Till the summer of 2003, Mulund was just another suburb on the edge of the city.
In April 2003, R Mall opened at the far end of Mulund, where Mumbai city limits end and Thane begins. In December 2005, Nirmal Lifestyle, at the opposite end of the suburb, very close to Bhandup, became the second big shopping destination for residents. The two malls at the two ends of Mulund changed the suburb irrevocably.
So why did the Nirmal group choose Mulund for their mall? “I was born and brought up in Mulund. When I was in Podar College, my friends would ask me: Mulund hai kahan? (Where is Mulund?) laughs Dharmesh Jain, chairman and managing director of Nirmal Group. “I thought, let’s try to make Mulund one of the best suburbs.”
Virender Kar (52), who has lived in Mulund since 1986, would second that. “Before these two malls came up, you couldn’t even get a full-length mirror here,” says “I had to go all the way to Mohammed Ali Road to buy one. The taxi fare cost me more than the mirror!”
The Kar family moved to Nirmal Lifestyle’s residential complex, just behind the mall, from their Mulund (East) home in 2005. Quite a few malls in the city have residential complexes attached, making for great shopping convenience for those who move in.”Earlier, you had to go to different markets for different things. Now everything is available at the same place. It saves time and we have become more efficient,” says Kar.
Harish Kotian (33), resident of Mulund (East) agrees. His family shifted to Mulund from Kalanagar around 20 years ago, when he was in his teens. At the time, he remembers, there was only one supermarket — Apna Bazaar— and only one big store for clothes — Kalpana Dresses. Hanging out meant going to Sambhaji Park, the Deshmukh garden, or the Johnson & Johnson garden. And there were only two theatres — Mehul and Deepmandir.
But teenagers now are spoilt for choice. They can spend their pocket money on video games, air hockey, snooker, football, or bowling at Jammin in R Mall or Orama at Nirmal Lifestyle. They can splurge at Mocha, two Pizza Hut outlets, McDonald’s, three Café Coffee Day outlets (two of them in R Mall), Subway or Pop Tate’s. And brand-conscious collegians can head to Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Levi’s, Fabindia and Pepe outlets, amongst many others. And of course, there are the biggies — Shoppers Stop (in Nirmal Lifestyle), Westside, Lifestyle, Pantaloons and Big Bazaar (all at R Mall).
As for eating out, the suburb has an international flavour now. So along with the traditional Rajdhani, Masala Chowk and Urban Tadka, there are Ruby Tuesday, Fine Dine, Thai Chi, and Bistro and Pop Tate’s.
Tellingly, real estate prices in Mulund have soared over the last five years. The present rate for residential properties is Rs 5,500 per sq ft. Factories are being replaced by residential complexes and chawls redeveloped as high-rises. Kirana stores are competing with Big Bazaar and Shoprite and people are spending more.
But not everyone agrees that the change is necessarily good. Sreeram Ramachandran (23), who lives near Apna Bazaar in Mulund (West), is one of the few who is not completely happy with all the progress. Ramachandran feels a wannabe culture has crept into Mulund thanks to the malls. “People dress up to go to malls. The idea that you have to live up to a mall is ridiculous,” he protests. Even so, he agrees that malls are necessary. And that the multiplexes have helped. He adds, though, “They used to be expensive earlier, but now the prices have been brought down.”
Phase Two of operations at Nirmal Lifestyle will begin from December 2010. And the Nirmal Group has two other commercial properties and three residential spaces in Mulund under construction. “We knew Mulund would be the next big thing,” says Jain.
A weekly column that looks at how a pioneering or iconic structure has changed the face of a locality