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This article was first published 17 years ago  » Business » The best malls in India

The best malls in India

By Moinak Mitra, Outlook Money
September 05, 2006 11:18 IST
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Biren Somaiya, 38, senior advisor, JP Morgan Chase, regularly hops into High Street Phoenix in Mumbai's Lower Parel from his nearby home at King's Circle to pick up "goodies". Somaiya never has enough time but he can't give up on his mall sojourns. 

Mallika Basu Garg, 32, senior HR manager with Avon, doesn't have any malls near her Karol Bagh home in Delhi. So, she visits Ansal Plaza and malls in NOIDA for buying higher-end apparel and gadgets.

Kaushik Samanta, 34, head of environment, health and safety with Biocon, visits Bangalore's Forum Mall every weekend to have dinner either at the food court, "The Transit", or at the fine dining joint Sahib Singh Sultan.

Raj Juneja, 38, a Gurgaon-based businessman, can be found at any of his three favourite multiplex theatres based in malls on Sundays catching the 3 p.m. show. He is always accompanied by his wife and two daughters.

For the Indian mass affluent, the call of the mall is proving irresistible. Malls increasingly dot the urban Indian landscape and their packed parking lots, busy food courts and restaurants, crowded anchor stores and noisy gaming arcades bear testimony to this alluring call.

Some would call it consumerism in action, we call it the celebration of mass affluence.

The secret of the lure of the mall lies in its mass appeal - it has something on offer for everyone in the family. There is a wide range of shopping experiences - bargains and discounts or high-end brands for couples, gaming and other amusement facilities for kids, a large choice of cuisines for family meals, and, of course, the multiplex theatres.

In many ways, malls reflect the state of our society and act as agents of change. Rising incomes and busier lifestyles are creating the space for malls in the lives of the urban mass affluent.

Leisure time is limited and a visit to the mall can do a lot for a busy family - domestic chores like grocery shopping are taken care of and food courts and restaurants save the bother of cooking dinner after hectic shopping apart from keeping children entertained.

Combine this with the consumer's rising purchasing power and his increasing focus on value proposition rather than just price, and malls suddenly start becoming more relevant.

Transforming lifestyles and spending 

Malls are also bringing about profound changes in the way the mass affluent household spends. Take the case of groceries. It is common to find many families doing their monthly grocery shopping at malls and paying by cards. Five years back, the same exercise would have been carried out in a small neighbourhood store with cash. 

With malls so much in demand, it is no wonder that their number is expected to go up from 158 in 2005 to 600 in 2010. According to a study by Images Group Retail, the size of organised retail, of which malls form a very significant part, is expected to grow from Rs 38,000 crore (Rs 380 billion) at present to Rs 100,000 crore (RS 1,000 billion) by 2010 - a jump of 2.8 times.

This will be driven by the rising incomes from continued economic growth, easy availability of credit cards and a demographic composition that favours spending in malls, namely, more than 80 per cent of the population aged under 45 and 50 per cent less than 25.

As Indians keep discovering malls, the retailers will also discover what they want and evolve the malls. "In the near future, there will be a clear-cut categorisation of malls. There will be premium, luxury and value malls and existing formats will change radically according to size and category," says Anuj Puri, managing director, Trammell, Crow, Meghraj.

Outlook Money-Awaaz India's best malls 

As malls occupy more and more mindspace of the Indian mass affluent, and increase their share in consumers' wallets, we, the consumers, need to be better informed about them to get better value from our mall experience. The question "which is the best mall for me?" would become increasingly important.

While mall ratings are common in developed countries, they have not yet been done in India. In the first exercise of its kind in India, Outlook Money brings to its readers, in association with Awaaz, the first ever rating of Indian malls in six cities based on four main parameters. Also, from now on, we will bring you ratings of malls in cities across the country every month.

We take a whistle-stop tour across the malls in six major Indian cities to give you a bird's eye view of what's hot and where for some of the major reasons for 'malling'-- shopping, buying high-end and luxury items, food, movies and other forms of entertainment, especially gaming. We need to remember that there are people who frequent malls for two other reasons.

First, a section ends up spending nothing during mall visits. Second, an emerging class of mall-goers visits niche and speciality malls, such as Eva in Bangalore, which is meant for women's products. We will cover the options for these mall animals in the forthcoming issues.

