Extreme sports a pull factor for malls
Najihah S 
Skydiving is the latest activity to be offered in malls

SHOPPING malls are evolving with the times to attract higher footfall, especially that of millennials.

From opening electronic and mobile commerce, some malls are beginning to lure thrill-seekers or adventurous youngsters by pulling in sports operators to offer activities such as futsal, rock climbing and paintball.

And now, they are getting operators to set up skydiving and surfing centres, too.

These sports centres require a big land area and budget to build, and Bandar Utama City Centre Sdn Bhd has taken the opportunity to offer the two activities in its mall, 1 Utama Shopping Centre in Petaling Jaya.

Bandar Utama Development  Sdn Bhd director Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok says the growth of e-commerce in the country has made it more challenging for malls to attract new shoppers.

Teo is also a director of property developer See Hoy Chan Holdings Sdn Bhd, which is Bandar Utama City Centre’s holding company. Bandar Utama Development is the property division of the See Hoy Chan group.

In order to counter the onslaught of the e-commerce business, the company undertook extensive research on the elements that would make 1 Utama more appealing.

“To attract the millennials and others, a shopping centre has to offer more than just shopping and food. And when there’s e-commerce, we need to create a different experience,” Teo tells FocusM.

1 Utama, which offers five million sq ft of shopping and retail space, has a rock-climbing facility, rooftop futsal and baseball bat cage. It is now planning a wider range of outdoor gaming facilities.

“We had the plan to extend the outdoor section of the mall two years ago,” Teo says. The company invested some RM150 mil to build an additional 592,015 sq ft of space dedicated to outdoor games.

The expanded space called 1 Utama E, which stands for excite, entertain and exhilarate, is divided into two sections, with the first dedicated to an indoor skydiving and surfing facility.

The plan to have such a facility grew from an agreement between Bandar Utama and skydiving facility company, Indoor Skydive Australia Group (ISAG).


RM25 mil project

Inked early last year, the agreement covers the building of the AirRider Indoor Skydiving facility, which will also have a flow rider for surfing.

The project, which costs about RM25 mil, will be ISAG’s first facility outside Australia.

ISAG began building skydiving facilities in Australia four years ago, and currently operates three facilities in Sydney, the Gold Coast and Perth.


Sports tourism potential

Due to its novelty in the region, 1 Utama E is seen as a promising tourist destination in the city.

“We are located in a suburban area, but the attractions we have can pull locals and tourists. And now that we are merely 300m away from the MRT station, we wish to see the number of visitors grow from 32 million to 35 million annually,” Teo says.

As interest in skydiving grows, he is optimistic that the venue can also host tournaments.

ISAG’s CEO Wayne Jones agrees. “The indoor skydiving technology has been developed in the past 15 years.

“Skydiving is an actual sport now and there are championships around the world. We have competitions where people come in teams and go against each other.

“The all-glass panelled tunnel has a wind machine which is made in the Czech Republic. The glass is imported from Spain and everything is being put together by the 1 Utama team,” he says.

Jones points out that 1 Utama E will also be suitable for team-building sessions.

“We discussed with the military and police to introduce skydiving as part of their module as it might benefit their training,” he says.

The tunnel, which is 3.66m (12ft) in diameter and 10m high is a simulator that can train a person to skydive.

Tickets cost from RM32 per person for a 105-minute session. Skydivers will be provided with a suit, helmet and goggles.

Air Rider currently has eight instructors – two from Australia and the rest locals.

Flow Rider is a simulated wave generator which can be used for flowboarding, bodyboarding and surfing.

The entire infrastructure costs RM7 mil to build. The size of the facility is 7,263 sq ft and ticket prices to use the facility range from RM45 to RM55 per person.

Learning personal lessons

AS Inno Mind Works Sdn Bhd’s founder and MD as well as Circle International Holdings Ltd director, Datuk Michael Yip Chin Hwee has learnt a lot during his decade’s worth of experience running different businesses.

Likening the entrepreneurial journey to a bus ride where the entrepreneur is the driver, he notes that it’s important to remind yourself of the specific roles that different people – such as close friends, business friends, brothers and casual acquaintances – play in your life and learning.

“I’ve learnt that friends come and go; it’s rather like a bus ride. Every stop, you pick up people – new friends and partners – but at the same time some people get off the bus.

“Even today, I’m thankful to the people who have short-changed me, because it’s at the darkest times that you see who your real friends are,” he opines.

Over the years managing his own business as well as his father’s, he notes there has been a lot of hiccups and challenges, but puts it down to the fact that business is never always smooth-sailing.

He explains, “Once you’ve over-committed, outsiders see the opportunity and want to take a big chunk of it and that’s where we made some losses as well.

“At the same time, we had people copying our model and making their own go of it. Despite those copycats, we’re still the last man standing.”

In addition, he stresses the importance of drawing a clear line between friendship and business, as well as the need to separate emotion from the decision-making process.

“To make wise business decisions, you’ve to be clear in segregating friendship and business because they can’t mix. Emotional turmoil will also screw things up, so you have to separate your emotions from the decisions you make,” he advises.

Apart from its subsidiary IMW, the new media technology group Circle International has a strong base in China and Chinese-speaking markets across the region via its proprietary brands, the Business Circle mobile app and the Worldwide Excellence Award.

The goal is to expand advertising and e-commerce opportunities going forward, with financial technology (fintech) to play an important role in the group’s plans, especially as it already has mobile payment platform Circle Pay.

As part of the board and with a strong belief in lifelong learning, Yip has been keeping himself up-to-date in the fintech industry via a fintech course offered by the University of Oxford’s Said Business School.

Although IMW does not hold financial tools, it holds some of the technology, expertise and experience necessary through its experience creating mobile applications for clients in the past. He believes this will serve the group well as it goes into fintech and moves forward to digitise media, which will require elements of e-commerce and ancillary products in the future.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 272.