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|May 31, 1999||
Bombay's B Company courts big-time thru leisure biz
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Bombay Photographs: Jewella C Miranda
What is boredom for some can be a business opportunity for the ingenious. Ask A D Singh, chief executive officer of The Bowling Company of Bombay. Singh has recently launched India's first corporate venture for comprehensive indoor leisure and recreation complex. The target: the fun-seeking, fun-loving Bombayite who may be weary of outdoor sports or wary of monsoons.
Tucked away inside the Phoenix Mills premises in Central Bombay, The Bowling Company offers pool tables, a 20-lane bowling alley, multi-cuisine eateries, air-conditioned interiors, plush looks, chess, draughts, backgammon tables... all not necessarily in that order.
The Bowling Company has been jointly promoted by Pritish Nandy Communications, the Ruia group (of Essar fame) and the Chatterjee group of New York with an initial investment of Rs 100 million. The company expects to net a return of 30 per cent by next fiscal. And, then, the venture will start making profit, says Singh.
"It's a big risk which all of us have taken. Having said that, let me also say that this is the right time to launch this kind of venture. The Generation Next wants novel entertainment," says Singh.
"Bowling is a medal sport in the Asian and Commonwealth Games and was an exhibition sport at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. The Federation Internationale des Quilleurs world Tenpin Bowling Championship is a quadrennial event. The last championship held in Reno in 1995 attracted participation from 60 countries," says Singh.
"As investors in developing markets, we find in media, sports and entertainment a great business opportunity," says Sriram Chander of the Chatterjee Group. "For this field is driven by creativity and talent."
Singh, for his part, is no stranger to enterprising ventures. Since 1990, he has been associated with Just Desserts, a café that offers post-dinner gourmet desserts, exotic coffees and live jazz music to Bombay's glitterati.
In 1992, Singh ventured into event management, popularising the use of music to promote products. He launched the Black & White scotch in India.
The promotions included a series of jazz-related events and exciting concepts like Celebrity Bartenders who mixed drinks at various exciting ventures and bars in Bombay, Calcutta and Pune. In 1995, Just Desserts also established the Mahindra & Mahindra flagship hotel in Bombay.
Impressed by Singh's ideas, Atul Ruia commissioned Just Desserts to set up a restaurant in the Phoneix Mills complex. This led to the birth of Soul Kadi, a restaurant specialising in (western Indian) coastal cuisine, which offers a delicious and affordable lunch option for Central Bombayites.
The entrepreneur in Singh is unhappy that the Maharashtra government has slapped a tax of Rs 5,000 per pool table in the city. According to him, this will be a setback to the sunrise leisure industry.
"The leisure industry should be taxed, but there must be some rationale. We are providing entertainment to people. So the government must encourage us instead of imposing taxes on our business," says Singh.
The Bowling Company is intent on taking such discouraging signs in its stride and get on with the task of offering value-added services. It will host an exhibition dedicated to the most magnificent sporting memorabilia from around the world; it will feature giant-sized blow-ups of famous sporting moments and sports stars.
In addition, it will regularly invite famous sports personalities to its premises to offer its patrons the opportunity to interact with their favourite idols. Singh is keen on introducing other indoor games and major bowling tournaments in future.
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