Malls are the new temples of consumerism and are the sign of improving standard of living. The cycle of mall development leading to commercialism leading to consumption which raises property values around the mall is well documented. But malls are also part of their local community and create structural changes when they come into being. The question is how sustainable is the mall for the community, and how do these malls ensure that they do not disrupt and bottleneck surrounding areas? STOrai presents a photographic essay on the question “How green is your mall?”
Retailers are an intrinsic part of their local communities – and a natural aggregator of community opinion. In this role they are capable of both setting and driving/ amplifying local themes and concerns around sustainability. Globally retailers such as Carrefour S.A., M&S, IKEA, Starbucks, Timberland, M&S, Puma and Consumer Product companies have adopted a “triple bottom line” approach – People, Planet & Profit. STORAI profiles 2 malls in India – Inorbit malls and the Great India Place – and their endeavors in this regard:
Transforming the marsh
Inorbit Malls is the pioneers of the mall culture in India. The company has six operational malls – the first mall was set up in Malad, in 2004, followed by other five others in Navi Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Whitefield and Vadodara.
Inorbit’s first mall came up in the suburb of Malad. In the late 1990’s – Malad was synonymous with marshland. Inorbit was developed on a plot known simply as “504” – and was created by using the garbage from a defunct dumping ground to stabilize land reclaimed from the marsh. The mall, at 500,000 square feet was large – for its time – and went on to become a run-away success when it opened. With two anchor stores – Group Company Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle, the Diwali season of 2004 clocked revenues for both companies much higher than projected targets. The mall offered a large parking facility, easy access to the main road and the nearest railway station served as a hub to transform the sleepy residential suburb of Malad into a destination shopping area for people living as far as away as Colaba – which is the southern-most tip of Mumbai, Inorbit became the focal point of “Mindspace” – a commercial cum residential complex. Mindspace became one of the ‘business districts’ in Mumbai (in addition to Bandra Kurla, Powai, and the traditional south Mumbai commercial destination of Nariman Point) – which helped to reframe traffic patterns in the city from the traditional North-South direction (where people lived in the north and worked in the South of the island city) to a a “east west” direction.
Since then, Inorbit malls have gone through a thorough location selection process. “Location selection process starts with intense market research and catchment analysis in various cities. Consumer insights focusing on buying behavior, purchasing power, changing trends, and access to national and international brands, availability and price of the land in the area form crucial stage of evaluation,” says Kishore Bhatija, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Inorbit Malls.
In 2006 the Malad area faced challenging feedback from environmentalists who contended that the fumes from the reclaimed land were causing an environmental hazard. In response the K Raheja Group (which owns Inorbit malls) worked with the Clinton Climate Initiative to ‘retrofit’ the mall, reduce its carbon foot print and ensure that the mall achieved LEED certification (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design). The group also built a public park and created a protected green zone atop the specific site of the erstwhile city dump to rebalance environmental concerns.
Inorbit mall has transformed the face of Malad. In addition to Mindspace, the 3 km stretch around Inorbit and Mindspace has seen the development of several commercial complexes, residential buildings, parks and has become a BPO hub. Currently, the 5 km stretch of leading upto Mindspace has 3 big malls and departmental stores like Hypercity, Inorbit, Infiniti 2, Dmart, and Croma. It has become a weekend destination for suburban Mumbai.
“We believe our strength lies in understanding the pulse of the local catchment and giving them exactly what they would like to see in a mall. We have a series of community initiatives where we engage with the patrons from the catchment and work towards creating a value add to their experience. Inorbit strives to increase ‘dwell time’. The response has been great and most people in Malad look at Inorbit as a community mall than just as a shopping destination,” says Kishore.
Mall Walk – A unique initiative
Inorbit Mall, Malad introduced the concept of ‘Mall Walk”. Inorbit lets senior citizens and fitness enthusiasts use the area inside the mall for their morning walk. It’s safe, clean and free of any hazard of pollution or traffic. “The mall walk is a savior from the humid climate and torrential rains of Mumbai. It’s a community-building exercise that helps to create a personal connection with the customer. It was not started with the goal to generate more footfalls but it has fostered greater brand loyalty. We also conduct Art of Living programs across our various properties.”
“This is the first time ever that any company across the world has taken this initiative and undertaken such a tie-up. These energy-efficient practices would not only help Inorbit save energy, but also achieve a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of the mall,” says Kishore.
Great India Place, Noida
Inaugurated in 2007, The Great India Place is one of the first malls of Noida; and at 1.5 mio square feet, is one of the largest operational malls in India. Developed by the International Recreation Parks Pvt Ltd (IRPPL), a JV between Unitech Ltd and International Amusement Ltd, it is located adjacent to a NOIDA Metro station. The mall is itself a part of the larger entertainment city amusement park (called Worlds of Wonder).
The mall structure is giant stone building. Sanjay Chandra, MD, Unitech Ltd, says, “The building’s design has practical advantages – not only is a stone wall cheap to construct, it is conducive to efficient air-conditioning and allows more room for retailing; when compared to a glass facade. A glass window would not only take up room for window dressings but would also require elementary paneling before the shelf area can start, which means wasted space.”
The mall was designed by Callison, one of the largest architectural design firms in the United States. As part of the “Worlds of Wonder” – the mall has become a destination for retailment in Noida.
“We have registered all our commercial developments in NCR in LEED Core and Shell rating LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design). As far as social forestry is concerned, we take pride in the fact that the Unitech brand is associated with ‘Green’. We plant trees on a continuous basis in and around all our locations,” says Sanjay. Some of the other efforts include Rainwater Harvesting, Energy Efficient Buildings, and Social Forestry. In addition, the company runs “Sankalp” a program where employees can volunteer their time in areas such as healthcare, labour welfare, child education and skill building.
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