India’s malls still busy playing catch-up with global trends

Susil Dungarwal, the founder and chief mall mechanic of Beyond Squarefeet Advisory, talks about India’s mall development trends.

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Susil Dungarwal is the founder and chief mall mechanic of Beyond Squarefeet Advisory, and former head of retail for Emaar MGF, a joint venture between Dubai’s Emaar and the Indian developer MGF. He talks about India’s mall development trends.

How do India’s malls compare to those found globally?

I would say the mall industry per se is at a very nascent stage in India. It has yet to evolve. There’s a long journey ahead if we compare ourselves with malls in the Middle East or in South East Asia. There’s not even one mall in the whole of the country which can beat a City Center Mall, forget The Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates. It would take another decade to come to a certain levels of malls that we can see in the international markets to be seen in India.

Are UAE developers looking at building malls in India?

Some of the mall developers from the Middle East, mainly from Dubai, are already eyeing the Indian market. However, because of the restrictions, now they are in a wait-and-watch scenario. There are FDI (foreign direct investment) restrictions in the country when it comes to real estate. The moment the Indian government does some relaxation of the norms on FDI, I think quite a few of them will definitely look at this market. The only day when I can see good malls coming here is when some of the international mall developers will come and start building malls.

What are some of the challenges the less successful malls in India have faced?

In India, within the city access is very bad, so forget about getting out of the city. Destination malls will not work in India or have not worked. There have been a few examples or concepts which came up but they failed miserably because accessing those malls was a big issue. The competition is increasing with online and also with malls – wherever there is a successful mall, there’s a mushrooming of malls happening in that destination, so that catchment becomes oversaturated and then all of them start failing.

What other hurdles do malls in India have to overcome?

One is the the high cost of real estate. Indian real estate is very expensive. Two is availability of property. Being a densely populated country, availability of good land is not there. India does not have that many retail brands – domestic or international. There’s a huge limitation of retail players in the market. There are only about 350-odd organised retail players. We need to look at about another 1,000-plus brands coming in here – either domestic or international.

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