Club class

"We are fairly premium brand conscious - shoes have to be of Reebok, formal shoes of Florsheim, apparel from Van Heusen or Louis Philippe," says Delhi-based Neeraj Garg, 33, a senior manager with an MNC. Malls are becoming one-stop shops for the brand conscious. Neeraj and his wife Mallika often go to Ansal Plaza, home to the first Shoppers' Stop outlet in the country. In this signature store, fragrances from Giordano, Bvlgari, Dunhill and the like smother you at the gateway. The Marks & Spencer's showroom in the mall hawks a half-sleeve shirt for Rs 2,950. 

Cut to Atria, The Millennium Mall, in Worli, Mumbai. This takes the cake when it comes to the highest of high-end shopping. At Aldo, the official sponsors of Formula One, there's footwear ranging from Rs 4,000-30,000. In fact, you can even experience Orama's 4-D theatre where, along with 3-D viewing, you can actually shake hands with the actor, or participate in every shot, via 4-D technology. The damage: Rs 150 for a 15-minute clip.

In Chennai, check out the Landmark store for the most organised buying experience for top line perfumes, books, multimedia and stationery, or simply amble into Ritu Kumar's designerwear store on the second floor. Shop while good country and rock music resonates across the mall area.

In Bangalore, the true epicurean can visit the second floor at Bangalore Central that has women's designerwear while the fourth floor wine shop scripts an essay in Bacchanalia with a bottle of France's Laroche Merlot for Rs 586, or a Kahlua for Rs 2,500. Meanwhile, outside the CBD, Prestige's Forum Mall at Kormangala tempts you with an Apple Shop and a Bose speaker store.

Hyderabad Central flaunts the city's only Marks & Spencer's showroom, while the middleweight Babu Khan Mall houses designer boutiques like Ogaan. 

As for Kolkata, the suave and the successful would probably settle for nothing less than 22 Camac Street where, among other things, you can get ethnic wear by Kolkata-based designers such as Shantanu Goenka and Mona Pali—a linen shirt typically would cost around Rs 2,000. 


For a taste of Delhi, the choice is limited to the multiple food courts across malls that toss up the usual Delhi chaat fare, the ubiquitous chhole bhature or butter chicken. You can bite into a sumptuous non-vegetarian dosa at the Simbly South stall in DLF's DT Mega Mall food court in Gurgaon for Rs 80, or stroll down to Bauji Ka Dhaba at the nearby MGF Metropolitan Mall for North Indian cuisine in an ethnic setting. Here, a Dum Pukht Biryani for two comes at Rs 200.

Kolkatans visiting the Forum Mall make a beeline for Oh! Calcutta for authentic Bengali and Anglo-Indian cuisine. A Hilsa Paturi here costs Rs 210. At the adjoining resto-bar Starstruck, you can down a 60 ml Absolut vodka shot for Rs 280. 

In Mumbai's Raghuleela Mega Mall in distant Mulund, you can gorge on a vegetarian thali at Kalash. For fine dining, head for the In Orbit Mall on Malad's Link Road, where you can select from the restaurants Pizza Hut, Ruby Tuesday, Moti Mahal, Thai Lotus, to name a few. Then, there are two fine dine restaurants at Atria in Worli. 

Chennai's Abirami Mega Mall on the busy Purusawalkam Road celebrates variety. Tortilla F&B kiosks vie with food stalls vending paya (mutton bone marrow) masala for Rs 40 a plate, meats from country chicken, crabs and quails. At Spencer Plaza on Mount Road, take a bite at Shadi Ki Biryani, with biryanis available for Rs 39-59, and a Chicken 65 dish for a nominal Rs 30. 

In Bangalore, venture into The Eating Place at Bangalore Central where a prawn pepper salt comes for Rs 199. Don't miss out on the shikari bater (Japanese quail) at Sahib Singh Sultan in Forum Mall at Koramangala. At Rs 300 plus tax, it draws die-hard fans like Kaushik Samanta regularly with their families. Says Samanta, "I just love to eat at Transit, the food court at Forum Mall in Koramangala. The mall is close to my home and its parking is good as there are ramps at different levels."

Cut to Hyderabad Central, which has a dedicated 50,000 sq ft food court. Savour a kebab and roti meal here for Rs 120 and a Gosht Dum Biryani for Rs 99 at Ohri's stall. Malls are still a rarity in Hyderabad and foodies have limited options across malls. 


In Delhi, if you're on the lookout for steal deals, it's best to make a dash for the Sahara Mall in Gurgaon or the EDM Mall at Kaushambi in Ghaziabad, or even the Metro Mall at Inderlok in West Delhi.

