Xander-backed KidZania investing up to $75M to open at least five theme parks in India

Imagination Edutainment India Pvt Ltd, a local franchisee of global indoor theme park for children KidZania, plans to develop four-five parks across the country in the medium term which may make it the biggest operator of the edutainment venture which builds child-size replica of a real city.

The firm, which was set up by Paras Chandaria, who heads the Singapore branch of his family controlled Comcraft Group, along with Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, also counts global investment firm Xander Group as a large stakeholder.

It has recently opened its first theme park in Mumbai.

Rohit George, principal, Xander Advisors India, said, “We are just closing the agreement for the second KidZania which will come in Delhi. Our immediate target is to have five KidZanias (in India).”

The Delhi edition of KidZania is expected to be up and running in two years, post which the firm will launch in three other metro cities in the country as part of its expansion.

Each KidZania is built with an average investment of $10-15 million, putting the total cost of the five parks at $50-75 million. George declined to comment on the exact investment from Xander’s end for the project.

The concept of KidZania was developed by of Mexican entrepreneur Xavier Lopez Ancona. KidZania seeks to build a child-size replica of a real city which acts as edutainment theme park for children, giving them an experience of an actual city with real life activity.

The business model banks on two revenue channels. While the tickets to the park comprise one part of it, it also generates revenue from brand partnerships where the pavilions are sponsored by the brands for role playing characters. The first Indian theme park in Mumbai has brought together brands like Kellogg’s Chocos, Birla Sun Life Insurance, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Big Bazaar, Coca Cola, Hardy’s, Nerolac, Hyundai and Yes Bank.

While the original two parks in Mexico were set up by the founder, the global expansion thereafter involved bringing together franchisee partners for different countries.

At present, it has 15 parks globally including three in the home country and two in Japan. Given the announced expansion plans, India might have the most number of KidZanias in the medium term.

For Xander, which has been more active in the real estate and infrastructure side of investments, the bet on KidZania is part of its broader mandate for investing in companies which operate in the infrastructure, hospitality, entertainment, retail and real estate sectors.

Xander currently manages equity capital in excess of $2 billion globally and its portfolio comprises over 50 million sq ft of real estate and infrastructure assets.

In another private equity investment in the theme park space, Manmohan Shetty-promoted Adlabs Entertainment Ltd recently raised Rs 144 crore ($23 million) from ICICI Venture for its flagship project Adlabs Imagica.

Adlabs Imagica is a theme park located in Khopoli in the Mumbai-Pune expressway and was opened in April this year. Spread over 300 acres, the theme park has around 21 rides at present and the firm is expanding the project. It will also include a water park and a three-star/family hotel which will be operational in early 2014. The park can accommodate about 20,000 visitors daily and aims to host over 3 million visitors in the first year of operations.

In another development related to the amusement park industry in India, early this year Wonderla Holidays Pvt Ltd, which runs two amusement parks and a resort in the country, filed its documents with SEBI looking to raise over Rs 178 crore through an initial public offer (IPO).  The company is part of the group behind V-Guard Industries, which is backed by Nalanda Capital.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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