Motherly touch is Shalini Vij’s secret ingredient in Hang Out’s success
Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.
– John Keats
Shalini Vij was a young mother when she moved to India from the United States. Around the same time she was also diagnosed with rheumatoid and lupus, ailments which are both treatable and can be kept in remission with medications but are incurable autoimmune diseases. They are not contagious but can restrict normal activities during flare ups. Little did she know that a move meant to bring her closer to family would lead to her embarking on a new journey of entrepreneurship.
Discovery of the need
“My kids are God’s gift to me and were the driving factors behind Hang Out. I moved back after living in the US for 14 years and I found no places to spend quality and family time with my kids. We missed the
play areas, well maintained playgrounds, entertainment centres, and gaming zones.”Knowing the importance of playtime for the early year development of kids, Shalini was both surprised and disappointed to discover the serious lack of places in India where her kids could expend their energy. The current unpredictable weather conditions only added to her misery she says explaining why she was not in favour of them playing in the outdoors. Her younger son being detected with ADHD syndrome was the last straw in the hat. Shalini was now determined to create what she calls a gift for her kids and for all young parents with little ones.
The Hang Out story
After travelling extensively for two years doing a lot of research coupled with market study and regular feedback from her kids, Shalini set up Hang Out, a comprehensive centre for family fun in Delhi. Hang Out as the name suggests is a Family Hang Out that promotes family interaction and understands the sibling age preferences of entertainment and family needs as a whole, catering from toddlers to tweens, parents to grandparents. “It is designed to unleash the child in each one of them and encourages parental interaction and quality family time. The play area also includes a Cafe, a place for making family meal time fun which also operates as a party facility. The menu in these cafes is constantly changing,” she says adding “We serve healthy nutritious food, which a mother would cook at home. Nothing about us is commercial.”
Understanding the importance of safety in ventures like these Shalini’s Hang Out is also the first company in the sector to reinvent playground equipment by introducing creative jungle themed designs using softer material and safer play environments exceeding ASTM Safety standards providing ADA accessibility. With three operational centres across Delhi NCR and Punjab, Shalini and her team are working hard to make indoor playtime more locally accessible to all.
Chapters from her book of entrepreneurship
Having studied business administration and personnel management from Northern Illinois University, Shalini also studied psychology to enhance her knowledge. Her first stint with entrepreneurship was in the USA where she ran a business of personalized and bridal gifts, chain stores. But what made a physically weak young mother to set up a startup in a short span after moving to India?
“I felt the lack of entertainment and amusement setups in India and set out to chase my dream project. I call Hang Out my ‘passion project’.” she says.
But being amongst the first few women in the entertainment industry, trying to make a place in the male-dominated industry was a challenge. The risks of bringing in a new concept, a different model and convincing people to believe in what she calls her passion project was more challenging than she had thought. “Strong support from my family and God’s grace kept me going,” says Shalini adding with pride that Hang Out has changed the face of kid’s entertainment in the country.
Today, she has an extensive experience of 13 years in the retail and entertainment industry having worked with several American companies such as Cole Corporation, Discovery Zone, and Caldor. She is also a director of companies like M.F. Entertainment & Amusement, Hang Out, and Bouncy Town.
The motherly touch
As her business is fast expanding, Shalini’s faith in her team which she describes as wonderful is only growing. She trains each of them herself and ingrains a sense of ownership and responsibility. “I tell them, for you it must be the 15th birthday party of the day, but for the child it is something they have been waiting for all year.”
What started as a gift for her kids is now a flourishing business, but Shalini’s unadulterated love for children remains unchanged. “The love I get from the children who visit Hang Out is my biggest high.” She signs off.