hese days I seem to be spendingevery other week in India,resulting in my expanding middle.On a recent busy Friday, at the checkoutdesk o the hotel in Bombay, there weretwo harried BPO/KPO managementtype rangs ahead o me with their busy looks and ubiquitous notebooksand both o them were coming back thenext week to resume their supervision o their young Indian IT coolies – one on aWednesday and the other on a Tuesday,rom whichever country they were o toor the weekend.Given the “Work is my lie and amily,what amily?” mentality o today’s 30-and 40-somethings, I can only hope theywere heading back home and not to thesun-baked deserts o Dubai where theywere on duty through Saturdays and Sundays!Since I believe in balance (both in the bank and in lie), the wie and I headed toManali and drove up to Leh, truly a tripor the gods. Ater my recent sojournsin Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, I see no dierence betweenthe jords o Norway or the mountainso Switzerland and these ethereal placesin India except the currency notes thatthese countries eciently separate romyou at every mountain pass and chalet!With the terric Major Khanduri atthe helm, Uttaranchal is set to becomethe destination o the uture in mountaintravel. The warmth o the Garhwalisand the smiles o the Ladakhis aremagnicent stress busters. The stunning,even awesome Manali-Leh Road closesin mid-September so I urge everyonewho has the time to justdo it!Anyway, it was onone o these gorgeousdrives that I had a “retailepiphany” o sorts: Iound a mega mall withall the leading brands ina “C” class town out inthe boondocks - a signo the times.
The news is out! India is shopping.Or, i you look closely, Indians aregoing to the movies more oten in sexy,glossy, huge malls and shopping, eating,gawking, ogling on the way in and outto the ubiquitous multiplexes which arealways on the nth foor o these malls.The list o the players entering India isa who’s who o retail royalty – Walmart/Bharti, Reliance Fresh & Retail,Birlas, Tatas, Rahejas, RPG, Pyramyd,Pantaloon, Carreour, Landmark, Tesco,Argos et al. It looks like it’s a great timeahead or corporatised, highly ecient,value-driven retail India. So good byeGUM, Hello Macy’s! Adidas is talkingabout launching a retail “university” totrain youngsters to smile better and bemore patient with customers.Reliance is launching electronics megamalls called Reliance Digital, the AdityaBirla group is planning shops called More and discounter king Subhiksha iseyeing king-sized prots with a turnover o Rs 30 billion and up to 1000 stores byend 2007.The “Retail King” o India has just published his autobiography whichis prominently placed at the cashier counters o all the Big Bazaars (both as ametaphor and a marketing masterstroke),while Dubai based Damas has storestargeted at newly-weds. I wager that themost popular words in the lexicon o circa 2020 will be mega, hyper, arcade,multiplex, sale, INOX/IMAX, fagshipand anchor, as most youngsters todaynd salvation in glass palaces bearingthese names on their marquee.But some industry insiders in their distinctly un-mall-like oces are beginning to question the sustainabilityo these malls.
Where’s the revenue?
Walk into any mall as a lay buyer and see the low-revenue-generating ootall(that is, number o shoppers) in anystore. Many malls are ar behind their
R A V IMACHIRAJU
P H O T O S : L i j e s h