Entertainment City in Noida is one-stop FEC zone as it comprises of the best in entertainment attractions including two malls – The Great India Place and Gardens Galleria – with some of the best brands in India, Worlds of Wonder amusement and water parks, the Wonder Speedway go-karting track, Kidzania, Playbox, Appu Ghar. Apart from this there is a standalone Decathlon store and a drive through McDonald’s.
The entire complex – dubbed Entertainment City Limited (ECL) – is a joint venture between Unitech Group and International Amusement Limited that owns and operates ECL in Noida.
Since its launch in 2007, The Great India Place (TGIP) has transformed the way Noida shops. Being the first avenue for large scale organised retail in the state, the mall has been able to stay far ahead of competition across the city.
In a bid to replicate the success story of TGIP, Gardens Galleria was launched in ECL two years. The USP of ECL is that it is high-tech, and this is one of the main reasons why it attracts Millennials.
In an exclusive interview with Shopping Centre News, Mahim Singh, Mall Head, Gardens Galleria and The Great India Place talks about the journey of both the malls, the conversion to a family entertainment centre and the need to provide an impeccable experience to Millennials, as well as every visitor to ECL.
Excerpts from the exclusive chat…
Describe the journey of both the malls – The Great India Place and Gardens Galleria. What were the challenges and difficulties – from real estate to technology – that you had to face when you came up?
The Great India Place was an out of the world project that people were actually waiting for. It opened its doors to the public more than 10 years ago in 2007. Technology was still very nascent then. There wasn’t any such community place or mall in Noida where people could spend leisure time with their loved ones and so, there were no such challenges that TGIP faced when it came up. As soon as the mall opened the doors for the public, we saw a flood of people coming in. It has been a flagship property ever since. Even today TGIP enjoys one of the largest daily footfalls in the country of close to 1.25 lakh people every day.
On the other hand, Gardens Galleria is a high-tech mall. We didn’t face too many challenges since the mall is well-equipped with latest technology. Within a span of two years, Gardens Galleria has become the social hub of Delhi-NCR.
Let’s talk innovation – both tech and in-store. What have TGIP and Gardens Galleria done in this field and what are you planning over the next one year to keep consumers coming in?
We believe in doing the basics right. We believe that every act of ours should make the place more current, relevant and all-inclusive for our patrons. That defines innovation for us. If you talk about innovation, we just came up with Fusion – the entertainment zone – at The Great India Place, spread across 8,705 sq. ft. area with more than 30 rides, including bumper car, arcade games, projector games, pool table and much more to entertain people of all ages. Fusion comes with an exciting redemption counter that makes sure everyone who plays in the FEC gets some gift to take back home even if they win as minimum as 10 tickets. The plan was to change the prejudice people have for FECs. Fusion is highly equipped with digital games and gives people a breathtaking experience.
We are trying hard to make Gardens Galleria a tech-heaven. We have just launched VR Unreal, the next level Virtual Reality Gaming Zone. It is spread across 3,364 sq. ft. area with n number of games to entertain people of all ages. Through VR Unreal, we plan to change the prejudice people have for virtual reality experience. VR Unreal is highly equipped with digital games and gives people a breathtaking experience. Not just this, we have brands like Gant, Central, Starbucks and are planning to come up with many more that are bound to change the way people shop.
Tell us about phygital experiences, personalisation strategies, and intelligent technologies that TGIP and Gardens Galleria offer its consumers?
We aim to completely equip TGIP with digital directories very soon. People can share and locate any store within the mall through these. We are also planning on launching a chatbot so that customers can get immediate details on the latest offers, launches and can even get assistance on a click when needed. The entire mall has free Wifi for our customers. There are multiple LED screens present at the mall that keep the patrons updated about the latest happenings in the mall’s premises, ongoing offers and upcoming events. That’s not all, some larger than life screens also available in the plaza area that keep people entertained.
