Home In Conversation Ishanya Mall: Creating differentiation through unconventional category mix

Ishanya Mall: Creating differentiation through unconventional category mix

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Pune’s is a pioneering and one-of-its-kind concept mall for Home Interiors and Design in India. With a core focus on home lifestyle, food and beverage, and entertainment categories, the shopping centre aims to provide a differentiated, singular shopping experience to visitors and customers. CEO of , talked at length with Namita Bhagat about their concept and how they plan to adapt to and grow in the changing dynamics of the country’s retail and mall scenarios.

Ishanya Mall: Creating differentiation through unconventional category mix
With a core focus on home lifestyle, food and beverage, and entertainment categories, the shopping centre aims to provide a differentiated, singular shopping experience to visitors and customers

Tell us about the concept of Ishanya Mall. How and when did the idea take shape?     

Ishanya is a venture of Deepak Fertilisers and Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd (DFPCL). It came into being a decade back with an objective of making the joy of homemaking come alive. Even today, the struggle that a family goes through, while trying to do up their homes, fighting the fears of reliability, price-quality parity or durability that continue to remain, if not grow, thanks to time. Ishanya offers an atypical experience when compared to a conventional mall. In many ways, it may be surprising to classify Ishanya as a mall because it has differentiated offerings than a conventional mall does.

When we visit a conventional mall, we expect a food court, big and small outlets of apparel, electronics, groceries and provisions, footwear etc. Unlike them, Ishanya is not just another place to indulge in some run-of-the-mill retail therapy. Our shopping centre has expanded in recent times to include entertainment venues and award-winning restaurants which are a major attraction to visitors apart from a curated mix of home lifestyle stores, sporting international and domestic brands. Even the architecture of our project is quite in sharp contrast to the conventional mall it is not just a big box type construction with monolithic pillars. Ishanya is a combination of seven connected arcades where each building has its own identity and uniqueness. The concept weaves the beautiful Pune weather and the different arcades to provide a singular experience.

Share your overview of the current scenario of shopping malls in India. What kind of scope does the market have for a concept mall like yours?

After an initial flurry, then some major worry, the shopping malls in India seem to be maturing with time and experience. While occupancy levels and footfalls continue to be metrics of success vs failure, many malls are now working on sustainability, hyper-relevance and elevated experience. Though a few malls are doing very well, there are many which are yet to pick up. Ours is a fairly introspective journey, operating in a specialisation zone, physically and experientially unlike others, dependence on organised retail, many such factors have contributed along the way. Today, with a rich learning curve of nearly a decade, we can probably claim that timing couldn’t have been better for a concept destination such as ours. Pune is quite the emergent urban cosmos, riding on a rich culture and tradition.

An experimental mindset, design-oriented and progressive, yet seeking balance and aspired identity instead of a conventionally ascribed one; the Pune consumer is an exciting individual. Factors such as tremendous growth in the Information Technology sector, the massive spread of organised retail and the city’s changing demographics are enabling and welcoming concepts such as ours to collaborate with the city. The last factor has had a significant impact on the demand for real estate in Pune, both in terms of sizes and types of homes. Young professionals with disposable income coupled with the traditional desire for home ownership and ready availability of home loans have had a significant effect on the requirement for homes in Pune. It also had an impact in terms of locations. IT/ITES companies prefer to set up shop in the less expensive outskirts of a city, and people who work in these industries prefer to live close to their workplaces.

Ishanya continues to be the largest destination in this part of India and we have customers coming to us from various parts of Maharashtra. Right from home décor furniture and gifting to customisation of products, we cater to all requirements including last mile delivery which comprises of delivery of products, installation and servicing of products through our newly launched services platform My FIT BHK.

Brief us on your business model. Also, give an insight into mall’s management, operational aspects.

Ever since the market consolidation began in retail a few years ago, mall developers in the country have been increasingly moving towards a revenue-sharing model from a fixed rental model. Under the new model, developers get a share of whatever monthly revenue a retailer earns which may vary depending on market sentiments. We too have adopted for such a model. We believe this model takes the pressure away from the retailers and allows them to grow, thereby helping the former too. Moreover, the demand-supply gap scenario in the retail market warranted such a model. We are creating a win-win situation. In this model, we grow more when our client retailers grow their businesses. Of course, the revenue share agreement varies by category and retailer. At Ishanya, we operate on a mixed model approach, yet the highlight is the high degree of engagement and interaction that we have with our retail partners in pushing up their sales. The combination of fixed rentals and revenue share business with our retail partners ensures that both parties benefit and there is equal skin in the game.

How did you select the location and how is the property spread out?

Any destination typically works on assessment of potential, ability to draw the right customers and surrounding infrastructure and their growth-sustainability potential. While  Ishanya is located in East Pune which has grown in retail market size, social strata and purchasing potential, we wish to cover a wider ambit, covering the city and its limits and a bit beyond too, based on strength of content and communication. As mentioned earlier, there are multiple arcades with multiple configurations; for instance, our F&B arcade is just one level with a matching terrace while there are other arcades with 3 levels and 2 levels respectively. A 700 seater amphitheatre or a 2000 sq. ft. Tilting art gallery add to the character, Facilities such as elevators, travelators and escalators help people to reach various levels of the different arcades.

