Mr. Freij El Zein (Chairman/ Founder-Freij Entertainment International)
EVOLVE: What prompted you to embark upon the idea of founding such a mind-blowing amusement Company?
Freij El Zein: Actually, its our family business and this is the fourth generation. We do park travelling; not like the theme park which is relatively a divergent concept of parks. It was my idea to get out of one country and advance towards the next level by travelling worldwide. This is how the whole idea came into existence.
EVOLVE: What are the key success factors for Freij Entertainment International that are pivotal for reaching the pinnacle of global entertainment Industry?
Freij El Zein: For a company to be successful having a leader is essential, because having someone to follow, guide and give directions helps groups to organize and achieve common goals. A company is considered successful if it can retain its key consumers. An authority brand never becomes satisfied with huge contracts. It strives to keep and enhance it. We have weaved our amusement park in every nook and corner of Pakistan. We are not a part of any gaming activity. We have amusement parks specifically for children and entertaining the families as well, which means that parents can go with their children. This is called Amusement Park. When we talk about gaming it means you gamble, you lose or win. You challenge to win something. So, we are not a part of these kinds of activities. We like people to come and enjoy our rides such as roller coaster, bumble cars, extreme ride. We provide a platform where you can feel how you go up and down, how you crush, swing and bump which is quite a thrilling experience. I target more at poor countries rather than rich countries. For example, we have entertained millions of people in Thailand and Bangkok. But we give a chance to everybody to come over to us. We welcome people with open arms as we have several amusement rides for different age groups. We create a platform for families to go inside and to entertain themselves by watching some stage shows, and circus acts. Its a different platform than theme parks. The theme park is a platform for 6 to 7 people and can be availed by paying an enormous amount. We have worked day and night on our policies because we had a firm belief that we are here to stay. We ensured our company available in the tiniest town to make our company heard. I have always tried to expand the ancestry of our business. We have succeeded in not only running this business competently but also expanding its twigs around the globe thats why we are called Worlds largest operator.
EVOLVE: Which of your areas of amusement and entertainment, like largest travelling giant Ferris Wheels, Worlds Biggest Travelling Operator of Amusement Rides, Amusement Rides, Skill Games, Circus and Entertainment Carnival Mega Event, would you consider the biggest and Flag ship attraction of Freij Entertainment International?
Freij El Zein: In my opinion, tourist attractions are all the component elements of a tourist product (aspects of the place and events, buildings and authentic products of higher culture), designated as special ones, and possessing the ability to attract tourists and make them choose a given area, rather than another one. Our amusement parks played a vital role here in Europe, one family has to pay for a single ride and has to enjoy one ride only. We are different as we own our 600 rides where we travel from country to country not from city to city. This is how we decide where we are going in this month, area, city or continent it will be. Thats why we have no competition in the whole world. We are the only largest, amusement operator. This was step one. Now come to step two. The Giant Wheel is not the only wheel. And long an eye came in 2000 and have big success today. All the capital has this kind of demand. We own those wheels whether its Marina Eye, Wheel of Venice, Wheel of Manchester, Wheel of Mexico. We make a huge investment. But we did not make them travel. Giant Wheel is not a ride to go up and down. Based on our huge platform we disperse them in different areas. It has a high safety tool, boosting designs. Most of the factories of amusement rides are bankrupt because the rides coming very expensive. And people cant afford and ultimately, they close down. So, we have in operation at the moment in all continents. The wheel is not permanent it is not fixed on the ground its transportable. We have wheels with 42 gondolas. It is not manufactured in China. You dont know the security; the quality and you dont know who built it.
EVOLVE: Your organization has practiced Freij World Wheel, The Wheel of Brussels, Movie Star, Global Wheel and many more. Which of these is considered to be the pioneer in its own category?
