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Cover Story: How Aioka is transforming F1 customer experience

Bally Singh, chairman and founder of Aioka, reveals how the brand is pioneering bespoke and exclusive experiences for F1 aficionados across the region

Any true F1 fan will attest to the exhilarating experience of being at the races: sleek cars that whizz pass at blistering speeds of more than 200km/h, glamourous international celebrities rubbing shoulders with superstar race drivers, busy pit crews priming for action, exclusive lounges with VIPs, pit lane walks, paddock tours and photo ops.

But there’s more for those looking to immerse themselves even deeper into this high-octane world. These discerning customers are looking for ‘money can’t buy experiences’, says Aioka’s Bally Singh.

The businessman and entrepreneur, who has more than 25 years of experience in the sports and entertainment space, adds: “Standard hospitality experiences are a thing of the past. Our exclusive clientele is looking for everything from private charters, yacht soirees and Michelin-starred dining experiences to meet-and-greets with drivers and team principals.”

At your service

UAE-based Aioka, previously known as The Rich List, has been servicing high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) across the GCC and Europe for the past 15 years. It is part of Hoko’s portfolio – a venture that was launched over 10 years ago.

The business started with two key areas – The Rich List creation at Abu Dhabi Race Weekend for HNWIs to access this. In addition to this, there was the consultancy and event management side to the business that was more traditional from an agency perspective where the company serviced major blue-chip corporations in their sport or entertainment sponsorships in events.

Hoko advised these corporations on what they should do in varying sports and then executed these activations or campaigns.

“Our business continued to grow through the IP (intellectual property) of The Rich List until it became what it is today – as Aioka – across multiple F1 races globally, with many revenue streams linked to it.

Our consultancy business continues to grow as we look to build out our experience of helping sponsors or corporations involved or wanting to get involved with F1,” says Singh, the company’s chairman and founder.

“What sets us apart is our attention to detail. When creating an event, our primary focus is the customers’ journey and their experience from the moment they arrive to the days after when they leave and carry on talking about the event to their friends and colleagues.

“From selecting the venue to the international staffing with silver service to finding the most suitable entertainment. Our events are tailored to our consumers’ expectations.

We pride ourselves on the fact that so many international celebrities, such as The Weeknd, Bella Hadid, Kevin Hart and French Montana, have attended our past events purely to enjoy the atmosphere we offer,” adds Singh.

Aioka’s exclusive partnership with Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake

The Monaco Grand Prix 2023 saw Aioka partner with Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake to enhance guest, corporate and individual experiences throughout the championship. The brand collaborated with Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake to create bespoke customer experiences with its global concierge service, thus making any event memorable from the start until the end – from sourcing exclusive hospitality options to arranging additional features such as travel, accommodation, dining and entertainment.

As part of the partnership, Aioka will enhance the team’s offer to guests, as well as to corporate groups and individuals, with memorable add-on experiences available over the course of the 2023 Formula One World Championship – be it private factory visits, meet and greets with team principals and drivers, team dinners or unique visits to the team’s garages during race weekends.

“With most of our senior team having experience in the sports and entertainment industry for over 20 years, we are well-versed in creating unique and amazing experiences in conjunction with Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake. It is a well-established and accessible team as a partner, and we can curate these experiences that no one else can put together. This is what makes the difference when both parties have this vested interest in creating the most memorable experiences for clients,” says Singh.

Reimagining luxury with tech

As a company that has always looked toward the future, Aioka has employed nascent technology to create benefits for current customers, as well as to introduce new consumers to the brand. Using artificial intelligence (AI) in the concierge industry provides a variety of benefits, such as the ability to catalogue and pass on information about the newest restaurants, charter companies and experiences. Further, Singh’s expertise in technology from the past has contributed to his success in numerous ways.

“For a number of years, I saw the disconnect between new technologies such as the blockchain industry and the commercial and corporate worlds – neither seemed to fully understand the other. We managed to create a solution, via our events, that bridged that gap and allowed the two worlds to intersect and collaborate with each other. This goes to our whole ethos of bringing people together from any background, industry or world.

“The key for us is to provide supreme efficiency and information and solutions at our customers’ fingertips whilst retaining the personal touch that we have become known for. We are beginning with a small pilot scheme, both geographically with the UAE and demographically with HNWIs. This will allow us to fully test the technology and the proof of use within an area we already know and a client base and partners we are already working with.

As we begin to consider the option of a stand-alone app or programme, it may be the right time to engage with VC firms to add capital but also specialist know-how to ensure successful implementation and execution,” explains Singh.

Aioka remains on the cutting edge by keeping its events fresh and forward-looking and by introducing new products as they enter the market to make its customers’ experience more pleasant throughout the entire process.

Powered by people

Singh attributes the success to his diverse team, which adeptly navigates the ever-changing trends of today’s competitive market. “The company’s vision is to continue developing in its field, creating outstanding and unique event experiences around the world – with the support of a diverse team of specialists who embody and represent this philosophy, ” says Singh.

I believe you should “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, and if possible, even more passionate than you. Positive energy brings positive results”.

He believes in creating a team where people feel comfortable putting their ideas forward and empowering them with the necessary tools to do their jobs. “One of the characteristics that set us apart is how agile and flexible we are,” he says.

Racing towards the future

Moving ahead, Hoko is looking to expand in 10 cities in 2024 and offer distinct services such as event management, public relations and marketing. Meanwhile, having spent more than a decade in Abu Dhabi as part of The Race Weekend, Aioka’s GCC races have become a significant focus on the calendar, now comprising four races. Currently, the brand is involved in two of them, and this year, it has launched in Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, its plans for 2024 include participating in all four races as it expands to include Bahrain and Qatar in the calendar. “With Hoko’s headquarters in the UAE and a comprehensive database covering the GCC, this expansion feels like a natural progression,” concludes Singh.

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