20 Questions with Sahil Arora, Managing Director of Flash Coffee

Josiah Neo The Local Spotlight

Name: Sahil Arora
Role: Managing Director, Flash Coffee Singapore
Age: 31

Unless you live under a rock, you would’ve noticed how coffee cups are slowly going from white and green to yellow and pink. Enter Flash Coffee, a coffee chain that’s been dominating the Southeast Asian region in the past couple of months. Using tech to make coffee pickups more efficient and the influence from influencers to get the word out, it’s no surprise that the startup has already opened 29 outlets in Singapore with more to come.

Managing Director of Flash Coffee Singapore Sahil Arora clued us in on some secrets to their success over a virtual coffee break.

1. What are some of your hobbies?

Most of my hobbies centre around being active. If it involves a ball and running, count me in! Basketball, tennis and golf are my main sports.

2. What is your favourite quote?

There’s nothing truly to be afraid of when you think about it, because I’ve failed before, and I woke up the next morning, and I’m OK.” – Kobe Bryant

3. What is your favourite movie or Netflix show and why?

Recency bias – Stranger Things Season 4 was too good not to shout out! It offered such a great mix of darkness and humour. 

4. Who are some of your peers in the industry that inspires you? 

I’m inspired on the daily by what my fellow Managing Directors at Flash Coffee are accomplishing in their respective markets. The all-star Flash leaders include Maxime Chaury (Indonesia), Jon Tsao (Hong Kong), Pan Leenutaphong (Thailand), Un Koh (South Korea) and Tony Li-Tao Chang (Taiwan). Though Jon’s been inspiring me since all the way back in our Deliveroo days together!

All of them come with unique experiences and backgrounds and it’s a privilege to get to work with them as thought partners, learn from how they tackle adversity and solve problems, and occasionally steal some of their really cool brand-building initiatives for the Singapore market! (: 

5. Do you have a daily routine before and after work?

I don’t have any out-of-the-ordinary routines or rituals – just your usual stuff. Although drinking a lot of water both in the morning and night is a new one I’ve recently incorporated – and recommend! 

6. Three words that people use to describe you:

Supportive, spontaneous, and respectful

7. Three words you’d use to describe yourself:

Empathetic, self-aware, and reflective

8. What is your go-to order at Flash Coffee?

A hot oat-milk Cappuccino. Rarely a morning goes by without me having one.

flash coffee oat milk
Image credit: Flash Coffee

9. What do you do as Managing Director of Flash Coffee Singapore?

At the risk of sounding vague, I do a little of everything!

sahil arora
Sahil Arora.
Image credit: Flash Coffee

I am responsible for the overall success and growth of Flash Coffee in Singapore. From determining coffee taste and flavour to overseeing our in-store operations, real estate, and everything in between, you can bet I’m involved! But perhaps my biggest responsibility is fostering a collaborative, team-centric environment that brings all our different teams, functions, and personalities together to achieve our common goals. And I love that because I get to work with so many unique people. 

10. Why do you think Flash Coffee has risen to such heights in such a short period of time?

I believe it’s a combination of having a strong vision, a flexible business model, and the hiring of really strong, capable, and driven people across all departments. Whether it’s real estate, operations, supply chain, or the many other teams in the business – who collaborate together effectively every day.  

11. What is Flash Coffee’s approach to capturing such a sizeable share of the market?

One of our core propositions is to provide high-quality and high-grade, 100% Arabica coffee to the everyday Singaporean, at an affordable price. This positions us in-between hyper-expensive speciality coffee shops and local Robusta Kopi coffee.

We believe there are a lot of folks out there who want to enjoy premium coffee for their daily caffeine fix without breaking the bank – I’m definitely one of them! 

12. How is it like working with key opinion leaders to get the word out about Flash Coffee?

It’s been a great experience working with influencers to help build visibility and hype for Flash Coffee in Singapore. They are all hyper-creative people with their own unique styles and voices, and when they advocate for us and what we have to offer, they really help bring our vision and mission to life.

flash coffee influencers
Image credit: Flash Coffee

Influencers are looked to by a lot of different people as creative leaders and trendsetters and we believe that if they’re friends and genuine fans of our brand, they can be some of our most valuable partners. 

