Have a late-night craving for a match of badminton? If you live near Wetherill Park, in western Sydney, you might have already scratched that itch.
Since early 2019 the suburb has been served by a late night, fully automated badminton centre, The Badminton Club, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia.
Despite badminton being a fringe player on Australia’s sporting landscape – particularly compared with national obsessions such as Australian Rules, cricket and tennis – the business is now running at a profit and gaining increasing popularity among players, new and old.
About 5000 players a month walk through its doors, with an occupancy rate close to 97 per cent during peak hours, according to its founder Dev Jaiswal.
“It’s that flexibility that people appreciate most,” he said. “We have people coming in throughout the day as well as during peak times evenings and weekends – and having a facility that is open during all of those times is such a game-changer for this community.”
The 1162-square-metre centre at 196 Newton Road, Wetherill Park, has seven courts and is open from early morning until 11pm daily, including public holidays.
“It works like an after-hours gym does,” said Mr Jaiswal.
Players make a booking online and are sent a pin code, which they then use to access the centre. Lights are automatic and there are CCTV cameras in place. There’s even a vending machine in case players forget their shuttlecocks.
“We had to have it specially designed for this purpose,” Mr Jaiswal said.
“Our mission is simple – to make all Australians happier and healthier through the wonderful game of badminton, which once tried can easily turn into a ‘healthy addiction’.”
A long-time badminton enthusiast, he found the most difficult part of establishing the centre was finding a landlord who would accommodate his business.
“It was a bit of a gamble and very hard to find a place,” he said.
Since opening in January, he has “learnt a lot and made a lot of adjustments”, including changes to the flooring and lighting. But with the badminton centre now going steady, the serial entrepreneur is already looking to his next venture.
Diversifying the next asset will be key with Mr Jaiswal suggesting that a new badminton club could be run alongside another business – sporting or otherwise – in another venue.
“Although the sport is increasingly growing in popularity, most Aussies are yet to discover the joy of playing badminton. Hence, it is still crucial to consider all aspects when determining a venue – including the demographics of the area and any alternative options so that the business can remain sustainable in the long term.”
Another important component to Mr Jaiswal’s expansion plan is replicating the “hands-off” management approach he takes to his existing businesses.
“As management we look at The Badminton Centre once a week. We have regular maintenance of the place, but we just hire the cleaning staff. There’s nobody on a salary,” he said.
“We have full-time CCTV monitoring, so we’re always on top of things.”