How a sibling-duo is trying to bring back that craze for laser tag in India
Sahil Sehgal fell in love with Laser Tag all over again in London and is trying to recreate that magic in Delhi. Their new arena, OMG, houses laser tag, arcade gaming, a Sony VR setup, bubble football and dodge throw basket arena.
When you step in, the state-of-the-art arena, with its exemplary tech and machines, drenched in groovy UV light and UV paint, may look like the work of seasoned techies. But the heartwarming reality behind the scenes is that it is as much that as it is like one of those old-school family-run gaming arcades that you would lose yourself in for entire weekends as a child.
It is not only powered by the eternal trust of two siblings in each other’s abilities, but is also fuelled by their mother’s beloved nest egg, who also sometimes takes to the stage and plays host!
A family that games together, gains together
Sahil Sehgal, now 30, established Oh My Game (OMG) as a full-suite recreational and amusement centre for all ages in 2016, after getting absolutely hooked to the game of laser tag during his masters in International Business from Queen Mary University of London.
He had toyed with the idea of opening up modern-day gaming centres at top malls back in 2011 as well but shelved it realising that neither the malls nor the market were ready for it. But he kept a hawk’s eye on the market for five years before making his move.
In fact, between the two degrees, he even secured some work-ex. He first worked at a pharmaceutical company in their marketing and sales department, and later clocked a stint with his family business of industrial packaging, before finally getting that idea - the one that doesn’t let you sleep at night - that would justify his early plunge, branching away from his family. “However, to start Oh My Game was not an impulse - I did in-depth market research to structure the concept, and kept my full-time job at my family business,” he says.
Rather than getting disgruntled, his family showered him with validation and support - especially his mother and sister, who doubled up as partners and investors respectively. Twenty-seven-year-old Aakritti Sehgal, his sister, is a Textile Design graduate from Pearl Academy, and ran her own business, Cannigo, which deals with tablemats and covers. She came on board with his plan because his passion was contagious. “Sahil’s idea had great potential in the Indian market. I felt the passion take hold of me as well,” she recalls.
A virtual tour of the centres
Oh My Game gets its footfalls predominantly from the birthday parties for toddlers in their double floor play area, which also has kiddie rides, as well as the corporate events they host every so often, like team outings and team-building activities. The arena houses a laser tag setup, arcade gaming, a Sony VR setup, bubble football and dodge throw basket arena – Laser Tag being its most popular offering.
“Talking about the games, the main focus of OH MY GAME is laser tag, which is our USP,” he says. While the tech and machines are state-of-the-art, they have also have invested in talent from around the country. The arena itself has a UV theme, and all the artwork is hand-painted by an artist from Kolkata.
“All the equipment is specially tailored to serve the arena’s goal,” says Sahil.
Another major attraction is their bubble football. “We have made a small indoor football field for a three-versus-three game, where you play football inside a bubble. It means you can crash into each other, fall and roll but you don’t get hurt. It’s also like playing football with rugby rules,” Sahil explains.
The arcade gaming setup is loaded with games like Street Fighter, Subway Surfer, Air Hockey, Basketball, Car racing etc. Another relatively unheard of a game called Dodge Throw Basket, where you need to play dodgeball against a machine, can be found at their arena.
They have two laser tag arenas in Gurgaon, and the one at their Good Earth centre is among the largest laser tag arenas in the country. The other one is at DLF Phase II.
“Initially, to make people aware of laser tag and explain to them why it was an expensive game took its toll as it was a new concept here. However, in time, people could identify with and understand the concept as it provided an exception when it came to entertainment,” he says, of the early challenges that emerged.
OMG was kicked off with a vision of having it turn into a chain, and hence, a household brand. “We put up stalls, distributed pamphlets, carried out SMS campaigns, tied up with various online groups like Whatsup Gurgaon, LBB etc., to write about us and let people know about our brand concept,” Sahil reveals, about their marketing strategy.
The chemistry in the biology
While laser tag may have been his idea, he credits Aakritti and his mother heavily for ensuring that this passion shapes up into a business. “It wouldn’t have gotten so popular without Aakritti’s contributions. And our mother is the backbone behind it who provided the initial funding,” he reveals.
Having said that, however, he admits that working with family does have its downfalls. “The downer to working with family members is that we did have disagreements on how to further our concept, build strategies etc. but the best part is since it’s family you can always count on each other at the end of the day and things just get resolved as everyone puts in their best bit,” he states.
This family, in fact, is about to get its newest member, as Aakritti is expecting her first child. However, she is confident that this won’t impact her work owing to the solid understanding the sibling-cum-co-founders share. “Juggling work with pregnancy is difficult no doubt, but since it’s a family business where my brother and mother are involved, I plan to work a few hours a day even after having my baby. For ‘pregpreneurs’ time management is a must. Don’t stress, you need peace of mind more than ever when you have just had a child,” she says.
They were prepared to have this dip into their savings for longer, but they started sustaining through a steady stream of revenue much sooner than expected. So far, from the Good Earth centre, they have hosted about 400 birthday parties and 150 corporate parties. The second, relatively newer centre at DLF Phase II has held 40 birthday parties and 15 corporate parties, and companies like Google, Amex, Deloitte, Mckinsey, EY have held corporate events for their employees, no less, in the short span of two months. “We plan to add three or four more centres by the end of another year. By next August we want to reach at least five centres,” Sahil says, signing off.