Gardens Galleria is the perfect example of a modern-day mall – it has lavish interiors, wonderful hangout spots, a plaza area with huge screens, high-tech digital directories available on all floors that help people locate stores, and multiple LED screens present at the mall that keep the patrons updated about the latest happenings in the mall’s premises, ongoing offers, upcoming events and more. We aim to ensure our patrons take home more than just a visit.
You’re obviously doing a lot to keep your consumers engaged. Tell us more about how your shopping mall’s customer-centricity ideas are different from others.
TGIP is a heritage when it comes to malls in Delhi and Noida. We are known for being a part of our customer’s memories. Our focus is more on the experience that we give our patrons to take home and we have been working really hard to implement the vision. We organize some activity or the other every week that not only keeps our customers engaged but also provide them with some great discounts and giveaways. In fact, during our feedback drives we found many customers are visiting us regularly from last 10 years and call TGIP as their second home. People have praised the hospitality they receive here and how easy it is to locate any store in the mall even after the place being so huge. We have been spotting many celebrities visiting the mall frequently.
Gardens Galleria, on the other hand, is a social heritage among malls in Delhi and Noida. We are strongly becoming the place people look forward to going to to celebrate the special occasions in their lives. The mall has on offer the latest of everything – fashion, books, electronics, wellness options, and home furnishings. We also focus on organizing weekly activities to ensure consumer engagement stays constant, along with some great deals, discounts and giveaways.
We also organize social events like performances by famous bands, celebrity visits, fashion shows, meet and greet, marathons etc. from time to time. Apart from this, we are very active on social media. We run contests and many other engaging contents that attracts people. TGIP is a hotspot for celebrity engagement. Many movie stars come to TGIP to announce the release of their next film.
International brands share the major limelight in the malls. Do you think homegrown brands should be also be given more space and value?
Homegrown brands are very important. Take for example TGIP, which has a majority of brands that are homegrown including Big Bazaar, Lifestyle, Pantaloons, Shoppers Stop or Reliance Trends. And homegrown brands do extremely well for us in terms of footfalls and numbers.
Tell us about your brand mix.
TGIP is a perfect blend of various kind of brands available under one roof. For men’s fashion, women’s western wear, ethnic wear, sportswear, footwear to health & beauty, food court, and other eateries, we have it all sorted pretty well. The Great India Place is a complete family entertainment with more than 258 brand stores and 10+ anchor stores to meet all the needs of a modern consumer. It is a contemporary, vivid retail arcade that offers an absolute shopping ecstasy. It houses a variety of retail outlets including Shopper’s Stop, Lifestyle, Max, Trends, Globus, Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Home Town, Monte Carlo, Woodland, Lifestyle and Home Centre, along with international brands like adidas, Nike, Marks & Spencer, Skechers and many more. It also offers a multiplex by Carnival Cinemas and a well laid out food court.
Gardens Galleria is a perfect blend of various kind of brands available under one roof. For men’s fashion, women’s western wear, ethnic wear, sportswear, footwear to health and beauty, food court, and other eateries, we have it all sorted pretty well. It is home to some of the best shopping, F&B and entertainment brands in Delhi-NCR. It houses one of the best Starbucks in Noida. It has Central, Westside, Globus, Pantaloons Women, Hypercity, Croma as anchors. It has a well spread out food court and some of the best resto-bars, lounges and speciality cuisine restaurants in Noida. It is home to Imperfecto, Time Machine, Tito’s Noida, TC Café, Smoke Factory, Laat Saab, Bohemia, Chaayos, Café Coffee Day, Bohemia, Dunkin Donuts, Jokers to name a few. A 16-screen standalone multiplex from Inox is currently under construction. It also houses a five-star hotel, from the 4th to the 7th floor with a rooftop swimming pool, which will be operational soon.
What are the new brands that you have recently introduced?
At TGIP, in the past few months we have welcomed Miniso – a variety store chain, Power by Bata – the first ever exclusive store in the world, Admiral – a British owned footwear brand and many such brands in the mall. Also, some of the store launches are underway.
