Coffee moghul Phillip Di Bella planning to open 50 new stores in India
In a chat, Di Bella tells us about his plans for India, why coffee moves him and everything in between.
From humble beginnings as the son of migrant workers to a multimillionaire, 39-year-old Phillip Di Bella’s love for business and entrepreneurship has taken him on quite a journey. In 2002, his passion for coffee led him to start up a small coffee-roasting operation in the suburbs of Brisbane. Cut to 2014 and the speed of his company’s growth has earned him a place on BRW’s Young Rich list for four years running. In a chat, Di Bella tells us about his plans for India, why coffee moves him and everything in between.
Introduction to coffee
I am a son of migrants and my parents love coffee. When relatives visited, the first thing my parents did was make some coffee, so I grew up seeing how coffee was a shared culture. At 14, I worked in my brother’s pizza cafe where I got to use a real coffee machine. At 17, I started university and began working for a café. This is where I truly fell in love. In 2002, the entrepreneur in me took over and I started Di Bella Coffee. I wanted to be in control of my own destiny.
On the tie-up with AL Global
Our company ethos is “it’s all about people”. We wanted to ensure that we worked with people who are passionate and could build a brand quickly. Moreover, Global is headed by Rahul Leekha, who has tremendous experience in the F&B Industry and has been instrumental in launching our brand in India.
On failing the first time in India
Unfortunately, it is a misconception that Di Bella didn’t do well in 2012 when it came for the first time. We were breaking even despite rolling out 14 cafes in 14 months and we were able to create a niche market retaining 80 per cent of our foot falls. We had a change in ownership, but retained all our flagship cafes in Versova, Shivaji Park and so on.
What’s in store?
We are excited by the potential of India. Visiting cafes has become a very popular thing here so we see Di Bella having over 30+ operational cafes by end of 2015 and continue to grow each year. However, we are going to be careful to not expand beyond our capacity and instead ensure that we always deliver.
The ultimate experience
It’s when you combine the world’s best coffee — made with passion by a well-trained barista — that you enjoy in a lovely ambience with good people. Then you have magic. I love all coffee, but my favourite is espresso — short, strong, sweet and fragrant.
What a knight!
At the age of 35, I was bestowed the Order of Merit by the Italian prime minister for my contribution to the Italian community and promotion of Italian culture as a son of migrants. I was the youngest recipient of this award — something that made my parents very, very proud.