Adlabs founder forays into amusement park business

Adlabs founder forays into amusement park business

Adlabs founder forays into amusement park business

He was a game changer in the nineties and is poised to do it again but on a different turf.

At a time when single-screen theatres started fast-dissappearing in the 90s, the then media mogul Manmohan Shetty gave India a new high by conceptualising “Imax” – the first chain of digital multiplex theatres – and before others strived to catch up with him, Shetty divested his entire business in favour of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group in pursuit of newer challenges.

Flush with funds from the proceeds of Adlabs sales in 2006, he invested in various startups in animation, digital technology (Scrabble) and television and films such as Rajneeti and Tere Bin Laden to mention a few, but his heart was set for another game-changing venture, ‘theme parks’. Finally, after the commendable work by the 2,500 people, who worked at least 12 hours a day for as many as four years, Shetty’s dream project “Adlabs Imagica” is ready to take off on April 18. The theme park, based in Khopoli, between Pune and Mumbai, requiring around 90 minutes to get to by car from either cities on Mumbai-Pune Expressway, has been set up at a cost of Rs 1,650 crore. 

Affordable theme park

After the preview of the theme park late on Monday, Shetty told reporters that his main concern was to open an amusement facility which could be affordable for the large Indian audience. “I think we have succeeded in doing that. Our only focus was that it should be affordable,” mentioned Shetty, Chairman of Adlabs Entertainment, whose current flagship venture now is ADLABS Imagica. 

He pointed out Disney’s recent press release stating that it opted to invest $5 billion for setting up a Disney park in China and another $5 billion towards the related infrastructure, but did not consider India for the same and it took a view that India is not yet ready. 

“But, I feel India is as ready as any other country. Indian families are equally willing to spend money on such outings as long as they get their money’s worth,” said Shetty said, pointing out that before multiplexes came up, a similar refrain prevailed that Indians would not spend Rs 200 for a cinema ticket, but everyone knows now that is not true.

Responding to a query, Shetty said that when Adlabs tested the concept it found people willing to pay more than Rs 1,000 and that is how the business plan settled on a footfall of about 2.5-3 million visitors per year. With those numbers, the park should break even at an operating level in the second year and recover its full cost in seven years.

To begin with, ticket rates at Adlabs Imagica for the launch period from April 18 to 30 will be Rs 1,200 for adults and Rs 900 for children on weekdays and on weekends and holidays, it will be Rs 1,500 for adults and Rs 1,200 for children.

Shetty reckons Adlabs Imagica will make 75-80 per cent of its revenue from ticket sales, while the remainder will be a combination of food and beverages and some activation deals. As of now, the theme park with 16 attractions, 4 restaurants and various live acts, accounts for 110 acres but they still have a 200 acres of land for future expansion, he pointed out. “We have begun with 21 attractions. We plan to add one attraction every year. If people like it, this will encourage us more,” he said, adding, “My expectation is about 30 lakh people a year. If this works, then we will keep expanding.”

About funding of the park, Shetty said, “Banks would have funded it a lot easier had we brought in Disney or Universal (Studios) as our partners. But we don’t want to be their franchisee since our emphasis of theme being Indian content. We haven’t copied anything from anyone,” he said. 

All the same, Shetty noted they are exploring all options right from FDI to IPOs, but they have not taken any decision in this context nor firmed up any plans. A large part of the current funding is through term loans from banks and other investors.

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