For The Ultimate Futsal Experience!
As one of the fastest growing indoor games, futsal has created a cult-like following everywhere it is played – in every continent of the world by over 100 countries with 30 million players of both sexes! As the only “official form of indoor soccer” approved by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), futsal has garnered a firm support among Malaysians as well.
When the demand for futsal pitches reached its peak, one company saw the fortune behind futsal that many missed. In fact, it was so convinced of its solid master plan that it turned developing futsal venues, services and facilities into a franchise powerhouse. So what makes Sports Planet – the purveyor of great futsal venues around the country score a point with futsal players and fans alike?
Franchise Asia caught up with Wong Horr Wai, Executive Director of Sports Planet Sdn Bhd, to find out the secrets of getting futsal enthusiasts screaming for more.
The business plan was simple. Fulfill a demand with a supply. The supply of futsal venues was totally lacking prior to 2002, and Sports Planet filled the demand in style by opening not just any ordinary pitch but the single largest indoor soccer venue in Malaysia comprising 11 futsal pitches in a 100,000 square feet arena called Subang Grand which was officially recognised by Malaysian Book of Records as the country’s largest futsal venue. Within a one year span, Sports Planet saw the opening of four additional venues in Sunway, Shah Alam, Ampang and Alor Star.
So what makes Sports Planet different?
“It’s our unique Ultimate Futsal Experience benefit,” Wong replied rather excitedly. “Basically it’s achieved through our determination to continuously offer facilities and services not only at an affordable price, but also memorable moments – before, in between and after every futsal game. We want every player and fan to take home sweet memories after a futsal outing.”
Within two years of opening their flagship Subang Grand venue (in Bandar Sunway), Sports Planet marked a significant landmark in its short history as it was officially registered as a Franchisor in August 2004 with the Registrar of Franchise under the Ministry of Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development (Kementerian Pembangunan Usahawan dan Koperasi). For its excellent achievements as a franchisor, Sports Planet was duly recognised by the franchise fraternity at the Franchise Awards Night 2006 organised by the Malaysian Franchise Association (MFA) where it bagged the prestigious Most Promising Franchisor of the Year and Best Sales Growth awards.
Sports Planet today has grown by leaps and bounds to become the leading and largest futsal venue provider and brand name in Malaysia. Apart from its first venue, in total there are 12 other Sports Planet locations nationwide, namely in Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Ampang, Alor Star, Kuching, Penang, Ipoh, Melaka, Tampin, Kajang, Kuala Terengganu and Sungai Buloh.
Besides covering local grounds, Sports Planet also took advantage of the worldwide appeal for futsal by promoting its concepts overseas. In December 2005, Sports Planet ushered its first international venue in Pluit, Jakarta which offers the same high level service and quality that it is known for. It added another feather to its cap when its sister branch, Sports Planet (East Coast), opened a venue in Singapore in July 2007 offering four artificial turf futsal pitches centrally located within the vicinity of East Coast Parkway. Today, Sports Planet is the proud owner of 15 futsal venues offering a total of 80 futsal pitches across three countries catering to over 180,000 excited customers every month!
Innovative Plans To Grow Futsal
Last year Sports Planet introduced the SP Card – an exclusive loyalty card for Sports Planet members to redeem rewards and discounts from a compilation of established merchants like Adidas, Revive, Body Glove and others. The SP Card has become very popular with an overwhelming response from 3,000 members to date. Seeing the awesome reaction, Sports Planet is targeting 10,000 members by end of this year by including more attractive merchandise.
To attract passionate net-savvy futsal members, Sports Planet has taken advantage of social networking platform like Facebook to create a fan club with members now standing at 3,000. At the rate the numbers are growing so rapidly, it would not take long for it to reach the 5,000 mark within a short time as expected by Sports Planet management.
Part of Sports Planet’s success can also be attributed to its success in organising futsal leagues, attractive challenges and tournaments that draw participants of all ages. Other attractions include Ladies’ Night futsal matches where women participants are offered half the price of entry to enjoy the game. Sports Planet’s aim is not solely on making profits though. Community service projects in the form of charity futsal challenges aided by renowned sponsors are featured prominently within its calendar of events.
