Retail gets a ‘soul space’

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‘Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life’ – Buddha. Accentuating this thought is the retail venture – Life Positive Soul Space – initiated by Life Positive Private Ltd., which wonderfully fulfills the unmet needs of people in the corporate world today looking at a space to unwind without any glitz or glamour of constant bombarding of brands compelling them to shop.

Brainchild of Aditya Ahluwalia, Life Positive Soul Space extends a soothing effect right from the very first step you take in with natural scents of aromatherapy. The store convinces you to believe that within the concrete jungle there can be a space that can be termed ‘heaven on earth’. Located at Andheri East in Mumbai, which is strongly dominated with commercial spaces, this store presents office-goers or corporates the option to unwind and relax in a space that is spread across 6,500 sq.ft. and offers them to either indulge in workshops being held, enjoy organic delicacies (from Italian to Mexican to Indian), shop for organic products (from food items to gifts and artefacts) or just sit back and sip on green tea that is offered to everyone who steps in. As you enter, there is an art gallery showcasing paintings of artists across India. This section offers you space to sit and relax, read or simply grab a bite from the cafeteria. Moving further, you enter the retail section that houses brands from the organic world apart from a collection of books and the choicest of gifts, articles and artefacts majority of them being hand-made. A Wisdom Room and a Meditation Room are adjacent to the retail space. While the Wisdom Room serves the purpose for conducting various workshops and daily yoga classes, the Meditation Room is a free-for-all room where one is welcome to spend time all by themselves without any pre-requisites in terms of registration fee or membership. The cafeteria section that follows is wonderfully done with a vertical garden and offers a comprehensive menu option for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The journey

Elaborating on the inception of the space, Pooja Valeja, who is managing and marketing the space, shares: “A magazine that appeals to spiritual aspirants who have moved away from conformist societal norms, Life Positive has long played the role of a family for its readers. Within its pages, readers found answers to their problems, inspiration to strive for the highest in themselves and a community of like-minded people who they could relate to. Starting Life Positive Soul Space was a natural extension of this role. Life Positive Soul Space is envisaged as a spiritual sanctuary, where aspirants will get everything they are looking for to lead the best possible life they can. Here they can meet and mingle with other seekers in real time, besides participating in enriching workshops and buying products that will enhance their physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. We hope in time to emerge with a number of such centres across India.”

Being the first retail venture from a publishing house, the challenges that the team faced were quite a few and especially so since there is no other space across the country that offers an option to indulge in art, retail, spirituality and food – all together under one roof. Valeja shares: “Being the first venture of Life Positive simultaneously into setting up an art gallery, restaurant and retail space was a challenging task as the necessary skill-sets did not exist within the organisation. However, we were fortunate to tie up with some of the best in the field. For instance, Deepak Dhir for the restaurant, and we also have full support from brands that are present at our store. High cost of rental would have been another huge challenge but we were helped in this by Suresh Oberoi, who is the owner of the property and has a keen interest in spirituality. He demonstrated his commitment to spirituality and the welfare of Mumbaikars by partnering with us on this venture.” Expounding further the philosophy behind the store, she shares: “It is a one-stop-shop for all things spiritual. It is a warm, welcoming and peaceful place where anyone can drop anchor for a while and return to the hustle bustle of life refreshed.”

Retail reachWhat perhaps adds another feather to their cap is the willingness they have in stocking products and merchandise from individuals looking for a store to sell their handmade products but due to scarcity of resources, are unable to do so. The candles at the store are supplied by a couple that works during the day and at night they sit and make the candles. Similarly, certain artefacts and bags are supplied by the underprivileged group of people who are looking for a source of income.

DesignThe store has been neatly designed offering ample and dedicated space to each of the sections. Where the art gallery occupies 1,000 sq.ft., the retail area has a whopping 3,000 sq.ft. of space. The cafeteria is spread across 800 sq.ft., and the various dedicated rooms are about 1,000 sq.ft.

Highlighting on the details taken care of while designing the interiors, Valeja reveals: “We have not cluttered the space with too much furniture, thus allowing plenty of room to move around freely and witness no space crunches. Plants around the Art Gallery have minimal seating, while low seating arrangement in the Aspiration Room explains the intensive analysis done while deciding the entire look. Our retail racks are gigantic yet low in height, so as to be able to reach to everyone’s hand level. Our book shelves fantastically allow every section and author or publication a whole cube.”

Sharing details on the flooring at the store, Valeja says: “We decided a different pattern of flooring for each area to give a differentiated feel every time one steps into another space. As one enters the Art Gallery, it has white tile flooring, very serene and classy, yet keeping it simple and chic. The Aspiration Room (Meditation Room) has wooden flooring, giving it a comforting look and feel. Since wood is also used for its healing properties, it is the finest choice for yoga and meditation. The Wisdom Room (Workshop Area) has carpeted flooring because many workshops require one to remove their shoes, do postures and also lie on the floors. Carpet is also very good for theatre seating workshops as it gives one a warm feeling. The Soul Cuisine (cafeteria) has a dark grey tiling with white lights, which illuminate the room. We have also placed grey seating, which compliments it, making one’s experience a relishing one. The retail has maximum footfall, since people flow from all directions right in the middle; light grey tiling has been used making the area not too dark and not too light and is easy to clean.”

As for the lighting at the store, Valeja shares: “We have used lighting where required in an appropriate manner. Our Art Gallery has LED lights flashing on each painting giving the audience a clear and intricate look to it. Our Aspiration Room has the facility of dim lights or if required we could have only tee lights lit up for yoga sessions. Our Wisdom Room has cove lighting – these look like hidden lights with projector supporting dim lights too, making the lighting sufficient for all kinds of workshops. The Soul Cuisine has the most innovative lighting that falls from the roof like a wired bulb, much above the head, giving it a candle-light dinner sort of experience with a candle floating in the air. The retail has a concealed lighting, where the lights are covered with the designed glass making it fancy and decorative and ensuring it does not hurt the eyes.”

Reaching outTwo months since its inception, the store is seen grabbing eyeballs with its wonderfully designed façade in spite of being housed in a commercial building. The full-length banners are doing enough justice to pull in crowd at the store post office hours and lunchtimes are usually packed as well. The staff at the store is trained efficiently to give a tour of the space to the curious visitors. Outdoor hoardings have been used to tell Mumbaikars about the space. Valeja shares that soon they would have promotion activities to talk about the store and reach out to their target audience. The retail portfolio shall be gradually built but the team is sure about housing not just known brands but also give ample opportunity to upcoming brands in the organic space.

A person visiting the store is left undisturbed to sit in the gallery or just take a walk around. There is zero interference and in fact anyone who walks in is offered a complimentary beverage. Next on cards is having a similar store in Delhi and then gradually spread across the country.

Zainab S Kazi –

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