Uddhav Poddar, Managing Director and Group CEO, Bhumika Group speaks about creating a successful modern retail destination in a traditional tier 2 city like Udaipur, and the brand’s focus considering the changing trends in retail real estate
With an insatiable appetite for innovation and a sharp entrepreneurial mind, 41-year-old Uddhav Poddar has shattered the stereotypes associated with youth in real estate business, proving that age is no barrier to success. As managing director and Group chief executive officer, Bhumika Group Poddar is carving out a name for himself and his company in the
Hailing from the Poddar family with business interests in construction, manufacturing, entertainment, and logistics for over 58 years, Uddhav is an avid sports addict and an Under 16 and Under 19 cricket player for Delhi Cricket. He was pulled into business at a very young age, after his joint family separation. Currently, with a portfolio spanning across real estate, hospitality, logistics and e-commerce, he has become a beacon of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs, receiving numerous awards and accolades.
His firm Kaushalya Logistics Ltd. is one of the largest logistics service providers for the cement industry. Through one of his companies he retails electronic goods, fashion apparel (jeans and t-shirts) on Flipkart. Bhumika Realty Pvt. Ltd., is a company he named after his wife, and is into real estate and hospitality development.
A commerce graduate from Delhi University, Uddhav believes that work has taught me more than any institution and is his education. Uddhav was the President (Year 2019-2020) of Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) for The Jaipur Chapter, and since 2020 he has been on the South Asia Regional Board for EO on various positions such as Area Director, Growth Director and Governance Director. He is also a Founder member of SCAI (Shopping Center Association of India), non-profit organisation set up with the vision to engage in, and encourage, the development of the shopping center industry in India.
He is also managing committee member of PHDCCI (PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry). In ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India), he has been co-chairman of the National Council on ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and a member of the management committee. He features among the “100 Change Makers in Udaipur” by leading media group Dainik Bhaskar and was awarded ‘40 under 40’ in the real estate sector in India by Realty Plus which also named him among Real Estate’s Top 100 infuencer’s in India.
As a young and dynamic leader, he has spun of from the family business and established Bhumika Group, which has attained many successes in a short span of time and has reached a new level under his leadership.
His first retail real estate project, Urban Square in Udaipur has been creating waves since its launch. Centred around the theme, ‘After Here Nowhere’, the 1.8 million sq. ft., project includes office spaces, service apartments, a five-star hotel, and shopping mall with leading brands across categories. Urban Square is bringing several brands to this region for the first time. Poddar continues to approach new projects with unique designs, fresh perspective, and an open mind.
In an exclusive interaction with Shopping Centre News, Poddar talks about his professional retail journey, highlighting the challenges, changes, and goals of the group.
Tell us about the brand’s journey so far, highlighting key milestones.
The idea to get into the real estate business came in 2015, when I was interning with a real estate fund. The internship gave me a good insight into the industry, and I realised there are very few trustworthy developers in North India.
We had a property in Udaipur and I thought the best way to monetise it was go with another developer for a joint development. However, the idea didn’t work, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I realised this was an opportunity and that was how the brand’s journey in real estate began. We started building this asset with proper research and were successful in building the million sq. ft. fully leased project in time.
The mall was launched in December 2022 and is currently 80% operational. In this short operational period, we have received numerous awards for the best upcoming mall in the country. The journey and experience so far have been very good. Completing a large mixed retail development in a Tier II city like Udaipur was an earnest achievement. We were able to generate demand in the region as there was no existing demand.
Now that we have completed phase one of that journey, we are now going into phase two. In addition, we have just acquired a property in Faridabad, and we are going for a half a million sq. ft. retail project in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR). Right now, we want to focus on Delhi NCR and of course Rajasthan, as we understand the market well.
How has the launch year been for Urban Square?
The year has been overwhelming for us. We are seeing a good response as 80% of the stores are open and doing well. Every mall has its journey, till the time it gets populated, and then it gets stabilized. We are seeing that journey, and the fact that we have a waiting list in our mall, especially in a Tier II city like Udaipur, it is a good sign.
Do you think you have the right category mix at Urban Square?
Having the category mix totally depends on the catchment and the location where the mall is based. One should know what your competition is, what they are offering and how one can differentiate oneself from it.
At Urban Square, we are heavy on anchors. We are F&B and entertainment focused, and this is what differentiates us from others. We have Go Karting, bowling alleys, and world class cinema ambience as our differentiators.
Can you name the anchors?
We have nine anchor stores. They are: Shoppers Stop, Pantaloons, Lifestyle, Max, PVR, LED (gaming zone), Go Karting and a hypermarket (which is in process of signing).
What are some of the experiential offerings at Urban Square?
We have given Go Karting 20,000 sq. ft. of space. We are also trying out the al fresco dining, which is a new thing for the tier 2 market. Considering the weather and scenic location of the Udaipur mall, the concept will really do well. The amalgamation of various concepts including entertainment, food, retail office, hotel, service apartment under one roof complementing each other is another good thing for us.
What are your marketing strategies?
A lot is happening in the marketing segment and the entire strategy has moved online. Before the pandemic, this was not the case as the focus was more on offline marketing. For us, it is mainly social media campaigns and good quality events.
A large event with big celebrities turning up really helps the people to know more about the mall. We have a good events calendar, and we do things as per schedule.
After Faridabad, what next?
The construction of the project in Faridabad (5,00,000 sq. ft.) starts in December. We are planning some projects coming up in Jaipur and Jodhpur in addition to some PPP projects in NCR, which will be announced soon.
Your thoughts on D2C and other online brands opening stores in malls?
Yes, this is gaining momentum and we are seeing many such brands opening stores in malls. Sugar Cosmetics is one example, it is doing well across all formats. Similarly, there are other brands who totally understand the impact of offline stores and they are approaching the malls for store opening.
What change do you see from a brand’s perspective in opening a new store at the mall?
There are two perspectives in this case. We had leased our stores in the middle of the pandemic when the mall was still not open. We got a lot of requests from retailers, with some backing out and others requesting support. We understood their genuine concern and provided two kinds of support: One, is we offered a PRS (Pure Revenue Share) to most of the leased brands in the mall for a period of 6-12 months. We did that for nearly every retailer. Two, was some retailers wanted Capital expenditure (CapEx) support and we did this as well for some of the large retailers. What I see now is that this has become a sort of pattern, and some retailers are still in the process of expecting this from mall developers. I hope that changes because the demand-supply gap is decreasing. During the pandemic, the demand was less, and the supply was more, and these terms became standard practice.
I think it’s a matter of time, because demand is going to outstrip supply in some time as India is on the cusp of growth, especially in good micro markets. Having said that, even retailers understand that the waivers and benefits they got at the time will not be the same. Although some demand the same terms, but eventually it must be a win-win situation for both the parties.
Name an interesting trend in a mall that will stay.
One thing which has evolved in the last one or two years is the concept of high street in a mall. Earlier, everyone was developing an inward-looking shopping centre. Because of Covid-19, people started trying out high streets and it did really well.
Especially, if you are doing an F&B focused development, an open shopping environment with a lot of outdoor spaces, really works. It started as a trend and people really enjoyed it. As a concept, it is here to stay.
Where do you see retail real estate two years from now?
There’s a huge opportunity in tier 2 &3 cities in India. Going by the retail real estate model available in these cities, we clearly see there are 10-12 cities which are witnessing a surge in shopping mall development. And going by the number of cities in the country, there is a huge opportunity. Each city can take two to three malls.
When we started doing the Faridabad project, I realised that the opportunity even in metro cities is large. The market is large, and we are in a nascent stage, so if we build quality retail infrastructure, it is going to do well. You bring on a differentiated product and experience, the concept is going to work.