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We are Open to All Opportunities Coming Our Way: Arjun Gehlot, Ambience Group

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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.

Arjun Gehlot, Director – Ambience Group, speaks on the Group’s current focus areas for malls, innovations and prospects

Since its inception in 1986, Ambience Group has distinguished itself from the competition. It commenced its journey developing premium residential apartments in South Delhi and later ventured into developing large projects, after acquiring a landmark land parcel on NH-8, Gurugram, zero kilometres from the Delhi Border.

Here, Ambience developed a signature integrated township ‘Ambience Island’, comprising a residential complex, commercial building, retail, a hotel, a 9-hole pitch and putt golf greens and community facilities.

The group then ventured into other projects like shopping centres. Today, it has an array of ongoing and planned projects at strategic locations in Delhi NCR, Sonipat, Panipat, Udaipur and Visakhapatnam.

Ambience’s two shopping malls at Gurugram and Vasant Kunj were dream projects of founder Raj Singh Gehlot, who with his dynamism and vitality, has led to the successful execution and delivery of well-planned, contemporary, premium, and innovative projects in the past 27 years.

In an exclusive interaction with Shopping Centre News, Arjun Gehlot, Director – Ambience Group, speaks on the Group’s current focus areas for malls, innovations and prospects.

How has this financial year been for Ambience Malls?

The year has been good. Footfalls have increased and so has business. Customer sentiments are running strong, and so are sales. The pandemic was a huge setback, but we were confident of a bounce back. This year, we saw many international brands entering India and are happy that brands like Pottery Barn and Victoria’s Secret, entered India through us.

I am hopeful that this momentum will be sustained, and I have confidence in the Indian market and real estate sector.

How has the percentage of revenue gone up?

Revenue comparison is not the parameter we are looking at. The parameter for us is the overall sales in a mall, which are better than in 2019. They were slightly better last year as well in comparison to 2019, resulting in positive year-on-year growth since 2019.

Your view on the changes in consumers?

I believe that there are new generations of shoppers in action. The alphas, millennials, and GenZ, shoppers have different spending patterns. They prefer quality and are selective in their approach. They want the best of the products as per their lifestyle.

From an economic standpoint, the consumption rate has gone up, and savings have gone down. Shoppers today are living by the YOLO (You only live once) philosophy and their shopping is fuelling the consumption growth.

The dynamics of category mix have also changed. What’s your take on that?

Indigenous brands are playing a lead role here. They do have a better sense of micro changes, as they are personally connected to society. These brands are better receptors and can adapt faster to social changes and the needs of the customer.

The international brands have star power and the luxury of being renowned brands. They have a certain pull factor associated with them as well. So having them both is a good mix for a mall. We go for good international brands, but indigenous brands also play a key role in sharing the percentage of the national, international, and regional brands.

The proportion of indigenous brands has also grown by around 15% to 20%. A lot of new designer brands and their labels are coming up. For example, S&N, by designers Shantanu Mehra and Nikhil Mehra; and House of Masaba by Masaba Gupta is expanding and opening stores in malls. We have just signed the store with Rana’s by Kshitija Rana and are in talks with more designers.

Tell us about the Family Entertainment Centres (FEC) ratio at Ambience malls?

From an Indian context, shopping malls not only serve the purpose of shopping but also that being community centres, where people even go for business meetings and family get-togethers. FEC thus becomes very important. At Ambience, we opened Timezone
first at the Gurugram Mall and then at Vasant Kunj. Both are getting fabulous responses.

We also have Fun City in both of our malls, which is also one of our key attractions. Having two popular players under the same roof is working for us and both brands are coexisting well with a healthy growth rate.

Your take on D2C brands opening physical stores in malls?

We are in touch with many D2C brands, and I think it’s required for them to have an offline presence, whether it is in a mall or a high street. At the end of the day, a customer touch point and a customer experience point are what is relevant and instil confidence in the minds of the customers.

With the festive season being the best revenue earners for malls, can you share market strategies and events lined up?

The festive season is an exciting time for malls in terms of revenue and footfall. Every mall prepares for this period on a very large scale, both in terms of logistics and merchandise. We start planning for Diwali in August.

This time, we announced an Audi A4 as the bumper price to the shopper with the highest bill. Earlier, we gave a BMW, Mercedes and Jeep. Besides that, we have a plethora of other gifts like iPhones and gold coins.

Any new tech innovations you want to talk about in malls?

The tech innovation that we’re relying on right now is the mall app. The Ambience Mallapp is a good customer database and user engagement tool. It hosts our loyalty programme. It is a simple system and rewarding as well, as per the feedback we have received from the customers.

One can just open the app, scan the bill and it will automatically credit certain points as per the slab. These points are credited to the buyer’s account, which can be redeemed against vouchers in the mall.

For us, this is one avenue, where we can connect with our consumers directly and we will be developing it further. We have a delivery robot called Ambi Bot at the Vasant Kunj mall. In the food court, when one places an order using the app, food is delivered by the robot. This is a huge hit among kids, as they love watching a robot bringing them food.

Our tagline is, ‘A place for a million Smiles’, and we are adding one at a time.

Any new brand or store which you are bringing to India?

Lots of new brands are underway but for now, we will keep a little suspense on that. What we can promise you is good things are ahead.

Any new malls coming up?

As of now, our current focus is on both properties, but yes, being in the real estate business, we are always looking for a good opportunity and will begin as it approaches.

We are open to all opportunities coming our way and the location or city is not a barrier.

Your vision for the brand and where do you see the real estate industry going in the next three years?

The vision for the brand is to be the best in whatever category we are in. Our customer engagement and quality offerings will continue to be top notch and the priority would be to keep consumers happy and satisfied. We aim to do this by offering the best we can.

The real estate industry overall, I think it’s in a good phase right now. Residential sales are strong, and commercial demand is good. And yes, retail is also in a good spot right now. So, yeah, offerings crossed.

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