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Essel World to foray into Hyderabad, Delhi

Purvita Chatterjee

MUMBAI, March 15

PAN-India Paryatan Ltd, an Essel Group company, is planning to take its `Essel World' brand of amusement parks to other cities. After existing in Mumbai for the past 12 years, Essel World will make a foray into Hyderabad and Delhi with its brand of amusement parks. Claims Mr. Ashok Goel, Managing Director, Pan India Paryatan Ltd, "We will be taking the mother brand of Essel World to these two cities. But not before we manage to gather some critical mass in our operations in Mumbai.''

While in the past the company has tried to make an entry into the Delhi market, the regulations have not been in its favour. It is now renegotiating with the Delhi government to make an entry there. "We will take a decision on Hyderabad in the next six months as long as the terms and conditions suit us,'' states Mr Goel. The city of Hyderabad already has a host of such parks like the Ocean Park and also one from the Ramoji Rao Group. Delhi too has its Appu Ghar and Fun and Food Village.

Requiring a minimum of 60 acres of land for the project in each state, it is basically government rules and regulations which are impediments to the implementation of such projects. "It is the regulatory issues pertaining to this sector which needs to be addressed. The Andhra Pradesh government has already agreed to lease us 300 acres of land,'' adds Mr Goel.

Apart from government regulations posing as an impediment, it is also the tourism policies which are not favourable to this industry at present. Besides the sector has not seen any foreign company participation in spite of FDI approvals for the same. As of now there are no technical or equity-based participation venture in this nascent industry. In fact, the Essel Group itself has been trying to find a strategic partner like Universal Studios, Walt Disney and Warner Brothers for further expansion of its amusement parks business. "Our intention to find a partner has taken a backseat. We are soft peddling our plans to find a strategic partner considering the current economic slowdown,'' says Mr Goel.

In spite of facing stagnant growth with most of the existing parks registering no growth, there seem to more players making a beeline to enter the amusement park industry. According to the Indian Association of Amusement Parks and Industries, more than 80 new amusement parks and leisure facilities are expected to be completed by 2003 amounting to nearly Rs 2,000 crore of fresh investments. Explains Mr Goel, "This is a temporary phenomenon which is affecting growth rates at the moment. The market is still virgin and the new players entering the business feel there is potential to grow.'' Pegging growth rates for the Rs 1,000 crore amusement park industry at 100 per cent, Mr Goel projects a growth rate of 300 per cent in the next three years. Expanding into new states and territories is thus being considered by the Rs 40 crore Pan India Paryatan Ltd beginning with its 12-year-old brand of Essel World. Presently, along with the mother brand of Essel World, the company proposes to have sub-brands like Bollywood Park, Little India, Science Park and Nature Park.

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