At Gardens Galleria, we have welcomed Best of Brands – the store where you can find multiple brands in one store, Tito’s Noida – the most looked-after Goan club, Spellbound – the first ever Mughlai restaurant that cooks food without using curd and water and VR Unreal – the first ever Virtual Reality gaming zone in Delhi-NCR, and many such brands in the mall.
Tell us about your location strategy.
The Great India Place and Gardens Galleria is located in the heart of Delhi & Noida. These malls have become famous landmarks for people in the geography. The
malls are just a 20-minute drive from South Delhi, 2 minutes away from Greater Noida Expressway, 5 minutes from DND flyway and 2 minutes from Noida Sector-18.
The proximity from all corners of Delhi and Noida makes them the most sought – after property in the vicinity.
Easy accessibility from the now operational Botanical Garden metro station and Noida Sector 18 metro station are other key advantages.
Is there a need for Omnichannelisation of malls? Your views.
A shift can definitely be seen in the way people shop. E-commerce market is still under 10 percent in India. The brick-and-mortar retail story is still very strong in our country. Steadily people are moving towards buying from the comfort of their homes, but the online shopping experience comes with its own challenges. Last mile delivery issues, returns, size mismatch, colour mismatch are all too common.
Such ideas like click-and-collect should actually work in the long run if you see it from the customer’s perspective. It can often make the shopping journey more convenient for consumers: making a purchase from the comfort of their own home, and trial/ collecting the item whenever is most convenient for them, instead of paying for shipping and not being in to take delivery of the item or waiting for their delivery to arrive. We are also exploring various avenues on these lines and very soon will come out with our exclusive offering for customers.
Are you also environmentally responsible? What are the key ecological considerations that you kept in mind while building the mall?
We promote natural lighting in the mall, and we have used paints that are environment-friendly. ECL has a large number of trees planted across the property and we continue to increase that number. We also work on water conservation in the restrooms and in other parts of the property as well.
Are you also into CSR activities?
We have been supporting various NGOs working in the field of blood donation, child care, AIDS awareness, cancer awareness, education of the girl child etc. We have supported many physically challenged artists to display and sell their art in the mall. Apart from this we have also been doing many CSR activities like yoga day awareness and celebration, blood donation camps, tree plantation drives and many more such activities every now and then.
Elaborate on the importance of food courts and the role F&B plays in generating footfall in malls?
Malls roll around the concept of everything under one roof. F&B joints have played a major role in generating footfall. There are people who specially visit malls for their cravings. Revamped towards entertainment and renovated for ease and comfort, food courts are experiencing resurgence. Whether it’s providing rest for weary feet, satisfying a sweet tooth or ensuring that shoppers maximise their spending, food courts are becoming more than just eating houses. At TGIP and Gardens Galleria, the eatery range varies from North Indian to South Indian to Italian to Cafes to Clubs & Lounges and what not.
What is the importance and benefit of being a Family Entertaining Centre (FEC) instead of a mall?
Malls are no more just about the retail stores and FnB outlets. Entertainment is the heart and soul of communities, the foundation of retail economies, and a social sanctuary for families and kids everywhere. With a change in the way malls are now operating, a focus shift can be seen from only retail earlier to including entertainment too now. One of the major reasons people choose visiting malls over markets is that they can shop, eat and enjoy all at one place. This revolution in the mall industry is not only beneficial for malls as they attract more footfalls but also for the customers as they are able to avail all facilities under one roof.
Tell us about the role that hospitality plays in generating footfalls?
We have a world-class hospitality for our valued patrons. Be it the staff at the Information Desk or the guards available in and around the mall, everyone is so well-trained when it comes to making customers feel homely. People are greeted when they enter and if they face any problem during their visit, someone is always available to help them out. In fact, we keep organizing such training sessions for our staff from time to time.
What does the future of retail hold for the malls of tomorrow?
Gone are the days when malls were only about shopping and everything else came at second place. We are moving towards the Shopping Mall version 2.0 where malls are not just high-end retail destinations but community hubs for meeting, socialising and unforgettable experiences with retail, gaming, entertainment, F&B, and relaxation all rolled into one solid offering.