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Ludhiana: The Benz City of India

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Ludhiana – as already been anticipated by the experts has now become the recent obvious destination for the mall developers and the retailers – no wonder the retail pundits would have faced the question frequently as to why the retailers should not come to Ludhiana? Indiaretailing tried to venture into the subject and was promptly updated from a developer who validated the argument further saying that Ludhiana is a city comprising around 15 lakh business people, supported by a huge youth customer base that ensures a good retail ground to opt for. The prospect of retail that the city has to offer gets even stronger when a top company official of a multiplex operator stated that an average rickshawala also makes an earning of around Rs 10,000 in a month in Ludhiana!

Despite the fact that several malls across the country witnessed increasing vacancies in Q1, 2009 and lots of other projects are getting delayed or shelved that were slated to be operational in 2011, the retailers who are eying to maintain the growth momentum rolling have a good reason to penetrate into the small pockets of tier II and III cities. Popularly known as the Benz City of India with 60 per cent of India’s Mercedes sales coming from the city itself, Ludhiana is one such destination, which is going to be one of the key retail markets in India in the next one year with almost all big retail players operational in the city.

With operational malls including Ansal Plaza, West End Mall and Flamez mall in the city, joining the league in near future are MBD Neopolis and Silver Arc adding to a total of over 6.5 lakh square feet retail space at Ferozpur Road in Ludhiana to the present 8.7 lakh square feet of area. Featuring a Gross Leasable Area of about four lakh square feet, MBD Group ventures MBD Neopolis, which is scheduled to open in the second quarter of FY 2009, incorporating the major retail names like Marks & Spencer, Home Town and Big Cinemas as anchors along with prominent vanilla retailers including Kimaya, Ayamik, Porsche, S Oliver, Samsaara, Sarar, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Titan, Sia, Levi`s, Provogue, Puma, Zodiac, Forest Essentials and Adidas. Besides them, Ashish Chordia-promoted luxury fashion retailer “Thanks”, and Canali will be present in the luxury arcade “Nuovo”, which will be housed in the 5-star hotel within MBD Neopolis.

Other big development in the city include Freemans Group promoted 2.5 lakh square feet Silver Arc mall, which is scheduled to open by March 2010. The mall got Future Group promoted lifestyle store Pantaloons and supermarket chain Food Bazaar as anchors with their maiden entry in the city, besides PVR Cinemas as entertainment retailer. The mall will also have premium international brands like Esprit, French Connection, Tommy Hilfiger; American food chain TGI Fridays and designer stores from Rohit Bal, Suneet Verma, Tarun Tahlilani and Ranna Gill among others. So with these two malls operational, the city will witness flurry of some new brands for the customers.

Speaking about the prospect the city has to offer to the retailers, Ajay Nair, CEO, FMI Limited, the company involved in developing Silver Arc mall, said, "The affluent population of Ludhiana comprising around 15 lakh business people ensures a very prospective retail growth, supported by a huge youth customer base of the city." According to his view, the city has also been witnessing a heavy industrial development and as a result along with the local people of Ludhiana, people from the hinterlands of Punjab also come to shop in the city.

Retail Experience

PVR Cinemas, which is present at Flamez mall in Sarabha Nagar in the city with four screens and roughly 11,000 seats for the last one year and a half, has spotted the city as one of the premium retail destinations and thus signed space for six-screen gold class cinema there. The company also claims the proposed cinema will be one of its kind in Punjab. Elaborating the retail experience, Pramod Arora, group president, PVR Cinemas says, “The first important feature of the market is that it is for patient players. The market is not something where you find people coming in the cinemas and watching movies instantly from the day one." One has to cultivate the habit of watching movies among the people, that again on the big screen, adds Arora. According to him, "It is a market where after being patient finally you will get people coming and watching movies once they realize the benefit of watching movies on big screen. So the retailers who can be patient will finally get good results from this market." Also, Punjab is a place where people look for an extra ordinary service edge. So the retailers who can able to offer such benefit have a better chance to do business in the city, views Arora.

Instant classical

With an estimated population of 1.4 million as per 2001 census, Ludhiana is centrally located on the Grand Trunk Road from Delhi to Amritsar and is connected to the Indian capital city of New Delhi by road and train services. Besides a number of institutes for higher education like Punjab Agriculture University, Dayanand Medical College, Christian Medical College and Baba Jaswant Singh Dental College located in the city, Ludhiana is a hub of industries scattered across the length and breadth of the city. There are over eight large integrated knitwear factories, 10 big hosiery yarn mills and 150 small to mid-sized woolen yarns. Also, almost all leading bicycles manufacturers including Avon Bicycles and Hero Cycles Ltd and popular apparel brands including Monte Carlo and Duke have their set up in the city. As a result, a huge traffic comes to Ludhiana from accross the country offering a viable retail ground. Further, with the new mall developments happening, Ferozepur Road is going to be a one stop retail destination in Ludhiana. Other prime locations of the city include Mall Road, Link Road, Ghumar Mandi, Sarabha Nagar Market and Feroze Gandhi Market.

Sharing his opinion about the retail prospects in Ludhiana, Shikhar Verma, manager, Retail, WestEnd Mall states, “Ludhiana is a testing market for all the industries and brands in India. If we talk about Mercedes Benz, which is the premium car, the 60 per cent of Mercedes sales come from Ludhiana. It is called the Mercedes city of India." Their earnings are much higher than people in any other cities in Northern India and this clearly indicates that not only the value formats, premium and super premium brands can also find space there, opines Verma.

Predominant trend

Elaborating the lifestyle of the people in Ludhiana, Verma further states, “People in Ludhiana are equally brand conscious and lifestyle aspirant like their counterparts in metros.” The mall going habit of the people in Ludhiana is also good. Verma confirmed, "WestEnd Mall, which is operational for over 20 months, gets around 12,000-15,000 footfalls in week days and around 18,000-0,000 in week ends." What more a small city requires, isn’t it?

Industry expectation

Though the retailers are not very much categorical about the format of retail that can score huge success in Ludhiana, industry believes a good retail mix will definitely score well in this city. Sharing his thoughts about PVR Cinemas’ expectation from the market, Arora says, “In Ludhiana, we are not looking at the lower spectrum of cine-goers." Unlike in Delhi and in other cities, people in Ludhiana are looking forward to quality service and an extra ordinary service edge over other players, adds Arora. "The whole population represents a possibility for us and thus we believe around 3 PVR Cinemas can definitely come in Ludhiana,” strongly anticipates Arora.

— Sarimul Islam Choudhury

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