Lutyens’ Delhi has its impressive bhavans and boulevards. Old Delhi has its old-world charm. What’s the trademark of the rest of Delhi and its suburb? The question would have drawn a stinging blank a couple of years ago. But today, the Capital beyond the walled city and Lutyens Zone has acquired its own identity, and a modern one at that: swish malls.
In the past two years alone, about a dozen malls have opened in the Capital. Some may sneer at them as symbols of materialistic culture, but a large section of the metro citizenry is loving the experience. Ask any of those teenagers swaggering up and down escalators in these glitzy hang-outs. And demand for them is only growing.
The proof is in the figures: in 2004-05, 24 malls and commercial complexes were sanctioned by the Delhi Development Authority in the Capital. So if you think Shalimar Bagh, Raja Garden, Rohini, Janakpuri, Netaji Subhas Place and Wazirpur are areas you go to while paying a visit to a friend or an old uncle, or when hunting for a rented accommodation, you’d soon be forced to change your opinion. A majority of the upcoming malls, 13, are in west Delhi. Another four malls are coming up in south Delhi — three in Saket and one each in Vasant Kunj and Jasola.
A way of life
Come 2007 the metro landscape is going to be dominated by glitzy malls looming over the dull, grey buildings. And you don’t have to look over the horizon to feel the change. Even our lifestyle hasn’t remained the same; the way we shop, they way we sell and places the youth hang out around. They are the ‘shoppertainment’ destinations, where you shop, catch a film, have a family dinner or just chill out with friends doing nothing in particular. “A mall is a convenient meeting place. Calling friends at your home is so un-cool,” says Vineet Jain, an engineering student.
The funny thing about mall mania is that in this game the Capital city is aping its suburbia (Ansal Plaza and EDM notwithstanding) — believe it or not people from all over Delhi still drive all the way to Gurgaon to get a feel of its famous malls. But experts warn that the Gurgaon mall boom should serve as an instruction. If city planners don’t rev up the basic infrastructure such as transport, power, water and parking space, the mall experience in the Capital can go the Gurgaon way, where 52 shopping malls were proposed but only five are functioning right now. Decreasing footfalls forced the authorities to axe majority of the proposed malls.
“In Delhi there is a huge demand for organised retail. But to ensure that they are a success DDA has to take into account the norms of planning. There has to be proper mall management,” said Deepak Bhavsar, national head for consulting, Trammell Crow Meghraj.
Changing the urban landscape is also the hospitality industry. With over a lakh tourists expected to turn up in the Capital for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, DDA has identified 22 sites where star and budget hotels will come up.