For an industry that has been growing at a double digit rate in India, the amusement park sector is still at a nascent stage in the country. A recent FICCI-Ernst & Young report has projected healthy growth potential for the sector. The industry is expected to nearly double in size by 2020 in terms of the number of parks with an enhanced portfolio of offerings. “The industry comprising of park operators and ride manufacturers have adapted to the challenges of the growing demand for technically advanced rides/facilities from its customers and have seen a steady growth of 15 per cent year on year in the past several years,” says Yogesh Dange, president, Indian Association of Amusement Parks and Industries (IAAPI). He avers that increasing urbanisation and changing customer preferences will have positive impact on the industry footfall. This trend shall pave way for more investments in the sector and large integrated projects like the Adlabs Imagica coming up. The existing amusement park players will upgrade their facilities and expand their operations in other cities as well.
The last two decades have witnessed interesting evolution of the sector – from Appu Ghar that opened in New Delhi in 1984. This was followed by development in major cities with EsselWorld in Mumbai and Nicco Park in Kolkata, while the early 2000s saw many parks coming up in small, medium and large cities. The decade also witnessed the emergence of water parks, which became quite popular. “Today there are 150 amusement parks in India, across tier I and tier II cities and smaller locations. Of these, 15 per cent are large parks, 20 to 25 per cent are medium sized and the balance are small parks in smaller towns. These parks are integral for social infrastructure development and also generate a lot of employment,” says Arijit Sengupta, industry expert and former MD & CEO, Nicco Parks & Resorts.
One of the significant developments has been the increase in investment in tier II and tier III cities across the country in the amusement park industry in the last decade. “The potential from these cities has been encouraging. In the last 10 years at least 40 new parks with varied investments of Rs five to Rs 30 crore have been set up in cities other than the metros,” mentions Dange. There are of course many challenges that the sector faces, these range from variable entertainment tax rates in different states to price sensitivity of the Indian consumer to high real estate prices. There is also the issue of supporting infrastructure. “Due to large land requirements , most amusement parks are located on the outskirts of the cities. In such a scenario, supporting infrastructure such as roads, public transport facilities become critical to improve accessibility to customers,” states Dange.
(Source: Indian Association of Amusement Parks and Industries)
Seeking government support
IAAPI is looking at the government to encourage this sector by initiating newer channels for improved and easy funding. There is also a need to come up with a policy of single window clearances in order to avoid inordinate delays in implementation of projects and to cut down on costs. Dange asserts that the government should promote India as a manufacturing hub for amusement and water park rides by providing necessary incentives for manufacturers in designated areas. Foreign direct investment (FDI) should also be encouraged in this sector by way of incentives and rationalisation of taxes. “The government should have a comprehensive and sustained marketing plan to promote amusement parks as is been done by Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, etc,” he adds.
Arun K Chittilappilly
Having just launched its first IPO, Arun K Chittilappilly, MD, Wonderla Holidays urges the government to give amusement/ theme parks the industry status. “These parks must be viewed as social infrastructure for their entertainment value and because they are good for tourism. These parks are also very labour intensive as they employ a lot of people.” Wonderla’s two parks in Bengaluru and Kochi employ around 1700 people.
Wonderla targets the demographic who have never travelled abroad and have never been exposed to international theme parks. “We aim to be a regional player with a regional focus. We have a mix of simple rides as well as more complex and challenging ones using imported machinery. We strive to maintain high quality and hygiene in both our parks and this has reaped high footfalls,” says Chittilappilly. The company also has a resort within the Bengaluru theme park which attracts a lot of corporate MICE.