Freij El Zein: All the wheels have meaning in it. For instance, The Movie Star. It is made by a star in the movie. On your left, you have Charlie Chaplin statue and on the other side, you have a statue. The wheel has the creation of the movie star. This is where the name coming out. When you talk about Global Wheel, its a collaboration of many wheels. And you feel like you are under a globe. Its a travelling wheel going from one continent to the other. Its an attraction for the tourists. You cant go to the zoo, every morning on the beach and you cannot go every night to eat Sushi. People go to Phuket; Abu Dhabi and they look for the tourist places where they can go. And we have senior citizens,
they cannot enjoy these rides but they can walk around and enjoy the nice atmosphere. You can take pictures and would remember where you were. So I cant decide which one is pioneer in its category. Each wheel has its importance so all of them are pioneer in their category.
EVOLVE: Freij Entertainment claims We take you to the world of dreams filled with Joy, fun and excitement to let your fantasy fly and turn your world into a fun filled experience. Do you think your customers endorse your claims?
Freij El Zein: In amusement parks, everything is bought through money. Let me give you an example. If you go to the dark house. You dont know whats inside. You expect something. You go on the ride. Some ghosts make you surprise. When you take rides, you feel amazed for some time. Its like a dream come true. You go up and down and people pay money for it. When I was young, I went to watch the movie Karate. I had fun watching the movie. The same case with our amusement rides. We provide you a different experience to get yourself indulge in the world which nobody can ever let you enjoy. As far as our customers are concerned, they are much satisfied because we provide a platform where people of every age group can amuse themselves.
EVOLVE: Do you think there are a lot more things yet to be done in the field of fun and amusement; plus, are you in process of introducing new ideas and concepts in the field of entertainment?
Freij El Zein: This is a very important point. The entertainment business for the last 10 years is facing a downfall and become bankrupt. For this reason, people always want something new. We add circus in our parks for the people who are no more interested in taking giant rides. You can experience something unexpected inside. Thats why people attract towards our rides. We need to compensate accordingly. We are introducing our amusement parks in Pakistan as well according to the needs of the people. It all depends upon the fact of how many people can pay for those rides as they use to pay for the cinema, shopping, etc. So, our amusement parks prove to be a milestone.
EVOLVE: You have employed huge number of skilled and unskilled human resource in your group globally. Do you think retention of skilled workers a big challenge and what human resource policies you have adopted to keeping the employ retention and satisfaction to your desired level?
Freij El Zein: Winning team is a self-motivated team and I do have one. Employee retention is the organizational goal of keeping talented employees and reducing turnover by fostering a positive work atmosphere to promote engagement, showing appreciation to employees, and providing competitive pay and benefits and healthy work-life balance. Employers are particularly interested in retaining employees during periods of low unemployment and heightened competition for talent. We have thousands of people working with us. They get married, have families and kids. Our amusement rides are equipped with high technology. Nobody is allowed to operate it according to his own will. You can say its a pilot in an airplane. Everything is computerized and has high-end security. 80% of staff in our amusement parks are local. We give chance to students or people who are interested to pay services to our company. We have Chinese, Indian, Filipinos, Egyptians, Lebanese, Americans, Romanians working with us. People like to join us and we welcome them wholeheartedly. In order to retain employees, we use human resources technology for recruiting, onboarding, engaging and recognizing workers and offer more work flexibility and modern benefits like physical and financial wellness programs.
EVOLVE: Freij Entertaimnment is considering health and safety management to be of the highest priority and fulfills its commitments through an approved Health and Safety policy. What is the key to ensure your company is folllowing and observing all laws, regulations and standards of health and safety?
