VIENTIANE • A leading Lao noodle franchise is enthusiastically seeking ways to open noodle restaurants in more than five Asean countries over the next 10 years, after taking its Sep Eeli brand restaurant to Phuket, Thailand.
The restaurant, well known in Vientiane for its fish-flavoured noodle soup or rice noodle soup with fish meatballs, is set to open more branches in neighbouring countries in the years to come.
The franchise's owner and founder, Ms Latsamy Vetsaphong, 48, said many potential business partners have expressed interest in buying the franchise to operate restaurants in Europe and Asean.
Sep Eeli noodle soup joints will be opening in Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam in the near future, according to Ms Latsamy.
At present, she has eight noodle shops at various shopping malls in Vientiane. "We are in the process of conducting quality checks of our products to make sure they are in line with international standards. We'd also like to become a supplier of instant noodles and ingredients in the future," she said.
The businesswoman wants to make noodles for export, but believes cooperation with neighbouring countries will be important. "We have no factory to produce quality noodles," she said.
Laos will need to focus on several issues, such as training skilled workers and engineers to create products that would be accepted in regional and global markets.
IMPROVING THE PRODUCT
We have the best natural resources among the countries of the world, for example, our wood... But the problem is that the quality of furniture is still low. If we really know how to make the best use of the quality wood, it would be more interesting for foreign markets.
MS LATSAMY VETSAPHONG
"We have the best natural resources among the countries of the world, for example, our wood... as an Egyptian furniture businessman told me recently. But the problem is that the quality of furniture is still low," she said.
"If we really know how to make the best use of the quality wood, it would be more interesting for foreign markets," she added.
Ms Latsamy has asked the authorities to promote vocational schools that will produce engineers to help drive exports from Lao businesses.
"We have few engineers with extensive knowledge," she complained, urging her government to take lessons from Singapore and Germany.
Ms Latsamy graduated in Laos in 1989 before studying economic planning in the erstwhile Soviet Union. After two years there, she returned home to work with the Ministry of Telecommunication in 1991 because of the political problems in the Soviet Union. But she quit a few years later to join the family business.
Things have yet to change in Laos, she said, because the engineers or experts learn from experience, but still do not have adequate theoretical knowledge. This is one reason that many Lao business owners use foreign engineers or experts to help them run their operations.
THE VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK