Shopping malls have become a central part of life not just in urban India, but even in the small towns of the country. We are experiencing a retail revolution of a kind with malls and shopping centres mushrooming in large numbers even in Tier II and Tier III cities.
The concept of ‘shopping malls’ came to India a little late. The first Indian shopping mall Spencer Plaza was built in Chennai in 1990. Almost a decade later, in 1999, two more malls — Ansal Plaza in Delhi and Crossroads in Mumbai — became operational. Ever since, especially during the last decade, there has been a sudden spurt in the availability of mall space in India.
Mall management: the concept
Rising competition and more number of visitors have prompted mall developers to focus on core competencies and accurately researched offerings to target customers. This is where the concept of ‘mall management’ comes in. At a time, when FDI in retail could be a possibility, mall management becomes even more imperative.
Mall management is a well formulated concept in developed countries which are more matured markets. In India, however, the concept has started picking up perhaps only in the last 5-7 years.
People are attracted to malls because of the availability of variety of services, exposure to brands, promotional offers and discounts – all available under one roof. The comfort of shopping in air-conditioned and good ambience as well as access to a variety of food options are added incentives to visitors.
In India, mall management is more like a mix of the functions property and asset management. There is a property on which a mall is built, retailers are called in who establish their shops and then the asset is maintained.
Mall management largely encompasses several activities that go into the maintenance of the mall. This covers facilities management functions, operation management, marketing management, accounts management and customer service. It is basically a combination of services that factor in people, place, processes and technology in a particular building. Professional mall management results in the best possible utilisation of resources available.
Mall management begins with taking care of issues such as positioning, tenant mix, infrastructure facilities, the kind of environment required and finance management, which is the most crucial part of all. It also takes care of issues like positioning, zoning that include tenant mix and placement within mall, promotions and marketing.
The demand for superior shopping experience goes parallel with superior mall management, which is inclusive of appropriate maintenance of retail space using the latest technology, trained manpower, standard operating practices and schedules.
Customer service is also an important function of mall management. Customers are not only mall visitors but also retailers who have bought space in the mall. A mall has to keep these internal as well external customers happy through various activities.
Generally there are two types of consumers who visit malls – focussed buyers and impulse buyers. Mall management activities are designed from the perspective of both these buyers.
Providing value-added services is also an important part of mall management. Value-added services are actually customer-friendly services. With a number of malls springing up in one neighbourhood itself, these services are what separate one mall from another. Value-added services include simple activities like lighting, safety and security, making the mall baby and senior citizen-friendly, which in turn make the mall desirable for visitors and add a personalised touch.
Mall management: the essence
A mall, by virtue of the business, is such that there are high footfalls at most times. Therefore, it needs to be handled, secured and managed in the hands of skilled people.
As retail experts point out that mall management as a concept has just begun to emerge in India as a possible route to maximise profitability and reduce overheads. Being in such nascent stage, India has no formal training module designed for mall management.
There are very few mall management companies here at present. Large real estate developers and retail chains either have their own mall management divisions or have contracts with international consultants. In developed markets like the US and Europe, mall management is an established independent service line.
A specialist’s property management skills enable property owners to receive the benefit of master planning and development expertise, which is critical to ensure that malls are positioned for long-term growth and success.
Since the concept is still picking up, formal training courses in mall management are also not too many. Although several institutes have rolled out short-term courses in retail and mall management, including IIM-Indore and IIM-Calcutta, the formal inputs and experience will take some time to get to the desired levels.
Today, for a large section of the urban population, a mall is a place to splurge, pay a visit on the weekends, shop and spend bucks in the food court. Even as we move into the second phase of mall development, it is actually the concept of properly practiced mall management that will give existing and future players an edge in the sector.
Santosh Pandey, vice president at Growel’s 101 Mall, a state-of-the-art shopping mall at Kandivli, Maharashtra