Sean Seah, entrepreneurial CEO of Galasys, is particular about how he describes his company: “We are no longer a ticketing solution provider, but a total theme park solution provider. In the past it was sufficient to provide ticketing, but the complexities of a theme park in Asia (or anywhere on the globe, in fact) require much more than ticketing.”
Blooloop spoke to him about the evolution of ticketing and why his bespoke, customised solutions are so well suited to the Asian market.
Sean Seah is a Malaysian, who completed a Masters in Computer Science at California State University in the early 90s before going on to work for several notable software companies in Silicon Valley.
By the late 90s he was back in Asia where he spent seven years working for Sun Microsystems, covering China; Greater China; Hong Kong and Taiwan. In 2001, Seah and a few other tech entrepreneurs founded Afor Pte Ltd. which specialised in the sale of Apple products that customers could try before buying. The company would go on to set up Singapore’s first AppleCentre.
When Afor Pte Ltd went IPO in 2008, Seah sold his shares, investing in setting up Bimbit.com with the aim of bridging the gulf between users and the world of digital media. Bimbit.com went on to become Galasys.
"In Asia, we enjoyed the ‘first mover’ advantage.”
Early success came in 2005 when Galasys Suzhou, a full subsidiary of Galasys plc, provided ticketing solutions to the OCT Group at its Happy Valley site in Beijing and to Chimelong Group.
“We started early when the theme park market wasn’t really there yet. We signed up clients like Chimelong and Happy Valley which turned out to be the largest theme park operators in China today. We continued to ride on that success and we got a total solution that fits the Asian market.”
Galasys went IPO in 2014. Its first acquisition subsequent to this was Malaysian ILogic Solutions, managed by a group of ICT solution experts with extensive experience of implementing ICT solutions including point-of-sales, entertainment and leisure and passenger management system solutions. The acquisition helped Galasys to consolidate the market share of amusement industry in Malaysia and fast-track the launch of its online platform in South East Asia.
The success of Galasys lies in its swift but painstaking construction of a final product – a complete theme park solution – that has the capacity to sell globally.
“I believe almost half our business is in China.”
“We started the globalisation to the UK/Europe market and the reemerging markets – Middle East; but the focus is in China. Asia has 8-10% economic growth compared to Europe’s 2.5% – 4% growth. So we felt that Asia is our growth engine and contemplated expansion into new markets such as Dubai and the Middle East.”
The company has invested heavily in the technology that the Asian market demands. China in particular is doing more with advanced information technology than anywhere else, the US included.
“So, given that we make heavy investments in research and development, we develop the solutions our customers want, and one of the key things we do very well – I think this is no secret – we are willing to deliver bespoke, customised solutions for our clients.”
Seah points out that Disney is effectively, the grandfather of all theme parks, and that all Asian theme parks, including Chimelong, are relatively new to the theme park business. Even the most successful and notable theme parks in Asia – Chimelong and OCT – have slightly more than ten years’ experience.
Asian Theme Parks are a Young Business
“The smaller ones are actually real-estate developers. They are very new to this theme park business and have no experience whatsoever. So they need a lot of guidance and consultancies, unlike the more mature ones who have been running theme parks for ages.”
Accustomed to providing for professional theme park operators versed in the minutiae of the business, Galasys’ competitors are on less certain ground when they come to Asia. Individual consultancy and heavy customisation are part of the user requirements for the Asian market, and the cost of delivering such solutions is much higher. Galasys, on the spot and familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the market, is ideally placed to deliver the bespoke solution particularly suited to the clients in Asia.
“We offer customised solutions – because our solution platform and cost structure allow us to do so, as a solution provider in Asia."
Galasys’ solutions include, but are not limited to, e-ticketing; point-of-sales; membership management; customer relationship management; hotel-booking and management; and Cloud Online Travel Agency (CLOTA) platform that allows travel agents to purchase theme park tickets online.
“…All these are becoming increasingly critical to enable a theme-park to operate and be more profitable. So, we offer a total solution that has ticketing integrated into other components. Theme park operators are constantly looking into new revenue streams. Membership, for example, is a key revenue contribution: mobile apps are becoming more pervasive; cloud strategy is getting more essential. All these come under the ticketing umbrella.”
“For the next 2-5 years, our growth will be in Asia."
"We do have some other new markets such as Dubai and some of the countries in Europe – and we’ve just secured a few small contracts – but we are expanding gradually. So far the focus remains predominantly on Asia. The heavy investment focus is Asia.”
“Recently, we secured investment from a company called Beijing Shiji: the number one solutions provider for the hotel and hospitality sector in China and South East Asia.”
Under the terms of the Collaboration Agreement signed by Galasys and Shiji Information, the two groups will cooperate in the tourism and leisure industry in Asia by integrating their respective technology solutions, Internet ticketing platforms and payment services for the Asian market.
Seah adds: “The partnerships and collaborations we have with Shiji and our other partners in this part of the world encourage us to invest more in Asia.”
Shiji recently attracted the interest of giant online shopping group Alibaba, which took a 15% stake in September 2014 for £305m, Alibaba's first major deal after it went public earlier in the same month on the New York Stock Exchange which is largest IPO in history. The deal with Beijing Shiji fits into Alibaba's strategy of connecting its online and mobile services with bricks-and-mortar businesses.
Seah comments, “We’re very excited about this investment by Beijing Shiji: it’s a window to tap into this online giant Alibaba and the resources for us to realise our transformation strategy.”
Much of this transformation involves Galasys’ CLOTA (Cloud Online Travel Agency) platform.
CLOTA forms a key part of Galasys' growth strategy, with the introduction of a new revenue model based on a share of revenue per ticket sold, correlating revenue and growth to visitor numbers.
“We have signed up the top ten online travel agencies in China; we sign up our theme park customers, helping them to sell their theme park tickets via our platform to the online travel agencies (OTAs) in China… So the aim is that for every ticket that we sell through the CLOTA platform, we get a revenue share.”
He adds, “We have a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, it’s to get more projects and grow that engine; the other is to look to new areas of growth.”
Sean Seah’s entrepreneurial dynamism is a significant factor in the Group’s trajectory. It seems the Galasys star is in the ascendant.