GMR Group’s aggressive strategy to transform Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport into a best-in-class travel retail address is gathering steam. Last evening, Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), while unveiling a retail marketing schedule at a high-powered business event in New Delhi, also for the first time, provided India’s leading retail companies a virtual walkthrough into what is being touted as the world’s finest airport terminal upon completion in 2010.
DIAL’s massive Terminal 3 (T3), which is currently under construction, will sharply uplift Delhi airport into a league of cutting-edge architecture, flawless customer service, and a highly differentiated retail and F&B mix. Designed to handle 34 million passengers annually, T3’s mammoth infrastructure will include 168 check-in counters, 49 Arrival immigration desks and 50 Departure immigration desks, all housed in a stunning structure that will blend tradition with modernity.
“We are promising that business class passengers will have a queuing time of no more than five minutes; economy class travellers no more than 20 minutes,” Gavin McKechnie, the buoyant chief commercial officer of DIAL told Indiaretailing in an exclusive interview.
“The aim of that is not just to clip waiting time and upgrade customer experience; we also want them to spend as much time as possible in our fantastic retail and F&B areas,” he adds.
A total of 30,000 square metres of commercial space is up for grabs at T3. This includes 4,000 square metres of a walkthrough Duty Free area, 800 square metres of luxury retail, 6,300 square metres of speciality retail, 5,500 square metres of mass and premium F&B, a games zone, a spa and a transit hotel.
The clincher? A 600 square metre ‘Dilli Bazaar’, retailing handicrafts and souvenirs that are quintessentially ‘Dilli’ at both the domestic and international departures. “When passengers walk through the airport, they must see it as a Delhi airport, not just a world-class Indian airport. Dilli Bazaar will reflect the unique culture and life of Delhi, its rich creative heritage and will allow passengers to take away a of piece of that history with them,” says McKechnie.
GMR’s vision is to brand the entire retail and F&B offer at T3 as a single identity. “We are calling it ‘Skyline Avenue’; all retailers and concessionaires will be requested to display a small tag with the Skyline Avenue brand on all carry bags. We want all customers to remember their retail experiences at T3 as a ‘Skyline Avenue’ memory,” adds Minakshi Sondhi, head – commercial retail, DIAL.
Most retail outlets will be operated on a concession model, though GMR is not averse to the idea of a JV or a management contract in some cases.
There’s more. DIAL’s retail offer will continue outside the T3, to target the millions of meeters and greeters who accompany a departing or an arriving passenger. “I think with every departing Indian passenger, there are about 5 to 10 people who come to see him or her off. And those potential customers have never been acknowledged. We are going to change that,” McKechnie says.
Therefore, 800 square metres of retail and F&B will be on offer at the Airport Village, a shopping centre-like structure that will draw in millions of waiting attendants. “This has never been done, but we know there will be huge retail opportunity outside the T3 as well,” he points out.
And the challenges on the way to realise this dream project? All the physical beauty of this exciting ladscape will fall apart without that critical component of great travel experience — customer service. “Yes, we do realise that. All employees of Airports Authority of India and the CISF security personnel are now under our umbrella. We are working hard to upgrade not just their customer service skills, but also their working conditions. We have rolled out a programme called ‘Disha’, which is targetted at not just incentivising their responses to customers, but also to improve the work atmosphere. It may take time to change some laid-back attitudes, but we will get them to be the world’s best faces of travel service,” McKechnie promises.
— Nupur Chakraborty