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Smaaash mulls VR-only arcades in future: Consulting CMO Avanish Agarwal

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Mannu Mathew
Mannu Mathew
With over four years of experience, Mannu Mathew specializes in business journalism with a focus on technology, the retail sector, D2C, and E-commerce brands. He is working as the Assistant Editor for India Retailing and Images Retail Magazine.

Avanish Agarwal, Consulting CMO, Smaaash sheds light on business, expansion plans and more

New Delhi: Established over a decade ago, Mumbai-based Smaaash Fun Gateway Arena Pvt Ltd, which operates 18 centres across India, plans to focus on expansion in tier 2 and tier 3 markets while also keeping the focus on VR-only arcades in the future.

The company, which raised almost $6.2 million (details from its LinkedIn profile) in the past, plans to look for new strategic partnerships and sources of investment to support the expansion goals. The company is willing to talk to prospective investors who have similar goals for the entertainment industry, its top executive told IndiaRetailing.

Smaaash gaming zones offer a virtual-reality experience and combine sports, music, and dining into an immersive, interactive, and involved entertainment experience driven by cutting-edge technology.

“Our goal has been to provide a stimulating atmosphere where people may engage in thrilling activities, foster social contact, and create lifelong memories. So far, the journey has been immensely fulfilling,” said Avanish Agarwal, consulting chief marketing officer (CMO), Smaaash. “We’ve seen rapid expansion and have had the good fortune to continuously modify our products to satisfy our client’s shifting needs,” he added.

In May 2022, Smaaash was tangled in litigation over a loan default of Rs 292.4 crore to Edelweiss Asset Reconstruction Co., which led to several takeover bids, which the company staved off.

Smaaash plans to focus on expansion in tier 2 and tier 3 markets while also keeping the focus on VR-only arcades in the future.

Despite this, the company has seen an 18% growth compared to last year, aiming for over 25% growth this year with new centres and an F&B focus.

In an exclusive interaction with IndiaRetailing, Avanish Agarwal, consulting chief marketing officer (CMO), Smaaash sheds light on business, plans and more.

Edited Excerpts

What sets you apart from competitors today?

We have merged advanced sports simulation technology with in-house gamification, an entertaining twilight bowling zone. Our use of VR, AR, and motion tracking technology offers experiences, with multiplayer setups fostering social interaction.

We make use of RFID technology for ticketing and access control, while Microsoft Kinect sensors track motion and gestures, and Oculus Rift and HTC Vive provide immersive virtual reality experiences. For visually spectacular gaming experiences, particularly in VR, our gaming setups include high-performance PCs and consoles.

Cloud computing ensures smooth gameplay, making our venues a dynamic social hub. Our R&D department helps us create our games, elevating the experience.

What is your current market share?

We currently hold a 27% share of the family entertainment centres (FEC) market and are constantly working to grow.

How much of the sales are driven by events?

Corporate and event reservations account for a large percentage of our revenue. We offer customised event planning, unique packages, and creative team-building exercises.

What is the current spend on marketing?

The marketing budget is carefully distributed based on our goals, target audience, and promotions, typically around 6% of quarterly revenue. We focus on driving brand awareness, customer engagement, and acquisition. We invest across digital, traditional, and experiential channels, prioritizing data-driven decisions for maximum efficiency.

Through campaigns and partnerships, we connect with our audience, drive foot traffic, and enhance revenue. Continuous communication and feedback help us improve.

How has the dining business been?

Our dining establishment has been doing quite well, and it blends in perfectly with the gaming experience. We constantly assess how well food and games are balanced to deliver a comprehensive entertainment experience that suits a range of tastes. Currently, dining across all categories accounts for about 35% of sales, and this percentage is rising each month. We are also concentrating on experimental eating at our new and forthcoming centres.

How has been the response to the VR experience?

The overwhelming favourable feedback we received from our VR experience is indicative of the growing demand for immersive technologies. We are dedicated to making more investments and growing this sector, and we have plans to investigate growing VR-only arcades to serve specialised markets.

The company is bringing go-karting back to Gurgaon on March 27 in Udyog Vihar.

What’s new with Smaaash?

We intend to open three more locations this year. We’re bringing go-karting back to Gurgaon on March 27 in Udyog Vihar. We’re also opening a flagship level centre in Gurgaon.

Is it only in malls, or are there plans for standalone zones?

Even if the majority of our outlets are in malls, we are willing to investigate freestanding zones in busy regions to broaden our client base and improve accessibility.

Are tier 2 and tier 3 cities in the expansion plan?

Indeed, we have big expansion plans to reach these markets and we are aware of the enormous potential in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. We just opened in Dehradun and are currently planning to expand in Mohali, Patiala.

How was 2023 in terms of revenue and sales?

In 2023, we witnessed rising sales and consistent revenue growth, marking a profitable year. Looking ahead to 2024, we’re excited about sustained progress, and expect our innovative strategies to drive further growth. Our focus includes expanding into new markets, enhancing attractions, and strengthening customer engagement.

With improved economic conditions and increased consumer spending, we anticipate revenue and sales growth compared to last year. The key is to keep making investments in operations, marketing, and technology. We’ve seen an 18% growth compared to last year, surpassing standard industry rates, aiming for over 25% growth this year with new centres and an F&B focus.

How do you aim to tackle the ongoing sub-judice matters in NCLT?

Unfortunately, I cannot comment on this at this moment.

What will be your focus going forward?

Going forward, we will prioritise innovation, growth, and providing our visitors with outstanding experiences. To be at the top of the entertainment sector, we’ll keep using technology, looking into new areas, and improving what we have to offer.

More insightful and stimulating conversations on technology trends in retail are expected at the Phygital Retail Convention (PRC) 2024.

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