Gone are the days when movie complexes used to be the only form of entertainment in malls. Larger Family Entertainment Centres (FECs) are fast gaining acceptance across the country, becoming the new buzzword in the entertainment and leisure segments, with malls betting big on these formats.
With rapid urbanization and a dearth of play areas for children, it has become imperative to provide other forms of educative entertainment for children, entertainment which exercises not just their muscles but also their brain cells.
Understanding the gap and stepping into it was one such FEC, Hang Out. Hang Out, which has been operating for eight years in Select CITYWALK mall, New Delhi, is a pioneer in family entertainment. It’s a one-stop-shop for all things fun, food, and entertainment. The space is neatly divided into a multi-level gaming arcade, a bowling alley, 4D rides, a special fun zone for kids, and even a dining area.
Hang Out prides itself on being a is a comprehensive center for family fun. The aim of the centre is to promote family interaction, quality family time and understanding preferences of children entertainment as per their ages. Their slogan – we cater to ages 2 to U2 – defines them precisely. They have something for everyone – from toddlers to tweens, parents to grandparents.
“Our USP is personalized services, understanding and meeting the parental needs and psychology of parents, taking care of their children like our own, giving them the assurance and comfort to leave their children at Hang Out for their shopping convenience and/or spending quality time with them,” explains Shalini Vij, Director, Hang Out.
Its offerings of edutainment toddler areas, arcade games, 4D Virtual Rollercoasters, 3-level playgrounds and hourly musical performances make it a kid magnet, pulling them back for more fun. The brand is constantly upgrading its games and rides with the newest technologies available, to keep its offerings fresh. Hang Out also works on growing with kids and their needs.
“The initial Hang Out kids is a jungle themed cafe, we tried to stay as close to nature as we could, understanding the dearth of well-maintained parks and weather restraints in India. We converted all pillars into trees and used a lot of foliage, leaves to give a natural shade, with grass turf, grass-coloured carpets, animal murals, animal shaped furniture at our Zoo Café, and leopard print hanging lights were just some of the elements we added,” says Vij.
The Sports Diner on the other hand was made on a Dave-and-Buster model, catering to adults, teens and tweens with more focus on equipment including the latest technology VR rides, roller coasters, bowling, pool tables, electronic darts and a 6-screen sports bar. The dining-style is booth seating, with high tables and bar stools. The interiors of Sports Diner is done with a focus on the games by using a lot of lights, LED, UV lights and games like beer pong, Pacman, Boxing, King of Hammer, Monopoly and Deal or No Deal are popular.
However, setting up Hang Out – which is now an active member of the Indian Association of Amusement Parks and Industries (IAAPI) and has even won awards for Excellence for Family Entertainment Centre at the IAAPI awards in both 2013 and 2014 – was no easy feat. There were challenges galore as Vij recalls.
Challenges in Setting Up FEC Zones
“The initial hurdle was basically of convincing mall builders, developers and owners of the FEC model. Once they were convinced, then we had to make do with third and fourth levels, and also spend time negotiating rental agreements,” she says.
“Top level floors meant bringing up heavy equipment, machinery, rides, games, which often needed a crane to be hoisted up – resulting in damaging. Aside from this, we also sometimes had to alter ride and equipment selections because of limited space and ceiling height,” she adds.
However, she says that despite all these challenges, children and parents found their way to Hang Out which was very motivating and heartening for the brand.
“FECs need a well-defined area in the mall with clear accessibility to bring in their equipment, with easy accessibility to parents and children to get to and high ceilings giving the FEC operator the free hand to select and bring in the newest there is in terms of technology in the entertainment industry,” she explains.
How Hang Out Engages & Entertains All Age Groups
– Foamed toddler play areas with edutainment panels, touching cognitive, fine motor and sensory skills
– The soft play indoor playgrounds are for kids who like to explore with tubes, tunnels, mazes, activities, slides, bouncy and lots more.
– My Town – a unique one of its kind role play area with pretend play rooms including a princess doll house, a bakery, a hospital, a beach, a pizzeria, and a shopping mart to name a few
– New state-of-the-art, attractive and popular simulation games, redemption, arcade and skill games
– Family and kiddie rides including a carousel, tea cup ride, bumper cars, jungle safari and pirate boat rides
– Next generation motion actuator system, 3D/4D motion theatre, 9D Ride with occulus glasses, 360 degree Rotating Virtual Roller coaster, which has eight different tracks and is a replica of roller coasters at popular parks like Euro Park and Busch Garden, the inverted virtual Rollercoasters like the Mini Rider and the Typhoon – the newest in Virtual Reality.
– The bubble, wind, snow, blizzard special effects and the electric motion simulator with a dynamic 6DOF motion with 3D stereoscopic graphics and ride films
– Glow in the dark bowling, pool and electronic darts for teens and tweens
FECs are footfall and crowd pullers but the average spend on entertainment is limited and malls need to carve out areas keeping in mind the revenues per sq. ft. generation from this industry.
“The total investment in our project averages from Rs 6,000-10,000 per sq. ft. depending on the operator and the kind of equipment they put in. Again, toddler areas/playground require different type investments as oppose to a full-fledged high-tech game rooms with state-of-the-art rides and VR,” she adds, explaining that the return on investment varies from FEC to FEC and can be recorded based on footfalls and price points.
“Investment for our projects start at low as Rs 4 crore. Our rental agreement with malls vary. Sometimes we are on a pure revenue sharing basis like in some malls in Tier II and Tier III cities and at other times, mainly in Tier I cities, we can flip between revenue sharing and MG, depending on whichever option works better for us,” she says.
Vij says Hang Out’s revenue share with Select CityWalk is between 14-20 percent currently.
“Eight years ago, Select CityWalk entrusted us with our FEC project plan and gave Hang Out its first break through at that time there were just a few handful in the entertainment industry and even fewer that were ready to pay the high mall rentals, MGs and CAM. Today the scenario has changed as the builders and mall developers have now begun to understand the importance of FECs and have started carving out special spaces for the same. And although things are changing, but more changes need to take place. Malls need to understand that we are differentiators for them and that they cannot have rentals and MGs for us in the same bracket as their luxury or anchor brands,” explains Vij.
On space in malls, she says, “Depending on the project, Hang Out requires anywhere between 5,000-15,000 sq. ft. of area This usually works for us since a mall can easily carve up to 25,000 sq. ft. for FEC operations depending on the size of the mall, footfalls, area demographic and other factors.”
“We have just launched a new brand, an eatery called The Sports Diner at Select CityWalk, New Delhi. We are also associated with Pacific Mall at Subash Nagar and Bharti Realty at their Pavilion Mall in Ludhiana,” says Vij.
Ludhiana was the test model for Hang Out and its parent company, MF Entertainment and Amusement (MFEA). Vij ran the test model because she understood that in preparation of their franchise model, it was important to learn to walk before running.
“We have also learnt that ‘one size fits all’ won’t work in our diversely cultured country. The model will need tweaking according to vicinity. We see ourselves expanding our FECs to Tier I, II and III cities. We want to give an entertainment option to every city, pan India,” she concludes.