The mall culture is slowly but steadily catching up in India and most of the action is in the suburbs.
After Delhi and Hyderabad it is now the turn of Mumbai. Mulund, the eastern suburb, and Navi Mumbai are fast becoming potential destination for mall developers. By next month two huge malls are coming up in these areas.
A study by real estate brokering firm, L Lachhmandas & Co, states that more than 2 million sq ft of shopping malls are likely to come up.
These include the ones being set up by the Nirmal group, Runwal group, Piramal's Crossroads and the Benzer group. With the setting up these malls business will shift here from retail shops.
While the Mumbai-based Runwal Group is coming up with a mall in Mulund, the Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) Benzer group of companies is building one in Vashi, Navi Mumbai.
Benzer, which has several years of experience in retailing, is foraying into the development and the management of malls and has floated a separate company, Fashion Lifestyle India for this purpose.
The Rs 60 crore (Rs 600 million), 1.5-lakh sq ft shopping mall, Center One is the company's first venture.
On the other hand the Runwal group's Runwal Arcade is spread over an area of 400,000 sq ft with a total investment of Rs 125 crore (Rs 1.25 billion).
The group, promoted by Subhash Runwal has been in the real estate business since 1978.
The mall culture signals the coming of age of a new generation in the Savla family that owns the Benzer group.
The 28-year-old CEO of Benzer and director (marketing and new business development), Hemang Savla has taken over the management of Benzer from his father Chiman Savla.
The new venture is the group's prime focus according to Hemang Savla.
Spreading wings and moving to these suburbs is based on hard business acumen. International construction consultants, Knight Frank India Advisory Services, has placed Mulund over Thane as the key emerging area of the eastern suburbs.
According to the company, Mulund is gradually becoming an alternative address for many first time home-owners.
Easy accessibility, competitive price advantage vis-à-vis other suburbs and a well developed retailing scene has made this suburb an attractive option.
Similarly, Vashi in Navi Mumbai, is a cosmopolitan and commercial city and is three-quarters the size of Mumbai. Completely planned and landscaped, Navi Mumbai is also emerging as an IT destination.
According to a Tata Institute of Social Sciences survey done in 2001, cosmopolitan and nuclear families dominate the neighbourhood with 49 per cent of the population from other states.
The average family income per month is Rs 9,579 as against Mumbai's Rs 5,000. Fifty-five per cent of the population is in the age group of 15-44 years, 46 per cent of the families own vehicles and 65 percent of the population are employed.
The presence of a number of premium retail outlets and international fast food joints is an acknowledgement of the buying power of suburbanites.
Vashi, where Center One is coming up already has McDonald's, Dominos, Raymond, Allen Solly, Provogue and Wills Lifestyle.
Runwal Mall is likely to sport brands such as Lifestyle, Big Bazaar, Haiko Super Markets, Adlabs multiplex, Copper Chimney, Pizza Hut among others.
According to Knight Frank Research Report, the demographics of Mulund area augurs well for Runwal Arcade.
In a survey conducted amongst corporates, retail owners and residents of the area, Knight Frank India Advisors has inferred that Runwal Arcade would attract an average traffic flow of 15,000 shoppers per day.With crores spent in investments, international standards met and an array of services offered, malls are all set to give the suburbanites an outing experience rather than just a shopping one.