There's a Big Bazaar in each of them and hypermarket discounts on every item are a huge draw. Similarly, you can ride on the Spencer's discount trail at Pacific Mall in Anand Vihar, Shopprix Mall in Noida, the MMX Mall in Ghaziabad, and even the Crown Plaza Mall in Faridabad.

For smart shoppers like Mallika Basu Garg, the location of the mall and its parking facilities are really important. "We live right in the heart of the city at Karol Bagh and go to Noida and Ansal Plaza. We don't go to the Gurgaon malls as there are severe traffic and parking problems there." 

Kolkata's Forum Mall has evolved as the shopping hub of the city. There's designerwear for high-end shoppers as well as the Nish Nash store for gift items, such as trinkets, going for Rs 50-500. Here, unbranded stores jostle for space on ground zero and hawk readymade garments and accessories for a steal. 

In Chennai, it has to be Spencer Plaza on Mount Road that tags along every brand you would be looking for. ATMs and both branded and unbranded stores fill up the maze across three phases in this mall. This all-in-one store also houses antique shop Tiffany's, which vends gramophones from Rs 3,500-15,000, or an old Murphy radio set for Rs 4,000. 

In Mumbai's In Orbit Mall on Link Road, Malad, you get the perfect mall ambience with Spencer's Hypermart, the Lifestyle and Shoppers' Stop department stores, the six-screen Fame multiplex, and the vanilla stores.

At Nirmal Lifestyle in Mulund or High Street Phoenix at Lower Parel, the focus is more on dispersed shopping, where you can walk around large open spaces for grabs that suit your budget. Catch a regular like Biren Somaiya, senior advisor, JP Morgan Chase, having a stroll. "I stay in King's Circle, close to High Street Phoenix, so I come here often to pick up goodies", he says.

Bangalore Central, being a seamless mall, offers most brands under one roof and regular discount schemes ensure the footfalls don't fall. The range includes stores for apparel, kidswear, toys, stationery, footwear, groceries and liquor. And if you're lucky, you will run into 20-50 per cent discounts as well. Prestige's Forum Mall and the Garuda Mall in the CBD are just the right places for mid-to-high-end buying. Forum stands out with its excellent layout and signage.

Hyderabad Central on the busy Punjagutta Circle tosses up the most prominent shopping mall landmark in the city of the Nizams. It houses Neeru's, a popular women's garments store, where the whole nine yards can be yours for just Rs 350, and crepe tops cost Rs 290. 

Show man 

Multiplexes in existing and upcoming malls spell good news for movie buffs. In fact, Bollywood too has woken up to the multiplex reality and a whole new breed of cinema has come up to cater to the multiplex audience.

In Mumbai, the four-screen multiplex at Mumbai's Eternity Mall and Wondermall (also Cinemax) on Ghodbunder Road have become film hubs. In Mulund, Nirmal Lifestyle provides a six-screen PVR, which can seat 1,850 people, while the four-screen Adlabs in the nearby R Mall on LBS Marg has 1,300 chairs on offer.

Mall-cum-multiplex options are somewhat limited in south and central Mumbai. The swanky five-screen INOX theatre in CR2 at Nariman Point can seat 1,400 people. Here, tickets range from Rs 180-250 on weekends and Rs 89-150 on weekdays.

At Kolkata's Forum Mall on Elgin Road, the four-screen INOX has a ceiling price of Rs 130 on the ticket. Chennai has the Abirami Mega Mall, which was flagged off in 2003 by actor Kamal Hasan. There are four theatres here that can roughly accommodate 2,400 people per show. With ticket rates varying from Rs 40-50, viewing isn't heavy on the pocket.

Then there's Mayajaal, a 900-seater in a five-screen multiplex-cum-mall sprawling across two floors located 40 km from Chennai's CBD. Catch a film here with the swish set for Rs 150 - a flat rate is charged across the screens.

Bangalore's Garuda Mall off MG Road can accommodate 1,300 people per show at its INOX theatre, with five shows thrown in daily. You can even check out Forum Mall's 11-screen PVR multiplex, which prides itself as India's largest multiplex.

Its Gold Class screens offer a luxurious film viewing experience to select clientele. Seven classic screens and two Cinema Europa complete the line-up. With movies in languages ranging from Kannada, Telugu and Tamil to Hindi and English, and a screening every 20 minutes, you'll never run out of choice. 

Hyderabad Central's PVR has three theatres and can accommodate 950 viewers per show. Multiplexes, in general, are still a far cry in biryani land, but a lot are in the works.