Apart from Wonderla Kochi and Wonderla Bengaluru, Chittilappilly has plans to open two more theme parks – in Hyderabad (scheduled to open in two years’ time) and Chennai (to open three and a half years from now). “It’s been 14 years since we entered the amusement park industry in 2000 and there have been quite a few changes. From five lakh visitors a year, we have grown to 25 lakh visitors in 2012-13. In that same period revenues have jumped from `five crore to Rs 140 crore. However, the industry is still in its nascent stage here, ” states Chittilappilly. Commenting on his target audience, he adds, “Our main aim is to make the experience as affordable as possible and to offer a broad spectrum of rides that will appeal to different segments of people.”
Nicco Park in Kolkata is among the first big amusement parks in India – a PPP with the government of West Bengal launched in October 1991. The park has a significant percentage of repeat visitors. The company has set up amusement parks and water parks for its clients, including one in Dhaka. It also manufactures rides and has supplied the same to Dubai, Japan and Europe.
Constant innovation is key to the business strategy of all key amusement park players. When an amusement park starts its novelty is very high but it erodes after three-four years. “One has to be careful about the novelty factor to attract people again and again. It is necessary to be there in the mind of people,” points out Sengupta.
As an organisation Pan India Paryatan (EsselWorld, Water Kingdom and EsselWorld Freeze Pune) believes in constant improvement and innovation. New attractions are added every year. “In the last few years we have added many new rides and several attractions at EsselWorld. New rides have been launched at Water Kingdom too. We have always managed to keep our entertainment and thrill factor up. We plan to add many more unique attractions. These new additions will be a regular feature in the coming years for the property,” says Shirish Deshpande, CEO, Pan India Paryatan. The company ventured into the in-mall format with the launch of its first ever brand extension project- EsselWorld FREEZE, which was launched in 2012 in Pune. “We have made active entertainment fun and reachable with this new venture. The format of FREEZE has been conceptualised keeping in mind its adaptability to malls,” states Deshpande.
Adventure Island in New Delhi was started in December, 2006 with eight rides and within six months 18 rides were made operational. “Every year we added one ride each and in year 2010 our water ride called H2O was added to make it a completed fun-filled destination, now we have in all 23 rides with a right combination of dry and wet park,” says Mohit Sawhney, general manager, Unitech Amusement Parks. Adventure Island started a live stunt show ‘The King of Quick Guns’ – a Bollywood fight, fire and sound show. “Looking at the response we thought to create another show which is on a lighter side with more fun for kids and MAD theatre was born – a show with an amalgamation of Magic, Acrobat and Dance,” mentions Sawhney. The company has also launched a project called Adventure Village, which has different physical activities for guests and is created in the theme of a village. These activities include rock climbing, Burma Bridge, commando net, zip line, etc.
Pooja Shetty Deora
The opening of Adlabs Imagica has been the momentuous happening for the industry last year. “Our positioning is to make the theme park an important destination for India, in fact an aspirational destination for every Indian family,” says Pooja Shetty Deora, joint managing director, Adlabs Imagica. The total investment on the integrated tourism project (theme park, water park and hotel) is Rs 1650 crore, of which the theme park is itself an Rs 1100 crore project.
Understanding the fact that it is an industry that has vast tourism potential, the Maharashtra government has given Adlabs Imagica a mega tourism status. The initial focus is the domestic market, as Deora points out there is nothing of this scale in India.
Corporates and events
The corporate and MICE sector forms an integral part of amusement/ theme park business worldwide. EsselWorld has many corporate tie ups. “We customise and create special packages for our corporate clients. Like in the recent past we have partnered with Mahindra & Mahindra and the Future Group where we received a tremendous response,” mentions Deshpande.
At Adlabs Imagica, in the pipeline is a 300 rooms hotel that is being built for large conferences and weddings. Acknowledging that the hotel industry is a very important aspect of any theme park in terms of financials, events including MICE and weddings are all taken into consideration.
The emergence of family entertainment centre (FECs) is the next step in the evolution of the industry. Kidzania entered the India market last year with a 75,000 square feet indoor theme park for children in RCity Mall, Mumbai. Non-traditional FECs are also expected to come up in the non-so distant future.
(With inputs by Steena Joy)