What all brands do you host and what is the product portfolio? How are you creating the differentiation for Ishanya?  

We have a bouquet of retailers and brands from India and abroad. With a core focus on three categories of Home Lifestyle, F&B and Entertainment, there are over 80 brands in various formats spread over nearly 4 lakh sq. ft. of space. In Home Lifestyle space, national bands such as @Home anchor the destination effect while the international leader Ashley Furniture Homestore brings in powerful content.Exclusive brand houses such as Houslife, The Home Sukh complement regional specialist retailers such as Viva Sol, Tangent and Rawat furniture. Inline stores include brands such as Maspar, leaders in furnishings to the Mattress store with a wide array of sleeping solutions.

Across the 60,000 sq. ft. dedicated to food and beverage, Ishanya has a delectable mix of brands including the iconic blueFROG, Zorafine dine (Modern Indian Kitchen), Opus Banquets, Baraza Bars and Bites, KK Sheesha and Smoky’s microbrewery. The entertainment space is anchored by India’s largest indoor sports arena XLR8 with a unique group gaming concept and Tiger Play with its outdoor futsal play-zone. Two renowned designs schools – Srishti Design School and FAD complete the collaborative adjacencies at Ishanya.

How do you plan to make the venture a success for yourself and the partner brands? Can you please share some numbers: revenue, growth rate, average customer footfalls, etc?

We believe that true success lies in inspiring the joy of creation in all our customer segments, be it our first customer the retailer or our final consumer who engages in our three core categories. A carefully crafted strategy is in place to ensure complete alignment of context, content and communication which we believe are the cornerstones of attaining success. We have been growing steadily and progressively with YOY occupancy incomes growing by nearly 17% and occupancy by nearly 40%.We believe in the concept of walk-ins unlike footfalls – and to us, a walk-in is a footfall with intent. The quality of customer entry is paramount and we have grown by nearly 20% on this parameter.

Malls are no more just shopping destination and shoppers want memorable experience and recreation also. What are the key attractions at your mall, and how do you make sure the customer convenience and service excellence? 

True, shopping experiences are created by multiple and meaningful engagement methods. The three categories we offer are curated to bring just that – a set of unique moments that translate into memories of joy and fulfilment. The sheer layout, indoor-outdoor ambience, elements such as the clock-tower or the wishing well, an amphitheatre that plays host to high quality events in music,dance,theatre ,an art gallery that has a continuous stream of shows and workshops ,all of these add to the memory nodes through both head and heart responses. Our unique services platform Myfitbhk short for a well-maintained and coordinated bedroom, hall, kitchen (or the home in sum) is another case in point to provide elevated experiences to our customers.

What can you say about the innovations in customer engagements? Describe your marketing and promotions approach.

As reflected earlier, customer engagement is achieved in the realm of products by sheer range and depth and uniqueness, through carefully thought-through services such as home maintenance, renovation and interior design apart from product selection support, coupled with an array of events from short weekend spurts to longer shows and expos. We leverage our different venues from indoor spaces to the art gallery to the amphitheatre. International story telling competitions, design exhibitions, corporate futsal and cricket tournaments, children’s plays, live concerts by internationally renowned maestros, dance workshops are among many of the engagement tools. Knowledge workshops help in aiding customer awareness and interest. Various media from digital to social, print to outdoor are deployed to promote these events, sale periods and brand launches.

How are you looking to leverage the omnichannel strategy to accelerate growth?

We fully realise the growing power of omnichannel retail but are still crafting our strategy on this front. We understand that the simultaneous interplay of the various channels, be it physical or digital is the new normal. Being a unique physical retail space and India’s largest destination in Home & Interiors and now getting big on Food & Entertainment as well, we want to ensure we get it right not just as a gimmick or the cliched ‘app wala route’, but as a meaningful solution that enriches our customer experience, enhances our retailers’ confidence and finally enables us to be better service providers based on business intelligence that we will gather. One step in getting closer to the customers and on their internet devices is our MYFITBHK website which helps a customer design their own room in just a few minutes and clicks. Watch this space for more in the coming times.

What is your take on the impact of e-commerce on the malls? Share your future growth strategy and expansion plans.

The retail market in India will primarily be driven by omnichannel as brick-and-mortar retailers enter e-commerce to support their stores. Both human and technological factors will strive for shopping experience. The Internet users in this decade have grown exponentially and it is an important medium to reach out to the customers. In the recent times, e-commerce is capturing a bulk of retail sales; however, brick-and-mortar stores will never go out of fashion.

We are currently offering 80 plus national and international brands at Ishanya. We plan to get more internationally well-known brands to give a memorable experience to the customers. Ashley store has changed the way people looked at H&I (Home and Interiors) and doing up their homes, in western Maharashtra.