Timezone is the leading chain of Family Entertainment Centres in the Asia Pacific region, providing the latest games, rides, attractions and amusements to happy customers each day. An iconic brand dating back to 1978, founded by Malcolm Steinberg, in Perth, Australia.
Timezone has over 259 state of the art family entertainment centres in Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Philippines, India, Indonesia and Vietnam; with its head office in Singapore. TEPL, is now a 100 percent owned subsidiary of ‘The Entertainment and Education Group (TEEG)’, a newly formed holding company by Timezone in partnership with Quadrant PE.
IndiaRetailing team spoke to Sonaal Chopra, Group CEO, The Entertainment and Education Group (TEEG) to understand, the developments with TEEG, its growth plans for the India and international markets.
Tell us about the company and its journey so far?
Timezone prides itself on operating centres that are fun, safe and family friendly, incorporating the latest technologies and with a strong focus on customer service so as to deliver superior experiences every time.
This year we are celebrating our 40 years in business. If you look at our history we were into manufacturing of games. Following this business we realized that we can put this expertise into an experience where we started initially. We started from Australia which was a home to the promoters. Then it was couple of decades later when we expanded to Asia Pacific markets and later to Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and then to India in 2004 and 2017 we opened Vietnam.
Currently, we have 259 outlets from sizes varying from 3,000 sq.ft to 60,000 sq.ft and present now in 7 countries. Generally, our approach is to deliver a very wholesome quality social entertainment experience through our product offerings. We have 4 brands at the moment and in India 2 brands operate out of which the popular name is Time Zone, which is generally targeted at the families with children between the 7 to 12 years of age.
We are in the process of launching ‘Play & Learn’ soon in India which will be called ‘Time Zone Play & Learn’. This is a concept for kids between 2 to 6 years of age. Apart from this we have two other brands called ‘Zone Bowling’ which is basically a bowling anchored multi attraction. This is largely in Australia and New Zealand. Then we have one more brand called ‘Kingpin’ which is also in Australia and New Zealand and we have expansion plans for this moving to Asia Pacific region leaving India. This brand is a premium offering to an older demographic which is more driven by corporate events. It’s got multiple attractions which is bowling and is bar and food led.
What are you plans for India?
We started Indian operations in 2004. Now we are in a position where we have an extremely strong foundation both of how we are perceived in the eyes of our customers and our financials. We see India as a market where we can organically grow by 6 to 12 stores in a year. We wish to grow in a very sustainable and profitable fashion with a key focus on customer experience. Our mission across the seven markets that we operate is to deliver the same experience in whatever country or city we operate. I think it’s also very important to share the background of our thought process. Around 5-6 years ago, we saw a major shift in the way the consumers are behaving. This gave us an idea to develop a much focused understanding in getting the feedback from the customer who is our guest. This gives us an edge to be ahead in the curve and keep evolving our product offerings.
Currently, Timezone has 25 outlets across India located within all the leading malls like Inorbit Malls, Forum Mall Bangalore, South City Kolkata, Phoenix Market City etc and is planning to open a total of 31 stores by the end of Jan 2019 tapping cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi NCR besides Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata where we are currently operating in. Our strategy is to expand in Tier I, Tier II and III cities. Our outlets in India are largely between 1,000-1,300 square meter which is our sweet spot. We also have outlets which are 400 to 600 square meter. We also have outlets which are as big as 1,800 square meter.
We were never in the Northern part of the country because of heavy taxations but with GST coming in, things are now an equal platform, we are aggressively looking at expansion in North as well.
Our investments are generally in the spectrum of 1,700-1,800 Australian Dollar per square meters to about 3,000 depending upon the property, city and size.
What strategies does Timezone opt for to differentiate from the competitors?
We are in the business of experience and fun and this package has to be different from our competitors. We distinguish this through various touch points in our store. The customer coming to our store will experience 4-5 things which they will definitely try and which gives us a fair understanding about his experience and feedback.
We are only involved with high quality content which is extremely reputable with the international scale. Secondly, we have an advantage of the group buying power wherein we are the key accounts for big suppliers and manufacturers. We also have the advantage of some exclusive titles with being first to the market. Also we have advantage of limited period exclusivity with key marketing and promotions which comes along with that. One of such examples is ‘Microsoft Halo’ where we got exclusive license for a limited period of time. One more key differentiator which we have is our value preposition, it is not so obvious but this allows us to be for example in a place like Inorbit Malad, Mumbai for 15 years is a testimony to the guest returning and seeking value in our brand.
Often family entertainment destinations are perceived as a weekend activity alone, how do you plan to get footfalls during the week and break the mould?
The great driver for us during weekdays is events and activities. Apart from this there are some offers which we give which is half price or so on a particular day in a time frame. The other key driver to our store is competition. We have the key license of a diehard Japanese driving game called ‘Maximum Tunes’ wherein we run certain competition which drive a lot of traffic to the venues. Then with attraction like bowling we run another competition with this game. On an average, we do our 50 percent of our business on a Saturday and Sundays and the rest comes through the rest of the 5 days.
Throw some light on your current turnover and growth levels?
We believe that we will grow potentially between 30-35 outlets in a year in the markets that we operate. We are experiencing significant growth in all 7 countries. We recently acquired the bowling assets of Ardent Leisure which is an Australian company for 160 million Australian Dollars. Consumers today are spending decent amount of time in leisure and entertainment and we as a company is finding it exciting for future growth.