One recent example involved showcasing our newly launched “Singapore Series” drinks at an exclusive influencer event, where they were invited to our Flagship store at orchardgateway and given a first-hand tasting by our Head of R&D, Scong. We got some awesome social coverage and online buzz, and some of these drinks subsequently turned into some of our best-sellers!

I’m really proud of the work we’ve done with them so far, and look forward to seeing how else we can collaborate with them moving forward. 

13. What was the initial vision you had for Flash Coffee?

Our initial vision for Flash Coffee has never wavered. It has always been to become Asia’s fastest growing tech-enabled coffee chain, serving high-quality speciality coffee at affordable prices. We continue to work towards this every day and are excited about what the future holds for us.

14. Tell us more about the office culture at Flash Coffee.

It might sound a little cliche, but we really embody that start-up vibe of ‘work hard, play hard’. We’re a group of really smart people who are scrappy, go-getters working hard every day to bring our Flash Coffee vision to life. And when the day ends, you wouldn’t be surprised to see big groups of us downstairs at our usual bar having post-work drinks or celebrating the end of the week at an Arcade, a games room, playing laser tag – you name it.

sahil arora and the team at flash coffee
The Flash Coffee team.
Image credit: Flash Coffee

We’re a culture that emphasises results and performance, but at the same time we have fun with each other and we genuinely care about the people who make it all happen.

15. What was the most memorable moment of your career?

It’s tough to narrow it down to one single moment, but it might have to be the day I officially decided to turn down law school to stay in the start-up/tech world at Deliveroo. The rest, as they say, is history! 

sahil arora
Image credit: Flash Coffee

16. What do you think about all the naysayers of Flash Coffee?

Any new kid on the block, who is trying to build something new, make some noise, and disrupt a conventional industry, is going to face some resistance. But I do think that as a company of only two years, we’re still in our infancy and have a lot to learn from everyone – even our naysayers. 

And so we really do want to hear all external feedback whenever we can, learn from them, and incorporate them into our future plans, because that’s really the best way for us to build a brand Singaporeans truly love.

17. What top three qualities do you look for when hiring? Any interview tips? 

I really believe that a positive and eager-to-learn mindset, coupled with a strong work ethic, are the foundations for anyone to be successful. After all, you can learn the hard skills and industry expertise over time, but your attitude determines your ability to learn and grow, how you react to adversity and how you overcome those challenges.

18. What do you think is the best way to retain employees? 

Quite straightforwardly, the key way to retain employees is paying them in accordance with the value they bring, and making sure they feel fulfilled with opportunities to grow personally and professionally. And of course, having a collaborative, people-first, team-centric work culture always helps as well! 

sahil arora and the flash coffee team
The Flash Coffee team.
Image credit: Flash Coffee

19. What advice do you have for students starting a career in a startup?

Soak it all in! It’s such an amazing experience to work in a start-up at such a young age. You’ll have exposure to different people, departments, and work functions that you may not get in traditional corporate roles. Also, work hard because the sky’s the limit for what you can achieve in a start-up if you apply yourself and earn your stripes.

20. What do you hope to achieve at Flash Coffee in the next year?

One thing we’re definitely keeping an eye on is continuing to grow our presence in Singapore. We already have more than 30 stores here, but are excited to bring our speciality coffee and affordable prices to more consumers across the island. 

We always want to continue leading with tech and innovation. Flash Coffee is a tech company at its core, so we want to build a tech-driven powerhouse that will equip us to become a leading F&B player in Asia that delivers the best-in-class customer experiences.

We’ve also had a number of brand partnerships since our inception – including Bumble, SaladStop!, foodpanda and OATSIDE, and have more collaborations in the pipeline, so watch this space! 

Related links:
Flash Coffee’s website
Sahil Arora’s LinkedIn

This post is part of The Local Spotlight series. If you’d like to be featured, or have a nominee in mind, please drop us a note at [email protected].


Cover image adapted from: Flash Coffee

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