The upmarket Gurgaon and South Delhi crowd catch their cinema at the PVR theatres at Metropolitan Mall and Sahara Mall in Gurgaon, or the two DT malls in the vicinity. Entrepreneur Raj Juneja, 38, his wife and their two daughters are regulars at these multiplexes.

Raj is on the lookout for more leg room and better facilities at these multiplexes. Delhi's longest mall on the banks of the Yamuna, the Crossriver Mall, houses the four-screen Fun Republic multiplex. In Noida, it's the eight-screen PVR at Spice World, which can accommodate 1,821 viewers over 63,000 sq ft. It has an avant-garde lobby and a luxurious lounge with studio effect interiors. The five-screen Wave multiplex at the Centrestage Mall in Sector 18 has great sound and projection systems. 

Game boy

Malls all over the country are becoming serious destinations for fun and gaming. Consider High Street Phoenix in Mumbai. Its Bowling Company, spread over 32,000 sq ft, is one of the largest entertainment zones in the country. With a gaming arcade, bowling concourse and pool tables on offer, this is premium entertainment.

Also, don't miss Jammin', the family recreation centre on the fourth floor of Crossroads at Haji Ali. The damage here would be Rs 20 for any game you play or Rs 40 for air hockey and go-karting. The 17,000-sq ft gaming zone at Eternity Mall isn't anywhere behind. Aptly named Giggles, you can participate in its online multimedia gaming contests at Rs 35 an hour. One good thing about it is that there are trainers to help newbies at the sport.

Value is the buzzword at R Mall where you can pick up gaming coupons worth Rs 200 at its Jammin' centre and play two games for free. In Orbit Mall's Time Zone has interactive games on the menu and Infinity Mall has a play area spread over 18,000 sq ft. At the truly suburban Raghuleela Mall's third floor gaming zone, which stretches over 10,000 sq ft, 20 bowling shots come for Rs 100, and one game is offered on the house if you purchase four games.

At Bangalore, there are games galore at Garuda Mall and Forum, where the city's best-known entertainment company, Amoeba, has crept into the mall area. You can choose from car racing, kiddie rides and shooting to pinball, air hockey, and the mandatory bowling. The 'City of Roam' at the all-women's Eva Mall has a kids' bowling area dubbed Highway 66 where your little one can bowl 20 shots for as little as Rs 40.

When in Chennai, don't miss the 3,500-sq ft Snow World at Abirami Mega Mall. Here, a 20-minute dawdle through the Amarnath shrine, an igloo and a sledge at minus 6 degree Celsius will set you back by Rs 105. Don't miss Scary House on the third floor of the mall - it promises to get ghouls back to life. 

While hunting for games, Delhi malls are a bit on the edge. Devoid of a forest of gaming zones, unlike Mumbai, the average Delhiite can saunter into either the MGF Metropolitan Mall in Gurgaon or the MGF City Square mall at Rajouri Garden, which harbour distinctive gaming hubs. 

Phew, what a ride! Games, grub, glory. At malls, that's the moral of the story. As you put your feet up and examine the spoils of the day, chew on the plethora of choices that malls are giving us today. Remember the butter and milk shortages of the 1970s and '80s as you dip into the fruit yoghurt, sip the cranberry juice or watch 4-D action come alive. The freedom run of the Indian consumer has just begun. What next? More malls and more out of malls. In the big cities and small. Stay with us as we bring you a monthly update on what to do where and at what price. Mall on!

Malling @ Rs 500

On a rainy Tuesday when the barbers in Delhi prefer to give their scissors a break, the Keune saloon is a cut above. I'm given a mop option for Rs 400 with a blonde tending to her customer to my right. Nay, I can't afford to give in, not with 500 bucks in my inner pocket. The big banners, high hoardings and plucky placards of apparel, footwear, gizmos, bric-a-brac makes me suddenly feel lost in Gurgaon's Metropolitan Mall. 

That's when I spot the Amoeba arena. It's a Capital idea in Gurgaon as there aren't many gaming arcades around Delhi. Much removed from megalomaniac Mumbai's penchant for gaming or Bangalore's new-found crash, boom, bang. I enter the zone and dish out Rs 125 for bowling 20 shots. Phew, I'm left with Rs 375 and, without a doubt, dish out Rs 10 more for 'Dance Revolution 3rd Mix' at the gaming arcade. If bowling made you sweat, you'll need a bucket with this one. Okay, you've got three chances, put the coin in the slot, follow arrows on screen and dance to a tune on a simulated dance board with arrows. If you miss the arrow-feet coordination, you miss the beat. Cool, eh?

