During my recent visit to Bangalore my sister enquired whether I had shopped in 'The Forum'-a relatively new mall that had come up in Bangalore.When I said that I hadn't, she urged me to visit it as it would be a very memorable shopping experience.
I had then just concluded a tough labour negotiations meeting quite successfully,and I imagined that I definitely needed a break and that a quick jaunt to this wellspoken of mall was justified en route to the airport.
I therefore set of for the old Mico road and when I saw the mall from a distance,I realised that the mall culture has indeed arrived.I must say that I was very impresssed. A humongous place,ample carparking space in the building,huge shops,you name the internationally known brands and they are all there. When I mentioned this to my Kannada friends they said,"enri,neevu garuda nodlilva.adu ondu doddu maalu! alli hogbittu shop maadi" (hello,haven't you seen the 'Garuda'.that is a huge mall'.go there and shop").Garuda is the latest addition to the long list of malls coming up in Bangalore.
Last month ,the CEO of Wal-Mart met our PM and showed interest in establishing some WM outlets in India. The increase in spending habits and spending power of the 300 million middle class is a great business opportunity which the big ones will not ignore. And India tops the list of the 30 most attractive countries in emerging markets for mass merchandise and food retailers. Russia has been pushed to the second place. The current moves by the Government to ease restrictions on FDI in this retail business is pushing global players to capture first-mover advantage. Carrefour,Casino and Tesco will surely and quickly enter India using a combination of different business models like M&S and Benetton who are already there.The Red is red in its face and has warned the PM not to make any concessions on FDI while in the US. They want the local kiranawallas and small mom and pop shops round the corner to continue. Unaffected.And MS has shot back that he needs no sermonising. But then political compulsions will be there when the Govt tries to liberalise the retail business.Backing out on BHEL disinvestment is the latest example.
Many years ago when I visited Kolhapur to discuss sale of fertilisers in the sugar belt,I was struck by the huge shopping store(not mall),I visited. For a 2 tier or 3 tier city,it was a big jump.Now with old textile mills and unviable manufacturing units closing down, in different parts of the country,a lot of urban space is coming into the market and is being devoured by property developers for housing cum commercial centres. Recently,17 acres of prime land was bought by the Delhi based DLF at Mumbai for an eyepopping Rs 702 crores.Y'day I read about 5 acres of prime land near Shivaji Park going for a mindboggling Rs 350 crores.
The Retail boom has arrived. Gurgaon is set to get the mother of malls.40 lakhs square feet.It will be spread over 32 acres and will have parking space for 10,000 cars.Bigger than Minniapolis and Shangai,the biggest malls in the world today,the DLF mall is expected to cost Rs 1500 crores and will be ready by 2007. Who says we Indians can't think big?
The Pantaloons and the Food Worlds better watch out.Consumerism is driving the retail market and the smaller players may get driven out. And brands are proliferating.Tommy Hilfliger,Louis Vuitton,Dockers,Red Tape,Bulgari,Chambor,Corelle,Magpipe and a host of others are knocking at the door or have already gained entry inspite of the Reds asking the Govt to show them the door. Soon our retail industry will be on par with its counterparts in the developed world.