Jumping on the BOUNCE bandwagon with Mark Jobling
Mark Jobling enjoyed great financial success with investments in the power generation industry, but it wasn’t until he became involved with BOUNCEinc and founded a new home for the innovative recreational enterprise in Thailand that his dreams finally came together. And it’s especially gratifying this happened in a country for which Mark, chairman of BOUNCE, has a deep affection and a long connection to.
The first BOUNCE in Thailand and the largest in Asia opened at The Street on Ratchadaphisek last December. During this interview, held at the company’s new 2,000 sq m venue on the 4th floor of EmQuartier, a group of youngsters were having fun trying out the trampolines in the modern, safe and well-equipped facility.
Guests at the official grand opening of the EmQuartier facility the day before included the Australian Ambassador Paul Robilliard, who said: “Australia’s popular form of ‘sportainment’ has expanded into Thailand, and the past year has shown that this type of sports is quite a hit here as well.”
In his remarks, Somporn Naksuetrong, CEO of BOUNCEinc (Thailand), agreed that the concept had “gained traction unexpectedly quickly.”
Mark was born in Australia, as was BOUNCE, and despite all his travels he’s retained a pleasant Aussie accent. “I grew up in a typical middle-class Melbourne family. Our home was in the suburbs and everybody knew each other. My parents both worked in education in Melbourne. “I played cricket and football from primary all through secondary school,” Mark said. After high school, he earned a degree in economics and another in law and took a job as a commercial lawyer for one of Australia’s largest firms, Mallesons Stephens Jaques. At the age of 28, he accepted a six-month assignment in Hong Kong, his first time overseas, and he’s travelled extensively ever since.
Mark says he absorbed some essential beliefs from his parents and from growing up in the close neighbourhood environment about the importance of individuals and relationships. He stressed the significance of what he called his “people-first” approach. “I have always found the right people and I really attribute the success I have had to always being able to put together a great team. It all comes down to relationships in business and being trustworthy. People rely on you by the agreements you make and the things you say you are going to do.
“I would say that along with forming good relationships, luck in timing has been another essential ingredient in everything I have done. In every investment made by my teams we always knew we were on the right track and believed we were making the best decisions, but luck and good timing have definitely played a part as well,” Mark said.
A case in point is Mark’s investment career, particularly in the energy industry. As managing director for Southeast Asia and Taiwan for CLP Holdings from 2003-2011, he oversaw a number of initiatives that ultimately led to solid successes. He founded or played a major role in OneEnergy Limited, Green Light Energy Holdings and Edge Electronics. In 2011 he founded Waverly Sky Group, which oversees investments in a diverse range of companies including Asian startups and energy technology firms.
Sensing an opportunity
“It was good timing that allowed me to discover the incredible opportunity that led to my involvement with BOUNCE,” Mark explains. “The Australian owner in Hong Kong and I had mutual friends, so I got to know him as well. To me, BOUNCE seemed like a good investment in Hong Kong, but once I imagined it in Thailand I knew we really had something.”
Mark became the driving force for establishing BOUNCE Thailand. “What I saw was that Thais needed something new. They seemed to have enough shopping malls and restaurants. I felt that I could give them something to get involved in and really have fun with something different that appeals to an independent, adventurous spirit in all ages. Besides the exercise, it also makes people happy. Let’s face it, when you are bouncing on a trampoline, the only thing you can do is smile,” Mark said.
“The BOUNCE concept came out of Melbourne. There are a lot of trampoline clubs around the world. What BOUNCE did was to go to America and observe the trampoline concept as it was there and take it one better. They combined trampolines with more fun and a more interesting concept,” said Mark.
His luck and another great team paid off again for Mark and before long BOUNCE had opened its 5,600 sq m venue on the 5th floor of The Street. “That was actually the first location we looked at. It had everything we needed and even more. I put together a team of people who were known to my Thai wife and me or had been recommended to me, and they turned out to be better than even we expected. I trust them and let them do their jobs.
“So far, The Street has been a complete success and many thousands of customers go there not only for the trampolines but also for the climbing wall. What we saw was that 15 to 30-year-old Thais really loved the high-performance area, so when we came to EmQuartier we really focused on the high-performance area again.
“Our customers range in age from three or four to mid-thirties. You will see a real diverse range of people coming to BOUNCE. A lot of kids come with their parents who also love to take part in the activities, and while they are here they go shopping,” said Mark, adding that the EmQuartier BOUNCE is a more premium-looking venue, and much smaller and compact compared to Ratchada.
Homegrown staff and imported equipment
“We have about 160 staff at The Street and about 50-60 here in EmQuartier, so it’s more than 200. Then there are about 25 people at our head office at AIA Capital Center on Ratchadapisek Road.
“We don’t employ any expats in Thailand but we bring in an Australian team to train our people here in terms of safety, how to operate the venue and so on. Clearly, it is the Thai team that has to deliver the service and the experience. We try to be very consistent whether in Hong Kong, Bangkok or Melbourne.
“What I have learned from being in Thailand so long is the biggest mistake you can make with Thai consumers is to think they don’t want premium quality and service. We ensure that we deliver a premium product in every way. It is all Australian trampolines and Australian padding. Everything is important. This has been the focus for us and it’s been made easier by the Australian-Thai Free Trade Agreement. The agreement has saved us a lot of money and allowed us to use Australian equipment, which Thai customers really like.”
“There’s a lot of appetite in Thailand for what we have to offer. By next February we will have opened a new venue at Central Bangna and there will be some different things there. Then we will take a breather in Bangkok, although I think maybe we should open a fourth venue closer to the Chao Phraya River.
“But first we will open a new BOUNCE with Central Group in Korat in Nakhon Ratchasima province. We hope to get a great reception there. We’re also looking at Khon Kean potentially.
Most people would argue Phuket is a better choice, but I am bit dubious about Phuket as it is a very transient community, so I don’t feel good about going there.
“What we have seen is that the Thai market has really jumped on our trampolines. They come and they really enjoy it. Like most Melbourne boys I was practically brought up on a trampoline. We have always had an affinity with them, but not many Thais have really experienced trampolining. There clearly is some hesitancy initially from many Thai customers – ‘I don’t want to fall over, I don’t want to lose face doing this,’ that sort of thing, but what we have seen is that in the end they really enjoy the experience.
“It is important to say we don’t see ourselves just as BOUNCE. We see BOUNCE as a springboard to other entertaining concepts. If you look at New York, Singapore or Hong Kong, the big thing now is virtual reality. This will be the next big wave in the entertainment space, so we are linked up with a large virtual reality company out of Australia that we look to bring to Thailand as well.” Asked his ultimate vision for BOUNCE Thailand, Mark replied without hesitation: “To be the leader in the ‘sportainment’ industry in Asia.”