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Malls on the highway now!

Jai Arjun Singh & Arti Sharma in New Delhi/Mumbai | October 09, 2004

Builders across the country have caught mall fever, with hundreds of sophisticated shopping marts planned both in metros and smaller cities. So the concept of a "highway mall" was perhaps inevitable.

The Rs 125 crore (Rs 1.25 billion) Majestic Properties is the first off the blocks, with the launch of the Melange mall , to be located on the Delhi-Dehradun highway, six km from Meerut.

Abdul Bari, vice-president-marketing and business development, Majestic Properties, is bullish about Melange's prospects. "Our research indicates that we can expect around 20,000 footfalls every day," says Bari.

Apart from the high traffic on the Delhi-Dehradun highway, the mall will cater to residents of Meerut, "where the buying capacity is high". Bari points out that the mall will be located near the Western U.P. Agricultural University and just 3.5 km from Meerut Cantonment.

The five storeyed mall is being developed over three acres of land with a total space of 2.2 lakh sq ft at a cost of Rs 80-90 crore (Rs 800-900 million). It will include two blocks -- the main mall that will be open during the day and a much smaller block of 10,000 sq ft that will house 24-hour eating joints.

The mall's anchor store will be the Big Bazaar hypermarket even as other brands like McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Lee Cooper, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Archies have signed on. And, naturally, there will be a multiplex.

While Melange will open by December next year, Majestic has already launched similar projects near Ambala and Dehradun. "We are looking at highway locations near towns with a 15 lakh to 20 lakh population," says Bari.

The company, he says, is thinking long-term by locating these malls on the outskirts of small towns. "Every city expands with time," adds Bari, "and in another 10 years or so we expect to see residential development closer to where we are located."

Home convenience

Guess who's jumping into the home delivery market? All the oil majors -- Bharat Petroleum (BPCL), Indian Oil (IOC) and Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL).

A month ago, some of BPCL's In&Out convenience stores, situated within its petrol pumps in Mumbai, began free home delivery to residents in the vicinity. IOC's Extra Care and HPCL's Speedmart outlets began reaching out to consumers some time back. They are all servicing consumers regardless of order size.

Why are oil companies on a bonding spree? Moreover, why are they taking on scores of mom-and-pop stores? "We felt that by offering this facility we could meet consumer needs as well as improve profitability," says R K Mehra, general manager (retail-western region), BPCL.

With increasing competition, a couple of years ago, going by the global model, Indian oil majors too looked at alternate revenue streams like convenience stores.

Today, while they are yet to contribute to the topline and bottomline, in due course, players say that such activities could account for well over 30 per cent of revenues.

Earlier, their offtake from these stores largely came from consumers who frequented the station for gas. The general public preferred their tried and trusted kirana outlets. But now, they want to reach out to larger audiences with a range of services.

Like IOC hopes to offer everything from groceries to paying utility bills and booking air tickets. It is already offering these services in 200 outlets, which will go up to 1,000 shortly.

That is why, BPCL along with consulting firm McKinsey realised that it needed to change in order to meet the changing expectations of the customer. Says Mehra, "We don't have to be dependent on the consumer walking to our door."

So, 12 of its 17 In&Out outlets in Mumbai, are already offering free home delivery. By December, 60 per cent of its total 250 outlets nationally will follow suit.

BPCL's Mehra claims the average daily store turnover hinges between Rs 5,000 in smaller cities to Rs 15,000 in Mumbai. He is hoping that this initiative will push up growth by 20 per cent.

Customised viewership

Customisation is the key to attract both viewers and advertisers today. Be it reality or interactive shows, all television channels are looking at wooing them by offering tailor-made shows.

Like music channel MTV's reality show Roadies which tied up with bike manufacturer Hero Honda. Apart from being interactive and youth oriented, it showcased Hero Honda's latest two-wheelers.

It's a lesson that niche channels are now following. With clients looking for greater value for their advertising buck, niche channels are bending backwards to make their limited appeal attractive to mass brands.

National Geographic Channel (NGC) Network India is customising shows to attract India specific sponsors. Despite having an India office since 1998, the channel was being serviced from Singapore. Three months back, a 15-member marketing team was put in place to ensure ad reveunes increase.

It recently tied up with mobile phone company Nokia to produce an eight episode show on scientific innovations. To make it more India relevant, NGC has roped in the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT) to recognise and judge Indians who come up with innovative ideas in a contest.

Says Zubin Gandevia, managing director, NGC South Asia, "We need to give advertisers a really good reason to associate with us. We already have a brand and we now have to make it relevant for them."

Like it also tied up with the Indian Army to produce the reality show -- Mission Everest.

Gandevia expects that the number of advertisers on the channel will go to 140 this year compared to the 20 it had three months back. "Any show can be made attractive for an advertiser, especially if it can be customised to suit the product or brand target audience," he adds.

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