Freij El Zein: Today people who introduced to the idea of an amusement park came from Europe, mostly German and Italian. 80% German and the rest of them are Italians. We never copy any of the equipment. Chinese tried to copy equipment but ultimately end up everything with accidents. The whole world is affected by these accidents including Pakistan. For this reason, we are not looking for cheap rather than we focus on safety. In every city where ever we build-up, we have a team of inspection. We build a path for inspection based on the correct installation. In theme parks, things are fixed and bolt in the concrete. So, after years you dont know that the bolt underground which is holding this column will suddenly collapse and then accidents happen. In Europe, we set our standards and there are strict laws that we have to follow. The rides have been examined and calculated during the manufacturing stage to get proof of operation. We went through all the procedures to prove ourselves. We dont care about the money and we dont compromise on safety. Because we dont want to lead down the expectations of the people. At the end of the day, children and their families are our responsibilities. The Giant Wheel has 42 Gondolas and it can carry up to 10 people. We are talking about 420 people. Its like 420 people flying on airbus. You can well imagine that one pilot is riding 4 airplanes in the air. But here the pilot cant do anything whatever he wants. He has to follow the technology. This is how we operate with high-end security systems.
EVOLVE: What are the challenges and threats for a huge entertainment and amusement platform like Freij Entertainment and what are the underlying risk factors for managing such a giant set up of a Travelling Operator of Amusement Rides?
Freij El Zein: It means all investments we do. People make their calculations and realize that no its not working and they should invest money in hotels, building and would rent it out or buy any factory. They think why do we invest money on roads. Today with one big wheel you can buy 5 buildings. I am talking about millions. For this reason, no one is encouraged to go and invest in amusement parks. They invest in theme parks. 80 % of them including many goes on bankruptcy. Even in Europe in 1993-94, they went on bankruptcy.
The theme parks have no future because people come and take rides. They cant pay for the same rides again and again as rides are too costly. We cant bring in new people to get into our theme parks. So, what else the choice one has as he is already on the ankle of the ground. Ultimately the quality and standard go down and as a result, lose a client. We are different as we close down and then we change the city work with other countries and with fresh people.
EVOLVE: How is sustaining focus important for pursuing opportunities?
Freij El Zein: I think there is a fine balance between pursuing new opportunities and remaining focused on current business. The best way is finding and training the right team so you can delegate some of your existing responsibilities to the new team, therefore you have time to pursue new opportunities. Just going after the new opportunities and neglecting the current focus (operation) is a recipe for disaster.
EVOLVE: How would you opine at the global economic conditions and what role an Entertainment Industry play in curtailing global poverty?
Freij El Zein: Sometimes we face many difficulties in different countries where we go. This is the reason we skip many countries and I think its a huge success. There is a huge cost to invest in setting up an amusement park at a new place. If I earn a hundred thousand, I have to pay for the taxes and fees for the staff and operations and have to pay for security and nobody is there to support me. For such a giant set up, we need to invest more and more. This is happening to every theme park worldwide. But it is not our responsibility to pay for every single entity. Still we do invest in amusement parks and have sustained an eminent place worldwide.
EVOLVE: Is the environment conducive to Fun and Entertainment in Pakistan and what are the major opportunities for amusement parks you are foreseeing in Pakistan?
Freij El Zein: In Pakistan, we are looking for two things. One is the Capital Smart City which is going to be the major event and we are working on three or four projects Smart City in the last ten years. If these projects coming up then it would change the entire perspective people have about Pakistan. I know many investors are interested in doing business in Pakistan. Secondly, the market in Pakistan can support not only one but four to five amusement parks because there are big cities, and villages. Pakistan has 220 Million population and investors know that everything is going to be fine and will grow in the future. We are not worried or scared to invest here. It provides us more courage and gives us the challenge to compete. As you know, competition creates better results. We are constantly in competition with the theme parks around the globe.
EVOLVE: What message do you have for the readers of EVOLVE magazine?
Freij El Zein: Pakistan is a country where half of the population are children and youth. This youth will shape the future of Pakistan so you are paying your part for the development of the coming generation through your publication. Your magazine is very interesting as it has details about the business sector. I would make nice research on it. I went through many international magazines and your magazine seems globally renowned. It seems that it has multicultural content. I wish you all good luck with your prospects.