Are Malls Really a Menace / Deepti Gupta
|मुखपृष्ठ »||रचनाकारों की सूची »||Writer: दीप्ति गुप्ता|
The world constantly goes through a process of growth. It is the law of Nature. During the growth many changes take place. Changes are the reflection of evolution. All the things ring out the old and ring in the new during the process. Cultural, economical & social changes take place via exchanges strategies within the countries. These all are the part of varied growth all over the world. It is this growth which has entered India also through Mall culture. Hence the globalization is the pressing force behind the spreading mall culture in India. It has grown with an incredible pace. The other reason is our changing life style which is very much cosmopolitan and we want everything trendy and latest. The cosmopolitan change in our attitude welcome any thing new which is cosmopolitan in nature. As a result malls with a cosmopolitan look and feel, , global variety of products, brands from various countries and cultures entered India and received heartening welcome. There were countable shopping malls in nineties like Ansal Plaza & few more. But today there are more than 600 malls across the country. Malls have been cropping up everywhere - not only in big cities but in the semi-urban areas and small towns also.
The ambit of people’s likes- dislikes, choices and needs keep growing and widening. If we dive back in the past, we will find things were very different in those times . Now there is a sea change in the present life style. Classy looking malls offer huge variety under one roof , completely air conditioned, with pleasant ambience & soft music playing around. Eateries, trendy coffee counters, snacks bar allure the buyers to have brief break from hectic rounds up & down the mall and satiate their taste buds. During special occasions and festivals, malls make it a point to offer huge variety of festival related items, trendy dresses and jewellery etc. With these attractive features malls have become indispensable center of attraction.
Malls with their plastic, PVC, glass get-up are very contemporary and secular in nature and their international appeal magnetize people of all ages . They are the sort of fora where small and big branded items, the wanna-be ones are displayed to attract buyers. For this very reason, malls are most sought after ‘hang outs’ for youngsters and affluent families as they serve all the purpose of an outing - shopping, movie and eating . I have often seen families planning their Sunday evenings to spend over there with children. The economical aspect is also quite heartening. Malls have provided employment opportunities for thousands of uneducated and semi-educated people and generate good revenue, thus govt is benefited by their financial gains.
Although, modern marvels, designer glass structures do appeal but they add on to the woes. The nagging problems have erupted due the speedy growth of designer malls across the country. First, they are considered spoiling Indian culture of simple and high thinking. People’s insatiable demand for the best quality products from grocery to modern electronic gadgets to fancier vehicles has been growing with the existence of malls. Secondly, spiraling growth of malls in cities has created traffic havoc. Roads have been bottle necked. Parking blues assertively persist. Daily commuters find it difficult to commute with ease and comfort. Thirdly, they seem a threat to unorganized retailers. These are the problems that people, municipal corporations, cities’ guardian ministers lament about.
Now two different notions have been brewing up regarding the growth of mall culture - one is pro and another is anti. Govt, mall owners, co-investors, are the pro - groups that support their growth while the unorganized traders, trade unions and social activists are on the other side , criticizing govt policies and condemning malls & their owners. Still the govt is issuing the license to open new malls in the country. In view of this, we are compelled to think that there must definitely be some positive side to the issue that is missing from our purview.
.A balanced approach after lots of search & research needs to be maintained considering India’s over all growth in all these years. We must not forget, if we have to grow exuberantly, we will have to cross the boundaries from home to outer world as well as learn to welcome healthy social, cultural and economical exchanges and give space to new products, new people, new industries. I feel mall culture is not a demon, it is the latest form of organized retail business with international appeal and infrastructure. The repercussions of mall culture are wrongly constituted and biasedly estimated. Malls are not that a big threat as they are being looked at. Buyers do get fascinated to shop from malls but they do smart shopping.
