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Riding on amusement

From mega amusement parks to smaller theme parks and indoor amusement centres, the industry is wooing consumers outside and inside city limits.

business Updated: Aug 12, 2012 21:22 IST
Pooja Biraia

Bollywood filmmaker Manmohan Shetty has spent Rs 15,000 crore on a Disneyland-esque amusement park spread over 300 acres in Panvel, on Mumbai’s outskirts. The park will open later this year. “India has a lot of money and is ready to pay for high ticket prices,” Shetty said.

“The amusement park industry in India is growing at 15-18%, based on footfalls,” said Yogesh Dange, first VP, IAAPI (Indian Association of Amusement Parks and Industries). “While this industry got into the organised sector in the late 80s with Appu Ghar in Delhi and the first water park in Gujarat in 1994, today there are 153 amusement parks, 25 of which have come up in the last five years.”

Arun Chittilappilly, MD, Wonderla Holidays and the key architect of Wonderla amusement parks in Bangalore and Kochi, said, “Each of our parks has more than Rs 100 crore of investment. Both attract 22 lakh visitors a year, which meant a revenue of Rs 115 crore in 2011-12, a 25% growth over the previous year.” EsselWorld and Water Kingdom in Mumbai, spread across 65 acres, saw 14 lakh footfalls in 2011-12, making the Rs 7-10 crore annual investment worthwhile, said Shirish Deshpande, CEO, Pan India Paryatan Pvt Ltd (PIPPL), which runs the properties.

At 25 years old, the amusement parks industry in India is nascent (it’s a 60-year-old industry in the West). And yet, it is evolving and diversifying very rapidly. While Shetty and others have focused on the mega format, India has more recently seen the launch of smaller theme parks, indoor amusement centres and play zones. “The Indian amusement park industry’s annual growth rate of 15-20% is ahead of the world’s 10-12%,” Deshpande said.

Smita Jha, director, Pricewaterhouse Coopers India, feels that large parks aren’t feasible in India, given our cultural tendencies. “As Indians, we do not go to amusement parks as a family as much as we go to the movies, as we do not have a gaming culture. So people are now going to malls, much more than to theme parks. Companies are therefore developing activity centers around malls and theatres,” she said. This model is prevalent in Dubai.

Mega amusement parks also cater more to adults than children and being on the outskirts of cities mostly, need a day to be put aside. Their appeal can therefore vary.

Arpan Ahluwalia, 26, and his friends visit Water Kingdom at least once every three months. "The fact that you can spend an entire day there and not be bored, is what makes Water Kingdom a high priority for hanging out once in a while,” he said. And yet when Deepali and Tejas Lakkad visited the adjoining EsselWorld with their six-year-old son, they were disappointed. "We were dismayed that despite there being hardly any rides for under-10-year-old kids, we had to pay Rs 600 for our son. He couldn't accompany us on our rides, and we couldn't leave him alone by himself," Deepali complained The Lakkads would possibly find mall-attached amusement centres or small theme parks within the city limits more appropriate.

Another perspective is that the amusement centre is a way for the malls to attract footfalls. “The number of parks attached to malls has almost doubled in the recent years,” said Santokh Chawla, president IAAPI.

PIPPL launched EsselWorld Freeze, a 5,600 sq. ft. theme park with an investment of Rs 4 crore, centered around ‘snow’ inside Inorbit Mall, Pune. “Through Freeze, we are now entering into the mall format. By December 2015 we plan to put up 15-20 such indoor play zones in other cities,” said Deshpande.

Another example is the 62 acre amusement park Adventure Island and shopping mall Metro Walk, near Rohini in New Delhi. “These days, almost every mall has an amusement center. We spent Rs 300 crore on ours,” said Mohit Sawhney, head – operations, Metro Walk & Adventure Island.

“The amusement park is now getting into the ‘integrated development’ mode and real estate companies are investing in it. The Unitech Group has a 50:50 joint venture with International Amusement (promoters of Appu Ghar) to develop the Rohini Adventure Island and Metro Walk,” said Shobhit Agrawal, MD, Protiviti, a global consulting firm.

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