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Urban Square Udaipur will change the retail landscape of Rajasthan: Uddhav Poddar

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Sandeep Kumar
Sandeep Kumar
A multimedia journalist with over eleven years of experience in print and digital media, Sandeep Kumar is assistant editor with Images Group. Books, retail, sports and cinema are an inextricable part of his life.

Established in 1961, Bhumika Enterprises has grown into a diversified business conglomerate with business interests spanning like construction, warehousing, logistics, mining, textiles and manufacturing. The group has a pan India presence with offices in Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Kerala and is currently diversifying into the real estate sector with its first mixed used development in Udaipur, Urban Square – the largest mall in Rajasthan spread across 1.8 million sq. ft. Bhumika is also coming up with another mall in Alwar in 2021 and is targeting other major cities in Rajasthan for further expansion, as well as other cities adjoining Delhi- NCR.

Committed to their theme of ‘After Here Nowhere’, the brand is approaching new projects with unique designs, fresh perspective and open mind.

In an exclusive chat with IMAGES Retail, Uddhav Poddar, Managing Director, Bhumika Enterprises Private Limited, talks about how Rajasthan can be a new hub for modern retail with infrastructures like Urban Square and other malls. He also emphasised on the vision, progress and road ahead for the brand.

Excerpts from the chat…

Tell us about the retail market structure in Rajasthan? How much has it grown & developed in the past 3 years?

Rajasthan’s retail structure was mostly unorganised except for maybe a little bit of organised retail in Jaipur. However, we see reasonable change in cities such as Udaipur, Kota, Jodhpur and of course Jaipur, but still there exists a large opportunity for organised retail in the state.

What are the opportunities and bottlenecks for the industry in this region?

The biggest bottleneck is availability of quality retail infrastructure / shopping malls, and even the malls which exist in the state are mostly small sized malls mostly focussed on local retail. However, this is where I think the opportunity also exists – to create world class ‘A Grade Shopping Centres’.

How are malls changing the retail landscape of the Rajasthan?

Let’s start with an example of Urban Square in Udaipur. Urban Square is a retail focussed mix use project with hospitality and entertainment. It is a 2 million sq ft development. Phase 1 is approximately 1 million sq ft, which has 9 large anchor and a mix of vanilla brands. Malls such as ours are changing the retail landscape of not just a particular city but of nearby towns (within a vicinity of 100 kms) as well. Centres like Urban Square will cater not just to the local city population but attract traffic from nearby towns as well, and they will be what you call Regional Shopping Centres. Such centres did not exist in Rajasthan earlier.

What kind of malls are doing well in the region – generic, FECs, theme malls or luxury malls?  Elaborate from your brand’s perspective.

We are doing a large regional centre in Udaipur which will provide everything under one roof to residents of Udaipur, Pali, Dungarpur, Rajsamand districts as well as a small neighbourhood shopping centre in Alwar which is in close proximity to premium residential colonies of Alwar. Both malls have a strong focus on food, and have a mix of national / international brands as well as local brands.

What kind of investment have you seen in the Shopping Centre industry in this region in the last 2-3 years. Is it slated to increase? Why or why not?

The Shopping Centre Industry in the region has seen some of the toughest times in the last 1-2 years, firstly owing to COVID-19 and secondly due to the lack of long-term institutional capital. Building shopping centres requires patient capital and for now, there is a dearth of such capital in India.

I see a consolidation and exit of non-serious players from the shopping centre development business and eventually we will have players who are focussed on developing and running shopping centres.

How has COVID affected the real estate segment in this region? When do you see normalcy returning in this area?

Real estate as a sector was very adversely affected by COVID-19. However, in the last 2-3 months we have seen very good traction in residential real estate and all projects which are nearing completion and not delayed.

How different is retail culture in this region in comparison to Tier I city malls?

With the outreach of internet, social media, and television all over India, the aspirations of people in Tier 2 towns (especially youngsters) is no less than any Tier I town. However, we find that a right mix of aspirational and value brands works well in tier 2 towns.

Which brands get more preference in your malls? International brands/ national players/ or regional brands? Please elaborate.

We like to do a mix of National and International brands depending upon the feasibility and location of the said mall. However we always try to get the local element in our malls, and we have created separate zones in both our malls for local retailers.

What impact did the COVID crisis have on shopping centers? Tell us from your brand’s perspective.

COVID has of course adversely affected all running shopping centres as the traffic reduced substantially and the retailers were unable to pay the rentals due to lack of traffic causing pain to both the retailer and the developer.

However, luckily for us both our malls are under development so there has been no impact on us. Urban Square in Udaipur will be ready for possession by March-April 2021 and Alwar by end of 2021.  All the brands we had signed have confirmed they will continue to partner with us without any sort of renegotiation.

What changes/learnings do you take from the pandemic and crisis from an upcoming mall’s perspective?

Our Udaipur mall is a very anchor heavy mall, due to which our average rentals are lower than other malls. However in hindsight, this was a good decision, as large anchors are financially stronger and have been able to sustain the COVID pandemic, and the smaller retailers are the most affected.

Are your malls, both Urban Square and Alwar, in the final phase of completion now?

Like I mentioned earlier, Udaipur will be handed over for possession in March – April 2021 and Alwar by end 2021.

What are the brands that have confirmed their availability so far in both your malls? How many have been added post lockdown?

We have Shoppers Stop, Inox, Marks & Spencer, Reliance Trends, Tata Westside & Zudio as the anchors, plus a host of vanilla brands, and yes we have signed quite a few brands post lockdown as well.

Any new innovations related to technology and consumer convenience that you have decided to include in your malls after the COVID situation?

We have modified the air conditioning systems to match the recommendations as per ISHRAE and have done a specific audit to see how we can reduce touch points and accordingly we have made changes to such as more automatic doors, no doors in toilets etc.

What are your expansion plans? 

We plan to start Phase 2 of Udaipur very soon, and we are scouting for opportunities in Jaipur, Bikaner and NCR markets.

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