The Mall Culture

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Picture(12).jpg India is going through a consumer centric face lift. The old shopping areas are being replaced by gleaming air conditioned malls which look and feel like good old American malls. To add a dash of American authenticity there are some Pizza Huts, Subways and TGI Fridays, which try and pass themselves off as high end eateries. Oh never mind!

On a recent visit to Gurgaon I counted six malls, and there are at least an equal number currently being constructed. This whole thing got started in Madras and since then has spread north and apparently even smaller towns have malls. And of course the Mall Rats. I got a feeling yesterday at the Mall, that shopping was the new new thing. There are multiplexes, ice cream parlors, play areas for kids and grid locked parking lots. And of course the omnipresent din of some really bad Bollywood tracks, though AR Rehman’s Meenaxi is pretty cool.

malls.jpg Couple of observations – most of the brands are local though there is a smattering of European brands like Benetton. There is Levi’s, Adidas and Nike. But that’s about it. Rest of the overseas brands are faded former cool brands. I found some really interesting products from Arrow, an old US shirt-maker. Great pair of light weight cotton jeans. Wrangler and Lee Jeans are pretty big here.

But where are the real American brands? I asked a friend a mine: Well we will have Tommy Hilfiger here in two weeks. What about global luxury brands? Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari and Hugo Boss have opened stores in shopping arcades in high end hotels. Apparently the average transaction is around $1200 in India for LV. Now they look like the real US malls to me. Still there is a Retail Boom going on here, and as expected there is a website devoted to the new organized shopping space: Retail Yatra.

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Aseem Bajaj

Om Bhaaji!

Yeah that’s my city Gurgaon, left it about 8 months ago when the cineplex had trickeled in and people started moving in from Delhi to the suburb for the complete entertainment expierence.

But a word of caution. Even though I am an optimist myself, the branded-malls phenomena is limited to say top 20 cities or towns right now. Not to say that it wouldn’t reach smaller towns, but there is a few things to look at.

For example, people at Gurgaon do go to those Lifestyle kind of stores for buying anything branded say a pair of Levi’s but would still go to the sadar bazaar for their ‘kariyana’ (groceries). For a simple reason, take and give all the ‘power of choice’ and ‘lowered cost in volumens’ ideas, there is no way that these big malls can offset the price advantages of sadar-bazaar’s as of now.

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