Mrs Giang Nguyen is one of the owners of Kinderpark, Vietnam’s first international standard Family Entertainment Centre (FEC) for young children, which opened in 2011.
She spoke with Thibault Paquin of Celebrating Life Asia about her experience and her views on the future of the industry in Vietnam.
What is your background?
I have a background in trade and administration. I had other friends with children and we were looking for a good place for them to play but could not find any in Hanoi. So I partnered with two other friends, we did research online, went to Singapore on a field trip and decided to open our own indoor FEC.
You opened Vietnam’s first international standard FEC for young children. Can you tell us about the journey?
First we looked for a site and were lucky to find one in the first month. Through one of our connections – very important in Vietnam – we heard there was some space available within the land of an old water park near the centre of Hanoi. We were very involved in the whole design and build and the project only took 5 months. So from start to opening the whole process took only 7 months.
What was the most difficult thing to overcome?
Training the staff. They don't know international standards in Hanoi and it is hard to impose rules. We hired 40 people and had to let go 25 of them. We’ve decided to keep 15 good ones, keep training them and use part time for the others.
Another difficulty in Hanoi is weather. When it’s cold, people don’t go out, even to an indoor place. Therefore our business is very seasonal.
And your biggest reward so far?
We created a totally new concept – Kinder Park – which others wanted to copy! We are very happy that mums can come and have a peaceful time, they can chat with friends and it’s a very social place for them. Also we have very satisfied schools visiting us and they keep coming back.
What revenue streams do you currently have?
Ticketing accounts for 55% of our revenue, activities (parties, classes etc) 15% and food & beverage 30%, with a lower percentage in winter and higher in summer with more drinks being sold.
How important is education in Vietnam and how do you address it at Kinderpark?
We organize small workshops for our mums, on nutrition or pregnancy for example. We also offer small classes (cooking, dancing) for kids in the summer. We can’t teach formally because we would need a certificate to do so.
What is the profile of the families visiting Kinderpark andhow do you reach out to them?
We target first the upper middle class and second the middle class (office workers) who are very responsive to our online promotion (because mums are office workers and have browse the internet at work!). We also have a few expats. Most of our marketing is online; we also do promotions for companies and distribute flyers to all primary schools in Hanoi.
Do you plan to open more Kinderparks in Vietnam and what are your expansion plans generally?
We are happy with our park in Hanoi. We planned to open more but 2 out of our 3 partners have other plan for their life, so we lack people to take care the business. A lot of people asked for a franchise but we have said no; we have no experience in franchising. If the right person or company came along, with the requisite experience and wanted to co-operate, we believe that Kinderpark has good potential to expand.
How do you see the future of the industry in Vietnam? Is it ready for a big theme park?
Yes the market is ready; I did some research! There is a stronger need in the North because they have some theme parks in the Centre and the South. I see a need especially for teenagers and adults.
But the problem in the North is that people, especially from lower and middle class, are not prepared to pay much although they expect a lot. For example, when we do online promotions, these customers are the ones who complain more than others.
What would you say to investors and operators interested in developing attractions in Vietnam?
My advice is to use a foreign name and hire foreign managers. Because of our country’s background, the relationship between customers and suppliers is different. Suppliers are stronger (more influential) and this is important to keep in mind in your marketing.
Is the Vietnamese Government supportive of you and of the industry?
They don’t really care about the FEC industry, only about other sectors that make more profit. It is quỉte a hard industry to borrow money for. I think it’s unlikely to change in the next 10 years.
All images kind courtesy Kinder Park.