Home Mall Talks Malls should be social spaces, not retail real estate structures: SCAI

Malls should be social spaces, not retail real estate structures: SCAI


Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) Board of Directors’ meeting hosted by Select CITYWALK, was held in Delhi on August 9, 2019. In its inaugural SCAI North India meet, 26 members from the northern region gathered to discuss the role, aim and initiatives of the organisation. The two-hour session was attended by SCAI Board of Directors, SCAI members as well as retail real estate leaders and shopping mall developers.

What is SCAI?

SCAI, a non-profit organisation, was set up with the vision to engage in and encourage the development of the Shopping Centre Industry in India, by equipping it with the requisite knowledge base and operational skills to enable it to assume its rightful place in society, the economy, and the world. The agenda of SCAI is to create the image of shopping malls as a social centre or community hub. In the meeting, SCAI proposed that shopping centres should be treated as social spaces and not just real estate malls.

The Purpose of SCAI

– SCAI aims to play an anchor’s role in the evolution of the Indian Shopping Centre Industry. It will consolidate the entity of individual shopping centres, helping them merge into the larger society as an institution of importance. The association aims to achieve this by:
– Work with retail industry stakeholders to increase consumption
– Advocacy & industry representation with government and policymakers
– Focused research into the architecture, aesthetic and design aspects
– Training on centre management, marketing and promotion
– Support Upcoming Centres
– Identify new avenues & techniques for growth

Agenda of the Meeting

The agenda of the meeting was:
– Industry Issues & the Benefits of Strengthening SCAI: Discussion with Shopping Centre representatives
– Challenges faced by Shopping Centres in North India.
– Initiatives taken by SCAI so far and what more needs to be done as an industry body.
– Issues that need to be taken up with the appropriate authorities within the city or state and in some cases with the Central authorities.
– To layout the road map of activities to be undertaken by the company in the upcoming financial year including the appointment of senior-level management employees and finalisation of membership fee structure.

Speaking on the occasion, Amitabh Taneja, Chairman, SCAI emphasised the idea of SCAI while pointing out its benefits.

“Everybody in this fraternity realises that a shopping centre is a great opportunity, therefore it needs to be nurtured well. It is not just real estate. We should get together and create a level of understanding, knowledge, research work, training for our teams so that we can move forward and preserve SCAI. We should work with retail industry stakeholders to increase consumption, advocacy of industry, representation of government and policymakers, focused research, architecture, aesthetics, design, central marketing and promotion to support upcoming shopping centres, because we want these malls to be developed with more learning. These learnings could be within the industry and for the developers. SCAI is going to bring forward all these learnings to you,” he explained.

Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific India concurred by saying, “It is very important to reach out to people and tell them what we are doing. We decided that we have 3 priorities for SCAI to develop – first is advocacy of laws, second is to develop our team and gather data so others can become members and third is to provide requisite training. In three months, we can initiate training for operations, leasing and design and then we can invite experts to conduct workshops. As far as the challenges are concerned, the first and foremost challenge is the parking and issues related to it. Then there is property tax followed by advertisement tax which is obnoxious. It is very hard and tough to deal with these taxes and challenges. The other point of concern is the electricity which we have to purchase due to the norms of the BSES. Beside all these challenges, a huge opportunity awaits which is very important for the sector and business to grow and develop. We are the ones who can manage these things and we will continue to do so.

Rajneesh Mahajan, CEO, Inorbit Malls added to this saying, “One of the key agendas that a shopping centre wishes to take up is to differentiate between real estate and shopping centre business. So, if you see across India, all the by-laws on shopping centre development are applicable to office development as well. Whether it is fire safety, suppression, exit corridors or usage of common spaces, mall developers struggle for licenses for signages. If you look at the mindset of the journalist, judiciary and the administration, it clearly portrays us as capitalists and business-minded individuals. For those who do not like capitalism, we become the soft targets. We must communicate our sustainable initiatives strongly to our visitors. This will help change the mindset of society and will create a better environment.”

Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Malls agreed by saying, “This industry is not very old and will require more time to mature like the other sectors of retail. At this stage, it is an unorganised body and therefore we need to take the challenges carefully. What we need to do is to make a wish-list and share it with the government bodies including the central and state government, municipal bodies, PWD and other organisation who are involved with it. It is very important to educate them first and then only our problems will be understood and solved. I think SCAI will be of great help here.”

According to Yogeshwar Sharma, CEO & Executive Director, Select CITYWALK, “The challenge which needs to be discussed is electricity and the taxes associated with it. It is very difficult to understand the norms which are made for the shopping malls by the system. Taking permissions to conduct the event on every weekend is another challenge. Despite having a pass from the organisation, we have to go through same the process, again and again, every week for every event. We all are fighting the same battle and are fighting it alone. If we will be transparent in our approach, then SCAI will definitely help us.

Uddhav Poddar, Managing Director, Bhumika Group stated that SCAI can turn out to be a great initiative, provided its directives are carried out in a structured format. He said that the organisation should meet up at regular intervals to discuss the basic, as well as not-sobasic, issues faced by malls. “For example, we proposed an idea to the government to introduce the concept of restaurants and entertainment zones together, which would enhance tourism in a state. Luckily for us, the idea was a hit with the government and the authorities even gave us some concessions in our shopping centres. So, there are a lot of things that can happen if we meet and talk on a regular basis.”

Dinaz Madhukar, Senior Vice President, DLF Luxury Retail & Hospitality said, “As long as we were discussing issues, water crisis is a very big issue. We have written enough letters to the Chief Minister explaining the problem and crisis. I sincerely urge that if we as an industry must team up and discuss these issues in timely intervals, it will just make us stronger and I think SCAI is a great initiative for such issues.”