Trilium, one of the most aspirational projects of Tata Realty, opened its doors to the residents of Amritsar late last year. With the opening of the Trilium, Amritsar now has a plush mall with world-class facilities and a plethora of tenants in each category. Talking with Shopping Centre News, Cyrus Engineer, Head – Sales & Marketing, Tata Realty talks about the journey of creating Trillium Mall.
Trilium is one of the biggest malls in Amritsar. Do you think Amritsar as a city is ready for a mall like Trilium?
Yes, it is one of the biggest malls in Amritsar with 6.93 lakh sq.ft. of area. But then, you also have malls like Ambience Mall in Gurgaon and Mantri Square in Bengaluru, which are some of the biggest malls in India. There are also other regional locations like Chandigarh, which saw the opening of malls like Elante, which is larger than us, so you have regional destination malls that are large in size. With the location of the city, I feel that it is the right size for the mall.
What’s your take on the competition existing in Amritsar?
There are a couple of other malls in Amritsar. Celebration Mall is like a shopping centre and it is much smaller in size, so it fails to give the customers and retailers the full experience in detail. Today, for retail to be sustainable in such a location, you have to give the customer a plethora of offerings so you have a multiplex, departmental stores, entertainment and food court, and F&B. So, in that context you have both Celebration and AlphaOne malls. AlphaOne, of course, is a larger mall compared to Celebration Mall but it is too small compared to us. We being in the heart of the city are able to attract more footfalls and fill in that void.
Please tell us about the inception of Tata Realty and Infrastructure Limited (TRIL).
We were created to focus on large-scale, integrated mixed-used development. We already have an arm of our Tata housing focusing primarily on residential projects. The reason why we were set up was basically to look in terms of the new age emerging retail, which is FDI compliant. For all our projects, there is FDI fund and overseas fund, which come in our projects and being FDI compliant, we need to be 5 lakh sq.ft. plus in our built-up area. We look up large-scale integrated mixed-use projects or projects in retail or commercial sector, so Amritsar is obviously qualifying as a large-scale project. The total project cost is around Rs. 50 crore. In terms of built-up area, it is 1 million [1 million sq.ft.?]sq.ft. including car parking. Only the trading area, the GLA, is 6.93 lakh sq.ft.
Please tell us about your upcoming projects.
Apart from Amritsar, on the annual, we have a mixed-use project at Nagpur. We have a residential project at Kochi, an ITSSC at Chennai, and an IT park at Mumbai. These are the current ongoing projects. Apart from these, in near future, we are looking at a mixed-use project at Yeshwantpur, Bengaluru and a mixed-use project in Gurgaon.
How mature is the retail real estate segment in India? As a veteran in this field, how much do you think the segment has evolved in the past one decade?
The growth has been enormous. We have reached great heights. What western countries took 30 years to do, we achieved in a span of a decade. We have reached a certain level of maturity in the past 10 years in the actual categorisation of modern retail. However, in certain aspects, we might take a long time to catch up as per expectations in terms of mall design, mall execution and tenant brand mix. So, we have travelled a great distance and yet we have a long way to go before we reach where we want to be.
What role will Tata Realty play in the evolution of modern retail real estate in India?
We clearly see ourselves as the key player in the filed of commercial and retail real estate in India. I think what we look in terms of doing in the retail sector is creating high-quality community spaces. So we have been looking at malls of the right size depending on the catchment we operate in. Currently, we are focusing on Amritsar and have places like Gurgaon, Nagpur and Bengaluru in the pipeline.
Trilium is one of the few Indian malls that is LEED compliant and earthquake resistant. Please elaborate on this. Will all your projects adhere to these mandates?
We have taken a call for all our projects to be lead compliant depending on the category. So you also have IGBC body; some of our residential developments are IGBC certified and our commercial projects are lead compliant. This gives our occupiers great advantage in terms of energy cost, etc. Also, we have ensured that we have minimal impact of the carbon footprint ecologically. So, we have taken a call that all our projects will be energy efficient. In terms of earthquake resistance, this is typically the function of our design. It depends on the geographical condition of each location. We ensure all required measures are taken to protect the structural stability.
Coming to the design aspect of Trilium Mall, what have you done to eradicate the dead spaces?
Our principal architect RTKL, based in the USA, has designed our mall. RTKL is an established brand in the retail design space. We have worked closely with our channel partner, retail advisors as well as our own teams who have given a lot of thought on the design. They have ensured the scientific principle of circulation of service entry, loading, and factoring of the design in the mall to eliminate all the dead spaces.
Who are the anchors and mini anchors in your mall? Tell us about the key vanilla retailers of your mall.
In terms of anchors, we have a department of stores like Lifestyle, Pantaloons, etc. We have Reliance Digital as our mini anchor in the CDIT category and we have a fully established food court. Currently, we have signed 150 brands on board.
What is the occupational and vacancy rate at your mall?
Currently, 60 percent of the mall space has been occupied. We will leave some buffer because we will need some brands that will emerge as leading dominant brands of tomorrow. Today, retail is not about just shopping; it is about a holistic experience for customers.
Who is managing the leasing and brand mix aspect of the mall?
Our internal team is handling the leasing of the mall, but they are working in conjunction with our channel partners and brokers. Typically, however, it is the in-house function.
What cautions do you keep in mind before leasing out the malls and what are the do’s and don’ts for creating the right brand mix?
The most important thing for us is to know who our customers are. For this, we have done a fairly extensive catchment study in terms of who our customer is and what their needs and aspirations are. We have been able to scientifically zone and plan out the efficiencies of the malls to ensure that we offer holistic shopping experience to our valuable customers.
What kind of revenue model do you share with your tenants?
We have been able to do a lot of deals to the minimum guarantee revenue share model. We also have cases where we have pure rentals as well; it is a mix of fixed rentals and revenue share. Today, we are looking at developers and retailers forming a partnership. Developers are not creating malls for getting a fixed income; there is a lot more synergy between the mall developer and retailers now than ever before.
What kind of setup do you have for regional or local retailers in your malls? As a mall developer, how do you propose to promote these indigenous brands?
There is no specific zone in terms of local retailers but in each particular category, we have been able to pick up from amongst the better retailers. Be it in fashion, food, or accessory, you will find a good use of local and national retailers in these entire categories.
Apart from Amritsar, which other Tier-II or -III cities in India are important for you?
Tier-II is going to be a growth driver from a retail perspective. Currently, apart from Amritsar, we are looking at the Nagpur market. We also have properties at two metro locations – Gurgaon and Bengaluru.
What are your views on opening up of FDI in the real estate sector?
A lot has been said about FDI opening at the retail front in India. I think there is a merit in opening of FDI to attract both international players in this particular space; we can benefit from their best practices. Some of our local players are weak. So it has to be the judicious mix of getting the best and protecting the local retailers as well.
How has the journey been for Trillium so far? What kind of challenges have you faced?
Our challenges have been in terms of development perspective and getting approvals in terms of constructing a large mall. From the construction perspective, the timelines have been fortunately extended. From the leasing perspective, the challenges revolve around not having enough players in each category. You also need to get to a level of maturity that you have many more operators in this category and the fact that today we are dealing with very discerning shoppers. In Tier-II cities, there are times when customers come, browse products and make a purchase. So, there are various channels of points in the life cycle of retail development.