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Home > Business > Special

Indian leisure promoters target Australia

Kishore Singh | January 17, 2003

Theoretically, it's only a leap from one continent to another on the pages of the atlas, but when Fun-N-Food Village is commissioned on Australia's Gold Coast, it will bridge more than two cultures.

The Sydney Opera HouseFor the first time, an Indian promoter, and an Indian architect, will have worked independently to give the continent Down Under a recreation and leisure park, usually the preserve of the Western world.

The $2 million-project, spread over 75 acres, is the baby of Balwant Chawla and Santok Chawla who entered the amusement park business with the Fun-N-Food Village on the outskirts of Delhi.

The park didn't exactly set the capital on fire but it gave the Chawlas a taste of new opportunities and greater professional commitment.

Among the first of which was hiring an architectural firm that could deliver on the ball.

Western architects would have proved too expensive, but on the Gold Coast, the Chawlas would need to compete for visitors with three other amusement parks on the same stretch.

Chance led them to Rajiv and Sabeena Khanna of Rajiv Khanna & Associates, who had developed an aborted 450-acre recreational township at Chotpul near the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway.

Though the park did not take off, a CD of the project found its way to the Chawlas, and an MoU was inked.

"There are no professional architects in the recreational and leisure business," says Rajiv Khanna who has self-taught himself through participation in the International Association of Amusement Parks annual conventions fairs at Orlando, and through a 21-year stretch of clients that have included hospitality and retail projects in large measure.

In Australia, the project of designing was begun a year ago, and is currently in the process of getting the land use changed.

"We have had to use 17 consultants from different fields to submit the project," shares Khanna.

To be fully commissioned in three years, its first phase will be operational by mid-2004.

When ready, the park will consist of a water park, snow park, city walk, Turkish baths, extreme sports park, and as a nod to its Indian promoters, a health spa with yoga in the bargain.

"We've handled large urban design projects," says Sabeena Khanna, "which had familiarised us with both size and scale. Plus, our hospitality projects had given us the experience of working with visitor experience."

The Chawlas are also upgrading facilities at the park in Delhi where the Khannas are adding a snow park, an ice skating rink and a ski slope to the existing amusements.

But they are by no means limited to just these projects, and as the leisure industry in India takes off, they have been involved with two more commissions in Nagpur.

The first is a 7-acre park in the city centre that is being developed for Haldiram's, to feature a food court, city walk and water park.

"We're in execution mode," says Rajiv Khanna, and the project is to be operational within the year.

The second Nagpur project is once again with Fun-N-Food Village on a 250- acre site, of which 66 acres are operational and consists of a water park and a 20-room hotel.

The Khannas are hoping the Australian project will get them the attention to leverage their Rs 30-crore (Rs 300 million) business to an international scale.

For they've learnt, through the leisure industry, that global is the best way to grow. Just like the rides and other facilities that use the best international tie-ups.

"There's a mismatch between Indian rides, which are not up to scratch, and imported ones that are very expensive. But, there's a big demand for leisure and recreational facilities, and there's no doubt that in the end, quality will count above all."

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