Well, I've Rs 365 with me. There're as many days in a year, and with 6 per cent interest, I could reap Rs 387 by year-end. Alas, the mall doesn't give you time to think. Consumption smiles, you wink.

Moving on, I see shirts for men displayed in pink incandescence. BTW, men too think pink, albeit in a metrosexual way. The Arrow shop shows it without a grudge but with a Rs 895-4,600 range to boot.

Have mercy, I've got Rs 365 and the next best thing I can think of doing is pick up a shirt at Koutons for Rs 200 at a 50 per cent sale. But the fabric makes me shrink as I veer along the aisle to the Music World audiodrome. It's a small shop, unlike bigger MW formats at other malls. I lay my hands on Don't Believe the Truth by Oasis with a track called The Importance of Being Idle. The MRP reads Rs 299 and I bag it at a Rs 199 steal deal. Now, I've precisely Rs 166 left.

That's when my pal with the shutter produces a moan similar to the one that comes from an empty stomach. We dash off to the food court and gorge on two smoked Texas regular hot dogs with cheese for Rs 60 each and wash it down with a couple of lemonades at Rs 15 each. The damage stands at Rs 150, and I am still left with Rs 16. At the exit, the parking attendant slaps a Rs 20 fee and my camera-happy chum zooms in to bail me out with four more bucks. I am not a mallerati yet, but I'm getting there, somewhere @ Rs 504! 

The methodology for the Outlook Money-Awaaz mall rating
The Making of Mall-O-Meter

The Outlook Money-Awaaz Mall-O-Meter concept was born on a hot June afternoon over seven black coffees and two-and-a-half greasy veggie pies. We had been planning a story on consumption for a while, when somebody suggested a 'consumption index'. That set the ball rolling for understanding consumer behaviour. And while researching online and sifting through an array of secondary sources, we stumbled on the most happening urban mass affluent phenomenon in India - the rise and rise of malls! 

With more than a hundred malls in place and another 600 in the pipeline, what, how, when we consume and the switch to consu-tainment - the art of being entertained while shopping - will get a makeover.

The mushrooming of malls has made it difficult to decide which one to go to - which one has good parking, which has the best facilities, which caters to luxury needs, which is for bargain hunting, where to get good food, music and films. 

Our conclusion was that we needed a guide to malling and that's when we decided to rank malls on four basic parameters: entry, shopping for food, shopping in general and, most importantly, facilities. Within each broad parameter, we created sub-categories for ranking - access and ease of parking, ambient air quality, the range of restaurants, multiplexes, entertainment facilities, accessibility and number of restrooms, to name a few.

We created a broad framework and took a call on six cities where the decibel levels of mall mania have been echoing for a while now. So we chose the four metros along with Bangalore and Hyderabad and invited three top panelists from distinctive fields. Architect firm Morphogenesis, real estate consultants Cushman & Wakefield (India) and retailer ITC signed up to bring to you India's first-ever rating of malls, the Outlook Money-Awaaz Mall-o-Meter.

Looking at the stars in our eyes, our distinguished panelists rated six prominent malls across as many cities - Delhi (Ansal Plaza), Mumbai (In Orbit), Kolkata (City Centre), Chennai (Spencer Plaza), Bangalore (Forum) and Hyderabad (Hyderabad Central) - on a scale of 1-5 stars.

If a sub-parameter for a mall is without a star rating, it denotes gross inadequacy in that particular department. Let's say the toilets stink, no star. A lone star implies room for improvement, two stars convey satisfaction, three stand for good, four for very good, and five stars declare it's way beyond compare.

However, Cushman & Wakefield has entered a caveat: "Fire safety is a technical aspect and the company is not in a position to comment on this in the absence of comprehensive information and detailed technical audit." Point taken. Therefore, just in the case of fire safety, we've left out C&W.

When each of our mall experts gave their star comments, we decided to rely on a sum of averages. We averaged out not merely the sub-categories but also the four major parameters of our mall rating and eventually arrived at a total average per mall.

The star rating, however, was only the beginning. Team OLM trotted across the length and breadth of the country to gauge whether we were in sync with the law of averages. What do the stars tell? Is it for real? After matching the ratings with the malls covered, we knew we had unearthed a goldmine. Look out for mall ratings every month to get one up on mall street.

Additional inputs from Jaideep Mazumdar

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