A few years ago I was approached by a very nice and passionate Vietnamese woman, Ms Anh, who wanted to build KidZania in Vietnam. She is married to a Japanese and has lived overseas; she knew Vietnamese kids needed a good edutainment offering such as KidZania. But KidZania would not consider Vietnam back then and so she decided she would start her own.
She was backed up by a real estate company, Him Lam, who shared her vision and saw an opportunity to add value to the residential area they were developing in District 7 of HCMC. The location for the project allowed for a large 20,000sqm stand-alone building along the river, which I thought was a better location than a shopping mall for Vietnam where families like to walk around and ‘go’ places as opposed to stay in malls.
Then I lost contact with Ms Anh and saw a number of very bad copies of KidZania popping up everywhere in Vietnam (see my post on Hanoi Royal City). I felt bad for her, for KidZania and for Vietnamese kids.
But in a recent article about the state of the children’s amusement park industry I read about Vietopia. I went on the website, which is very nicely done, and realized that it was actually Ms Anh’s project, which had finally happened! The article says it’s Vietnam’s leading children’s amusement park and it makes me happy.
But let me tell you what lessons I learn from this story:
- Location is the start of a successful project. Understanding your market and what they expect from your location is critical. It means accessibility, surroundings, etc. In this case Ms Anh understood Vietnamese families would appreciate a stand-alone building in a nice riverside setting in one of the city’s fastest growing residential areas.
- Size matters. The right size is the one that will drive and accommodate the right amount of visitors at the right price to provide the expected return on investment. Here again Ms Anh knew that she needed to think big and spend over US$25million to build something that would become a compelling destination as opposed to just another kids play area.
- Quality is king. For having talked to Ms Anh at the beginning of her project I knew she wanted the best quality as she had lived in Japan before. Looking at her budget that’s a cost of more than US$1,000 per sqm, which is a lot for Vietnam. But the result speaks for itself; Vietopia is very buys and families seem to be having a great time.
I wish I could have more stories like this about our industry. If you have some, please share them with me!