Blackstone Group, world’s leading investment firm, has forayed into India’s retailing sector with its fully-owned subsidiary Nexus Malls. The group aims to transform the shopping experience of the Indian consumers. The group will own and manage shopping centers with a focus on identifying, evaluating, buying and adding value to the assets that they acquire in the country.
In an exclusive interview with Indiaretailing, Vice President, Nexus Malls, Jayen Naik said, “We see a lot of potential in Indian Retail. Yes, there have been stories and negativity about malls not doing well and several other assets shutting down in the recent past, but they have had their share of shortcomings which led them to fail. At Nexus, we are optimistic about how Indian Retail is shaping up and we are confident of being able to bring about the much needed renaissance through our fresh perspectives and innovations that Indian retail needs.”
Nexus Malls seeks to implement best practices and state-of-the-art technology in India by bringing in professional and broader mall management in the country. It also aims to aid its retail partners to compete effectively and cater to the omnipresent needs of the consumers in India.
Nexus Malls was set up in June 2016 to own and manage shopping malls in the country. Typically, Blackstone buys out malls, which are then owned and run by Nexus.
Blackstone had bought about 1 million sq.ft. of retail space in the Seawoods Grand Central Mall in 2016 from L&T Realty Ltd for Rs 1,450 crore and with this, Blackstone now has 2.8 million sq. ft of shopping mall space in the country.
Nexus has introduced many technological advancements at SGC like it has brought to life the polar bear, whales, penguins and orcas from the Arctic through an augmented reality show.
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that gives a real-life experience through computerized graphics, sounds and images. The viewer feels part of the virtual world displayed on screen and yet the distinction between the real and virtual is obvious.
The display, introduced at SGC Mall early this month, gives a spectacular experience of Orca whales emerging out of glacier waters of the Arctic Ocean. There is a white polar bear coming out of the water and growling. The penguins come in flocks and dance around endearingly.
Apart from the Arctic experience, SGC mall which is India’s first Transit Oriented Development (TOD) has also created a maze and fashion capitals (London, Paris, New York, Milan) at the Mall with that city’s famous fashion designer as the theme. Besides, they are also giving some fashion trivia and tips to the visitors there.
TOD’s are a crossroad of enterprise and entertainment, culture and commerce; where offices, malls, restaurants and recreational spots converge around a transit station or stop. Such developments are hailed globally for their ecological benefits.
Talking about SGC Mall, Naik said, “SGC Mall is Nexus’s first new mall development. Navi Mumbai’s socio-economic demography has grown drastically over the years and SGC mall is one of key developments and we wish to cater the growing segment of Navi Mumbai.”
He further added, “Seawoods Grand Central Mall is one of the only malls with three way accessibility from suburbs, South Bombay and MMR region. It is also India’s largest Transit Oriented Development and the mall is 5 minutes from Belapur CBD, easily accessible through the 8 lane Sion Panvel express highway and closer to proposed Navi Mumbai Metro corridor.”
The four-storeyed mall houses 160 retail stores with over 15 restaurants and a food court to sit 1,200 people at once. The mall boasts of a three-level basement car parking to accommodate 2,800 vehicles, largest among all malls in Mumbai metropolitan region.
About 800,000 sq. ft of retail space in the Seawoods mall has been launched in the first phase, with 200,000 sq. ft or so coming later.
Sky is the Limit
Nexus Malls have already acquired and is in the process of completing the transformation for the AlphaOne Malls in Ahmedabad and Amritsar and have a 50 per cent stake in WestEnd Mall in Pune. They also in advanced stages of discussion with several other developers for potential acquisitions in the near future.
“We have renamed the malls in Ahmedabad and Amritsar to Ahmedabad One and Mall of Amritsar as a part of their rebranding process. Since both these markets have a distinctly strong affinity towards food and fashion, we are in the process of scaling up their foodcourts and giving it a more state-of-the-art feel while adding more food options. We are also actively looking at churning out brands which are not performing up to their potential and are looking to replace them with more relevant brands,” revealed Naik.
In the Ahmedabad mall, it will also be adding 140,000 sq.ft. of additional retail space in the bridge to luxury segment to the existing 720,000 sq.ft. mall.
He further added, “This is probably for the first time that mall owners are putting in money to revamp fully operational assets to make it more relevant and appealing to its patrons. Focus is on providing international class services, be it in form of modern style rest rooms, family rooms, baby care rooms, seating arrangements for senior citizens so on and so forth.”
It is expected that the transformation of these malls will be completed by this year October-end.
Nexus Malls also have several other assets on the radar, but for now they are looking at consolidating their position and ensuring that their current portfolio is fully operational after the revamp process.