it well, or if our staff provide genuine, personalized service. This is why creating a luxury brand is a passion, rather than a financial objective. Customers sense when a brand is authentic, when we are creating products that we genuinely love before sharing them with our customers. Once they feel this passion, sales will come naturally!"

Bacha Coffee's first UAE-based branch at the Dubai Mall. Source: Bacha Coffee

According to Bouqdib, it is this leadership mantra that has allowed Bacha Coffee to enjoy a favorable growth trajectory, but he also notes that the brand's success today is also tied to the resolve shown by his team during what was a particularly difficult time for businesses worldwide- the COVID-19 pandemic. "The brand's most significant achievement to date was our aggressive expansion during the COVID-19 lockdown," he recalls. "We were one of the only brands investing in and renovating locations during the most challenging months of the crisis. I recall signing a lease for The Arch, our largest and most exceptional location to date at Singapore's Changi International Airport Terminal 3, when the airport was literally empty, and traveling to Hong Kong to secure locations when air travel had all but stopped. We renovated so many locations, which we just locked up during that period, until the airports and the world slowly opened. But by then, we had strengthened our back-end and prepared ourselves, so that when customers started to go out again, Bacha Coffee was ready to take on the world!"

Indeed, as Bacha Coffee now looks to grow its footprint not only in the UAE but across the globe, Bouqdib iterates that creating a seamlessly similar experience across all of its locations will serve as the driving factor for the brand's journey ahead. "I have always been fascinated with brands that bridge a link between the past, present, and future, allowing me to draw on what has been, and expand on it to bring the authenticity of the past to products relevant to today's customers," Bouqdib says. "What is a mainstay across all our products is the same quality and attention to detail that put the coffee of the Pasha on the map in the first place. We bring back the five senses to the coffee experience, from our slow roasting methods, traditional coffee preparation, and elegant service. What I see as its future is taking that quality and that detail, and applying it to products and concepts that will revolutionize coffee drinking, so that Bacha Coffee can continue to mesmerize customers into the future."

Related: Mila Semeshkina Wants To Rewrite The Rules For Women In Leadership Around The World

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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