The 300-acre, Rs 1,650-crore Adlabs Imagica project in Maharashtra, is the country's first entertainment theme park. CW offers a peek into India's very own Disneyland.
Child's play can be serious business. At present, India has around 150 amusement parks of which around 16-18 are placed in the large category, 40-45 in the medium and the rest in the small category, according to CARE Research, a leading market research and information service provider. The study predicts that, considering the difficulties in land acquisition and saturation in key locations in cities, new addition of amusement parks will slow down in metros and Tier-I cities, whereas new capacities will come up in the upcoming Tier-II cities, outskirts of major cities and major highways. A total of 4,500 acre of capacity is expected to come up in the amusement park space in the next three to four years.
Andy Bird, Chairman of Walt Disney International, recently withdrew his plans to set up a theme park in India citing poor infrastructure and went on to park his investments in China. However, in April, Manmohan Shetty, Chairman, Adlabs Entertainment, filled the breach by inaugurating India's first entertainment theme park, Adlabs Imagica.
Spread across 300 acre, Adlabs Imagica is arguably South Asia's largest amusement theme park. "In my view, this is not just an amusement park but an entertainment theme park," says owner Shetty. "I've always wanted to do something new that didn't exist in the present scenario. With the large number of youngsters in this country, I feel there is a large market for such a park. We have not followed any business model; it is just an instinct as we know that people are looking for participative entertainment." He expects footfalls of about 2-3 million per year and returns in five to seven years' time.
Strategically located on the Mumbai-Pune expressway in Khopoli, Maharashtra, the mega project, which consists of a theme park, water park and 300-room hotel, is being set up at an estimated cost of Rs 1,650 crore, most of which is self-financed. Currently, only the first phase of the amusement park has been introduced - the theme park is being set up on 110 acre.
The hotel is expected to be open to the public by December this year and the water park by mid-2014. Imagica, which is being touted as India's answer to Disneyland, features different geographical zone themes dubbed India, Viva Europa, Arabia, Asiana, Americana and Jumbo Africa, each offering rides and other unique attractions. Right now, 18 of the 21 rides are operational. Imagica makes use of sophisticated high-end technologies, such as 4D simulation. "All the attractions have been imported from top-line manufacturers but all local products have been used for civil construction," points out Shetty.
Imagica also boasts of India's largest roller coaster, Nitro. The ride has been constructed by Bolliger and Mabillard, who have built rides for various operators like Six Flags and Universal Studios. The park also has its own power station, water treatment plant, sewage treatment facility and a small dam to ensure adequate water supply.
As with any major project, there are various challenges involved in setting up a theme park such as huge investment, land acquisition issues - as land is not easily available, there is a need to purchase it in instalments - and deciding on a strategic location to attract healthy footfalls. Land acquisition is typically viewed as the major hurdle. "It was difficult to set up this kind of project," reveals Shetty. "We took two years just to acquire the land."
The competition intensifies Imagica is sure to bring a lot of zing into the entertainment business and will spur competition. Other leading players like Essel World in Mumbai and Wonderla in Bengaluru and Kochi, will certainly be keen to toss their hat into the entertainment ring. In the face of a strong challenge from Imagica, outfits like Wonderla, for instance, are looking to set up new amusement parks in other parts of India, widen their customer base and strengthen their brand. "We have acquired 46.17 acre of land in Hyderabad and are also in the process of identifying a suitable parcel of land in Chennai for setting up amusement parks," reveals Arun Chittilappilly, Managing Director, Wonderla Holidays.
Further, with infrastructure already improving in the belt, the theme park will give a fillip to new commercial and residential projects in the area. In fact, real-estate values are expected to appreciate to the extent of 20-30 per cent.
For his part, Shetty already has plans chalked out to take his theme park business to other parts of the country. Hyderabad, for instance, is expected to see a similar theme park spread across 60 acre. And with others taking the cue, there will be more entertainment zones popping up across India.
The ride has just begun!
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