Variety

Mumbai malls for miles

ARUNA RATHOD | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on March 01, 2012

Nirmal Lifestyle in Mulund, Mumbai. - Anita Rathod

R-Mall in Mulund.- Aruna Rathod

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Mangroves and deserted factories vanish as more than a dozen mega shopping malls mushroom on a 12-km stretch between Ghatkopar and Thane.



As late as the turn of the Millennium, driving from the heart of Mumbai to a suburban home was a journey through wilderness, the landscape dotted with either saltpans and mangroves, or defunct industrial units. A decade on, the entire 12-km stretch from Ghatkopar to Thane has metamorphosed into a swank residential zone, with as many as 12 mega malls dotting the central suburbs. Tall standalone buildings, as well as gated communities line this arterial road and, to service their denizens, the plush malls stock everything from a pin to a Prada. From the living room to the mall lobby is literally a hop, skip and jump.

Among the first mega malls to open shop in the central suburbs - as also in Mumbai - Nirmal Lifestyle not only added a whole new dimension to suburban shopping when it opened in 2004 but also changed the way locals spent their weekends. With an unusual architectural design that boasts a huge glass dome, it instantly became a footfall magnet, not to mention its emergence as the newest backdrop for many a Bollywood film.

“Malls are the temples of urban convergence, and Nirmal Lifestyle aimed to give Mumbaikars an unprecedented shopping, dining and entertainment experience,” says its Managing Director, Dharmesh Thakkar. Close on the heels of this 2-lakh sq. ft retail zone, another big one - R Mall - was thrown open just a kilometre away, putting the suburb of Mulund firmly on the mall map of Mumbai.

Stock up your home, pack in the retail therapy, catch a movie, dine at the food courts — the malls offered all this under one roof, and Mumbaikars were only too happy to have more to choose from with each passing year.

While R City Mall at Ghatkopar housed every brand worth its salt and silk, the Huma Mall at Kanjurmarg emerged a value-shopping destination, with outlets of leading apparel and sports brands. And at Vikhroli arrived one of the first theme malls — the Home Town, spread over three floors and offering everything one could possibly need to do up the home — from furnishings and furniture, to fuses and fixtures.

Thane at the malls

It was only a matter of time before the mall mania spread to neighbouring Thane, which had similar ingredients for success — a large population that is affluent, upwardly mobile and looking for weekend places to visit. First on the scene was Wonder Mall, which was basically a multiplex with a shopping experience thrown in. As the neighbourhood grew, so did the number and the scale of the retail haunts.

“When we came to live in Thane in 2002, there was just the Wonder Mall and a D Mart store for groceries. While the opening of the huge Big Bazaar outlet changed the way we filled our shopping trolleys, the Korum Mall brought lifestyle shopping and hi-class entertainment into our lives,” says Devika Pujari, a resident of Vasant Vihar, who is more than happy to unwind at one of the malls in Thane on the weekends, after negotiating the tough commute to her office in central Mumbai five days a week.

More in the works

After at least half a dozen malls opened in the central suburbs in the past couple of years, the high-density footfalls are fuelling the demand for more, and three new malls are under construction now.

Metro cash-and-carry will open in a couple of months at the Neptune Mall in Bhandup; while Dreamz Mega Mall turns into reality across the road.

The biggest of them all is set for a grand opening this month. Spread across a whopping one million sq ft, Vivacity will boast a multiplex with 14 screens, seven large anchor stores, a 40,000-sq ft food zone and parking for 2,400 cars.

Sustaining footfalls

The frenzied additions lead many to wonder whether it would soon turn out to be a case of one mall too many.

“It would depend on a variety of factors,” says Susil Dungarwal, Chief Mall Mechanic, at mall advisory firm Beyond Squarefeet, adding that once the initial novelty wears off, customers will increasingly gravitate towards malls that have the perfect mix of design, services and management.

Citing the example of the neighbouring satellite city of Navi Mumbai, which saw a similar glut of malls and an equally rapid collapse of the mall model, Dungarwal says the challenge for malls would be to maintain consistent levels of service and brand mix. “In a broader sense, it's already a case of one mall too many in Mumbai, and whether all the malls will coexist successfully or one will make for the other will become known only in the years to come,” he says.

On the flip side, the mall boom has also brought its attendant problems for local residents. “It's impossible to negotiate the LBS Road on weekends,” complains Mulund resident Padma Jayakumar, adding that the influx of people from across the central suburbs creates huge traffic snarls and inconveniences residents.

Published on March 01, 2012
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