If we coolly and minutely study the various dimensions of the issue, we will find that organized retail sector - which covers malls, multiplexes, arcades etc – is facing tough competition from unorganized sector. In Indian cities & towns, small retail stores, kirana shops, general stores are doing their business with a confident speed and surviving well. The huge number of such retailers and equally huge number of their permanent customers which belong to upper -lower middle class and farmers - is the reason of the survival of unorganized retail sector. Still some of us feel that the growth of malls, though they are at nascent stage, has become challenge to unorganized traders. It is a psyche when a new thing steps in home, its people get petrified and panicky with negative assumptions beforehand. No doubt, malls with their international levels and appealing get-up, have been consuming not only customers’ pockets but precious time also. Buyers frequently make unnecessary purchases and thus dwindle their pockets to regret later on. Despite this allure & pull strategy of malls, unorganized retail sector is much sought after industry across the country because common man and loyal customers still prefer to buy the routine things from general stores , which are at every next step, on every road, mohallas and lanes in residential areas . They are easily and quickly accessible. Apart from this, general stores, kirana shops provide the facility of ‘home delivery’ also. At a phone call, they deliver the items at home. ‘Door step service’ is a great relief and main pull for buyers and specially busy service class as well as for senior citizens. Malls appear to be a menace to unorganized retailers and traders but the hard fact is that they have to go a long way. In this regard we must not forget the closer of Subhiksha . Being weak organized retailer- it vanished. Many branches of Reliance retail centers also closed down in 2009- 2010. Crumbling infrastructure, poor management plunged the hi-fi retail centers in financial crisis and thus finally they disappeared. Malls which seem to be a mega hit because of their special features like ‘Discount offers’, attractive prizes, ‘Buy one get one Free’ schemes and Sales and bargain deals - these are their main pull. But the prices at middle class markets and retail stores are thinner than the discount given in the malls. Whenever I compared the prices of ‘groceries’ ; I found their prices much lesser and quality much better at unorganized retail shop and traditional whole sale market. So aware buyers as well as not so affluent customers prefer small grocery shops, whole sale market and regular retail shops of garments, utensils, home linen, furniture, jewelry and electronic gadgets etc which have huge variety of stuff with very reasonable and negotiable rates. Hence, malls get beaten for this obvious fact despite their attractive schemes and get up. Today’s buyer is not dim witted. He is very much aware and knows which retail sector caters his needs within his budget..Still, suppose we find shoppers as the regular customers at malls, it doesn’t make much difference as the huge part of Indian population is missing from these malls. The large number of such customers give thumping business to unorganized retailers. The future retail industry in India will soon flourish by rural buyers. For example, the decision of farmers in Maharashtra to build a special economic zone out of their farmland and in Punjab, their daring step to beat the reign of Reliance with their retail centers is the precursor of challenge to mall culture. Needless to say that rural customers are not the mall visitors. Malls will never be able to attract them at price front. Malls are and will remain out of average Indian customer’s purchase capacity. On the other hand, affluent buyers too , who are wise and aware - they make purchases only of those things from malls which are fit for the value of their money or they either go to malls to make purchases to spend vouchers they get from them through exchange schemes - that too, on those items - tagged with discount offers. So if the big shops in regular market provide them better things with a freedom to bargain and pamper their requirements largely – the affluent customers also prefer to make their purchases from unorganized sector only.
Lately there was much hue and cry that hawkers are the main sufferers and their livelihood is being eroded by malls . In this context unorganized retail sector with better and varied items, comparatively attractive and cozy get-up can also be blamed as the threat to these itinerant vendors. General stores, solo vegetable centers with organic variety as extra attraction, compact looking small snack and coffee centers, kirana shops should also be closed down so that the hawkers could survive. This is illogical. I feel this is not true. If the malls can be looked as the gnawer of hawkers, so can unorganized retailers be looked at the same way. This is not the fair policy and healthy business attitude. Any country’s economy is boosted by revenue generating business sectors. Hawkers are very much a part of society and they are given their due space and right to earn and live. They are never opposed to do their business, so why the other sectors with their own capacity and ability be criticized and opposed ? Interestingly, I get fresh vegetables every alternate day from a small vendor who daily sits on the pavement under the nose of huge mall and the vendor has no grudge against the mall. His sale goes very well and uninterrupted . May be, because of his smart acumen that he takes orders from the residents of the area on his mobile and deliver the vegetables at their door step. He is not the one, there are number of hawkers who are doing their daily business. For the last ten years, I am the witness of their survival. Organized and unorganized retailers do have and must have their space in society. The problems indicated due to the malls’ existence like for example - narrowing of roads, in this context, we can not ignore the truth that lined up vendors in lanes and on the roads, constantly moving by busy areas, also create commuting problems for daily commuters. But still they are adjusted and allowed to earn their livelihood. As they are the part of society, so are the other retailers. Hence this is not justified to carry a biased attitude for any unit of society. Instead of fostering up hostile notion for the existing malls or any other good shopping center, one must explore the root cause of the problems of itinerant vendors. If the individual units are putting their honest effort to offer their items with normally good quality and affordable price to common man , nothing can erode them and they will survive despite their poor and unappealing get-up. In our world of odd things, if sun shines, moon and little stars also continue to shine. If classy apartments are cropping up, slums are not far behind, they also keep cropping. Everything - small and big - carry their own space, strength and existence. So instead of condemning malls and their trading acumenship, we should learn to see them in the larger perspective of our country’s growth.