In Conversation with Rajneesh Mahajan
How has the role of malls changed in the last two decades, ever since they came up in the Indian market?
The larger wave of malls in India came around 2004. It was around this time that there was a rise in the number of malls that were being developed to meet the demand of the market. Today, malls are not just considered as physical structures, but they have evolved as social venues where customers can not only shop but also watch a movie, catch up with friends and unwind. Malls have become part and parcel of people’s life. Inorbit Malls are committed to keep building on this concept to provide customers, a more connected shopping place, a place which they find more comfortable.
Is there room for several more malls to come up, especially in the Tier II and Tier 3 cities, in the smaller cities and towns? We have seen a lot of malls shut shop, many of them even before they could open...
The size of malls has changed, they have become bigger that what they used to be a decade-and-a-half ago. In terms of fashion, food and entertainment, Malls have been reaching out to more number of customers than ever before. There is also a bigger focus on casual dining and entertainment options. Another trend that has recently evolved is Lifestyle, Fun and Leisure categories venturing into malls. Malls have started housing brands like Happily Unmarried and Chumbak that fall under these categories.
In terms of the demand and supply situation, especially in Tier II and Tier III cities, malls have to be studied – and launched – differently. One must remember that a shopping mall is a product, not a real estate project. Once that understanding is settled, it helps. The strategy for a mall to become successful involves a gamut of things – location, the entire layout, size, tenant mix, offerings inside the mall… all that creates a product. There is no one simple formula to succeed because you are creating a product which has to be relevant to the neighborhood and the economic prosperity of the micro market. Eventually, a good mall is one that provides comfort, excitement and experience for the consumer who walks in. A good product can succeed anywhere and same goes for Tier II and Tier III cities. The mall sizing has to be right; you cannot size it too small or too large. There has to be an in-depth study into infrastructure, the buying power of the consumers thus making a particular mall relevant to a particular market.
How critical is the infrastructure strategy to mall-building?
Infrastructure management is very important when you are setting up a mall space. Here’s a parallel example: If you have one cricket match at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, roughly 55,000 people come to watch it. The whole city comes to a standstill in terms of the arrangements required. Now, typically, in any big mall, you get anywhere between 50,000-1,00,000 people on Sundays, so imagine how much infrastructure is required to manage such a scale. You also need to look at the buying capacity of the consumer in a micro market – if you make a mall where the buying power is not strong then even if you have the right infrastructure and the right product, it can affect profitability adversely.
How should brands be prepared for making changes? In the context of Inorbit Malls, the tie-up with Pretr, for instance, is synergising online and offline activities. Could you explain how Inorbit geared up for these changes?
Inorbit Malls is into the business of shopping centres, where we create memorable experiences that delights our consumers and enhances their shopping experience. Consumers not only indulge in physical shopping but are also actively involved in online research and online purchases. Therefore it is essential to learn from e-commerce business and elevate their shopping experience online too. We have to be omnichannel. We offer consumers the convenience to reserve the product online and pick it up from the mall or the mall can deliver the product at your door step. Our additional services like dropping customer’s shopping bags to their home gives them a hassle free shopping experience. Our endeavor is to complete the journey of our consumer by providing a 360-degree wholesome experience. Our technology partner, Pretr allows our customers to browse through products available in our mall online and choose how he/she wants to purchase it.
Keeping in mind the change in the customer’s lifestyle and preferences, Inorbit Malls is committed to continuously upgrade its offering and service parameters to delight them.
In terms of advertising, how important is the digital medium for you? What should be the role of agencies to further the brand and facilitate communication with the target consumers?
Communication is becoming extremely challenging in today’s times. For us to make ourselves heard in a cluttered scenario of communication is essential. Our presence across all communication platforms keeps consumer updated on the latest mall updates. We work closely with our social media, creative, PR and e-commerce agencies in a manner to convey single minded brand proposition to our patrons.
Given your schedule and top position in the company, how do you relax and unwind to balance between personal and professional space?
In my view, there is no difference between personal and professional life; during the day you have your priorities and you have your life. I unwind by reading books about entrepreneurs and businesses… I find those journeys of individuals and businesses fascinating… through those learnings, I implement in my work.