Challenges For A Franchisor
Surely being a franchisor even for the caliber of Sports Planet is not always smooth sailing. We asked Wong how Sports Planet overcomes the challenges.
Wong continued, “Yes, it was not all effortless when we started off. Being basically a sporting and entertainment pursuit, many see only the end results – all the cheering, screaming and fun filled ambience that is expected of a futsal event. But a franchisor had to cover many grounds for a futsal experience to materialise.” Wong listed a few hurdles that they often had to face.
Topping the list is the lack of strategic locations or warehouses that can be converted into futsal venues within a suitable rental rate. Conversely, locations and warehouses are made available without sufficient funds from franchisees, which often delay the plan. This often happens when franchisees handle it alone without proper expert support. To avoid such predicaments, Sports Planet provides a comprehensive consultation system that guides a franchisee throughout the process for a small fee – right from identifying a location, until a futsal venue is up and operating.
Another headache is facing dishonest franchisees, albeit only a few, who under declare their revenue to pinch on royalty fees paid to Sports Planet. However, being an experienced franchisor, Sports Planet has created exclusive network systems like Sports Planet ‘Red and Greens Light system’, ‘online POS’ and booking system forms to reduce discrepancies. In addition, Sports Planet field representatives are frequently on the rounds visiting futsal venues in the country to keep track on venue performance and collections.
Sports Planet’s Do’s and Don’ts On Franchising
- Study and investigate the industry thoroughly.
- Analyse your own experience, skills and commitment if the business fits it.
- Look at the most feasible and affordable source of financing to pursue the business.
- Deal with established and successful franchisors.
- Request franchisor for the names of franchisees that you want to talk with.
- Don’t rely on information or advice from a selling agent.
- Don’t permit any expert to decide for you whether you should buy the franchise.
- Don’t rely on estimation of financial statement.
- Don’t rush in, research lots of potential franchise businesses.
One Futsal Venue In Every State
Being a flourishing futsal venue franchisor, Sports Planet has been receiving invitations from international parties as far as the Middle East and South Africa to develop futsal venues but Sports Planet is not in a rush to take up the offers for the time being.
Adds Wong, “As a franchisor, we are very particular with our quality and standards. We have been receiving many requests from overseas parties to help build and operate futsal venues due to our proven track record but we want to concentrate on this region for now and take one step at a time. There is no greater satisfaction than seeing our franchisees succeeding. I don’t mind revealing that all our franchisees are already making a profit – some more than others!”
Requirements for Successful Franchising
Being a highly reputed franchisor, Wong also shared some invaluable pointers on the art of successful franchising. Among them are:
- Remember that your franchisor is not a mind reader. If a franchisee needs help or has any difficulties, he or she should talk to the franchisor.
- Do not speak ill of your franchisor, fellow franchisees or the brand. If you have problems with the brand or any individual in the franchise structure, sort it out through a face to face discussion. This will benefit your franchise business in the long term.
- A franchisee should not lose sight of his franchisor’s proven success.
- No matter how successful the franchise system is, franchisees still need to put in their effort in the business.
The franchise relationship is based on a give and take policy. Neither the franchisor nor the franchisee can build a successful franchising business in isolation.
So what are Sports Planet’s plans in the near future?
“In the near future we will be working with three to four franchisees to get their futsal projects up and running. We would like to see more franchisees in states like Johor, Kelantan, Pahang, Perlis and Sabah coming forward to seek our services to build a futsal ground of their own. It would be great news not only to us but also to the players and fans to have a futsal venue in every state,” Wong concluded.
As busy as he is leading Sports Planet, Wong often finds time to play his favourite sport – futsal – at the Subang Grand venue during weekends. He envisions a great potential for the future of franchising in Malaysia with the helpful support of the Malaysian government and leading financial institutions. Wong is confident that in time to come Malaysia will become an influential franchise hub in South East Asia.