Urban development is not only about creating safe and secure zones for the public but also creating the soul of a city, and shopping centers can play a crucial role in this through innovations in design and approach. This was stated by Neeraj Ghei, Director of the Select CITYWALK while addressing the audiences on the opening day of the India Shopping Centre Forum that is being held from May 8-9 at Mumbai.
Kishore Bhatija, CEO, InOrbit Malls said that the retailer-developers relationship is an important factor deciding the success factor of a mall. “Both the stakeholders have to work jointly and take the onus in case of the failure of the property. Another very important thing in making a mall a success is to keep the input cost lower and setting aside funds for the future,” he added.
While discussing the major challenges faced by the Indian mall industry, Bhatija said: “The biggest challenge today is that the developers jump into building a mall without any proper zoning and understanding. This has resulted in a number of malls coming up in the same location. Another important challenge is the interest rates on the structures. The shopping centres in India are a part of the real estate as a whole and hence the same interest rates are applied on both the residential and commercial properties. However, it has to be acknowledged that shopping centres are actually very different structures with different cost involved at all levels.”
Ghei felt that the mall industry in India has been tagged as the playground of the “elite” catering to the well-to-do section of the society. However both she and Sohrab Dalal, MD, Designplus Architecture, agreed that the latest concepts of converting open spaces into special landscapes, bringing open bazaars inside malls, and organising flea markets have brought the properties closer to all the sections of the society..
Anuj Puri, Chairman and Country Head, JLL, described the lack of training of employees as one of the biggest challenge faced by the mall industry in India. “It might sound a bit controversial but in India, training in unorganised retail is far superior than the organised sector. At the end of the month, when it is the time to pay the rents, retailers might say that the mall failed to bring in the footfalls and there was no conversion into sales. However, they forget that it is not the mistake of only one party but of both the sides,” he argued.
For Sumit Dabriwal, CEO, Future Market Networks, the biggest challenge for developers is the lack of alignment in the plethora of permissions that have to be taken form the public authorities. Ghei too agreed with Dabriwal and added: “A number of taxes levied on the malls are also getting counter productive.”
Emphasizing on the crucial role of the policy makers in the mall industry, Dalal said that uniformity of by- laws can lead to the success of malls in India. “The circulation space in the mall also needs to be ample and generous and the mall developers need to get greener,” he added.