● By Mel Sim
We speak to Reza Zaldy Abdullah about starting a go-karting business during the pandemic.
Some things happen for a reason… even if it means doing something others would brand as “you must be crazy!” You could say this is the story of how Formula Karting began, a new indoor go-karting track set up by Reza Zaldy Abdullah and two other friends right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did it all begin? “I have known my business partner most or my life, and he has been in the karting scene most of his. We reconnected some years ago while he was running and operating an outdoor karting facility in Batu 3 Shah Alam,” says Reza. “It just so happen that the business was near the end of its tenancy and he had to move out. Since he had to move, we started talking and thought why not move into an indoor facility instead since there was a demand for indoor karting at the moment. We partnered up and found our current indoor location at the Strand Mall in Kota Damansara.”
Formula Karting is an indoor leisure go-karting facility where you can rent go-karts and drive around the track. It’s a great way to have some weekend fun with friends and family, as well as to explore as a corporate initiative for team activities. Reza and his two other partners are involved in the day-to-day operations, marketing and promotions, business development, and liaising with the various suppliers and partners locally and overseas.
What makes the story behind Formula Karting interesting is that it opened shop during the pandemic! Reza explains that they really didn’t have much choice but to go ahead with their plans. “The ball was already rolling when the pandemic hit. So we had to bite the bullet and chug along. It was slow in the beginning, especially during the setting-up stage. Fortunately, we had a lot of help from the landlord and good support from our dedicated staff and partners. By the time we opened, the government had eased the lockdown restrictions and it slowly gained momentum,” he says.
A Long Journey
Setting up took longer than expected. Getting permits and approvals were a major challenge, no thanks to the rules and restrictions during the pandemic. Other challenges Reza and his partners faced? “Of course it is to make sure all the safety measures are in place so our customers can have a safe and enjoyable experience on the tracks.
Also, getting people used to the concept of go-karting. According to Reza, many people think it is the same as driving a bumper car at the theme park, which is far from the truth. “Karts are much faster and agile. Hence, safety is always our top priority. We are still in the process of implementing safety measures and equipment at the track to make it even safer for our customers. It is an ongoing endeavour,” he says.
Like most businesses, getting customers to know and try what you are offering is something that will always be top of the list. To do this, they tapped into the already existing customer database from the last outdoor track we operated. Then there is also social media presence, which the team is currently still working on expanding its presence online and offline. But seeing someone having a great time at Formula Karting makes it all worthwhile, shares Reza.
Also, people management will always be a challenge, regardless if you are a new or existing business. Thankfully, Reza’s background in the F&B business has helped and prepared him to manage the team and staff better. “One of the most important factor in any business are the people. Having good and motivated people around you is crucial. People management would probably be the most interesting aspect of this business, be it from staff to customers. You learn so much from this human interaction. No one person is ever the same so that keeps it interesting,” he says.
Reza’s aspirations for Formula Karting? “We want it to be the premier go-karting destination for all levels from casual to professional go-kart drivers to enjoy. Ours is a business by karters for karters. So in terms of karting be it leisure or competitive, we know what makes it enjoyable. It’s about creating an experience rather than just going around the track in a go-kart. We also emphasise on service, which is something I feel a lot of similar businesses out there are lacking in,” he says.
Then there is the bigger picture that Reza wants to share with fellow and future karters in Malaysia: “If you are passionate about racing and motorsport, this could be a most fulfilling lifelong endeavour. Just make sure you have a good understanding of the karting and motoring scene here in Malaysia. A solid network among the various racing-related fraternities is important. The karting business is also a great platform in nurturing champion racers of the future. That in itself makes it a worthwhile journey.”
Got the need for speed? Check out Formula Karting at IG @formulakarting.my.
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