Mallika Kohli, 8, a resident of Gulmohar Park goes to the Select CityWalk Mall every day — sometimes with her nanny and sometimes with her parents.
She spends close to two hours at the mall, not shopping or eating at McDonalds, but studying filmmaking in the air-conditioned training room of the mall.
Mallika is among hundreds of children who have joined various summer workshops run by the mall. The ongoing summer carnival at the mall includes workshops in filmmaking, ballroom dancing, acting, painting etc.
In fact, the mall, which has a dedicated training room for its workshops, also runs several learning and self-development programmes throughout the year. It has Barry John Acting Studio, which regularly conducts programmes in theatre. Last year, Chinmaya Mission had also conducted programmes in rhythmic chanting of shlokas, yogic games, value-based teachings through stories.
“We want our mall to be a place that goes beyond just shopping and entertainment. It should be a place for people to learn, engage in community activities and fulfil their social responsibilities,” says Neeraj Ghei, director, Select CityWalk.
“Our filmmaking programme is hugely popular. We plan to conduct more workshops,” says Vikram Khattar of Mark 5 Films, the company which is conducting filmmaking workshop at the mall.
However, Select CityWalk is not the only mall offering learning opportunities. Most malls across the city have tied up with various professional companies to conduct learning programmes. Summer carnival in malls across the city are focussing on learning and educational programmes, making them a huge hit with both children and parents.
The Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning on the first floor of the DLF Place in front of a furnishing showroom is equipped with five studios (classrooms) and a nicely done up book room. The centre attracted children from as far as Gurgaon during its holiday programme.
“The idea behind our summer carnival is to make our mall a perfect place for edutainment, where children don’t just have fun, but also learn. Around 500 children have already participated in our summer programme this year. The idea is to draw parents and kids who have not gone out for summer vacation,” says Arindam Kunar, vice-president, Mall Management, DLF Place.
Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning that promote concepts such as Eduplay (learning through play) and Edudrama (learning through drama) opened its branch at DLF Place last year. This was a first major education centre in a mall anywhere in the country.
The Singapore-based, learning centre, which has branches in cities such as Shanghai, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, cater to children in the age group of 6 months to 16 years.
“We have our flagship learning centre at a mall in Singpore which is a huge success. We wanted to try out the idea in India as well. We are happy with the response we have got from parents. We have about 350 children enrolled in our long-term programmes, while around 300 children have participated in our special holiday programme this year. Parents like the learning centre in a mall because there is no parking hassles. Also, they have lot of things to do even as they wait to pick up their children after the class,” says Ritesh Bhatia, head, marketing and business development, Julia Gabriel Centre for Learning, India.
But are malls a good place for learning and education? Well, mall managers certainly think so. “Children do not want to go to a classroom-like environment during the summer break. It’s also easy for parents to bring them to a mall, as it has a different environment and several added attractions,” says Brijesh Pandey, senior manager (operations) Shipra Mall, Indirapuram.
Apart from organising workshops in Robotics, theatre, environment conservation, and disaster management, the mall also organises mothers’ workshops during summers in the food court — which are a packed affair. During the workshop, mothers can play tambola and get tips on parenting as their children spend time in the workshop.
Mall managers admit that these learning-oriented activities also help them increase footfall. “If we draw and engage these children in long-duration activities, they are most likely to become our patrons in the future,” says Kunar.
Pandey agrees, “It helps increase footfall and boost business of retailers in the mall.”
And patents, too, are not complaining. “I am a housewife and it’s great fun coming to a mall with my four-year-old daughter every day,” says Rohini Gupta, 32, a resident of IP Extension.