Ansal Plaza, the capital’s first mall faces competition from newer malls that have become hotspots for city shoppers.
In 1998, retail in Delhi had undergone a transformation of sorts with the inception of the first mall right in the heart of the city — Ansal Plaza at Khel Gaon Marg, which was the compulsive shopper’s favourite destination. Fast forward to the present, one finds several empty showrooms lining the corridors of the mall. A few couples lounge in the amphitheatre outside the complex, enjoying the good weather. Once praised for its architectural splendour, Delhi’s first mall just isn’t the same anymore.
With the rise of malls such as Select Citywalk in Saket, DLF Promenade and DLF Emporio in Vasant Kunj, Ansal Plaza faces stiff competition from all sides.
What does Ansal Plaza have to offer that the newer complexes do not? “The key to retail lies only in location...we are located right in the heart of south Delhi whereas other malls are 4-6 kms away,” says Ansal Plaza Mall Management General Manager (operations and marketing), Gagandeep Singh. He also believes that the mall has braved the competition successfully though its “strong retailer base”. He elaborates, “Loyalty of our end customers to these retailers is the most important factor,” which he believes contributes to the consistent footfalls. “The entire journey of Ansal Plaza Khel Gaon revolves around the fact that our constant events, promotions and marketing activities have not let customers forget the initial experience,” he explains.
Rakesh Kumar, manager of the Archies showroom in the mall, disagrees. “This mall is dull during weekdays and even on some weekends.” The mall management doesn’t disclose figures of footfalls over the years.
During its early years, the mall was known for its multi-brand outlets such as Shopper’s Stop, popular sportswear and apparel brands such as Adidas, Meena Bazaar and Marks & Spencer. “Now, this mall does not provide the shopper with a lot of variety. There is need for more luxury brands along with some affordable ones,” says Gyan Prakash, supervisor of the Marks & Spencer outlet in the mall. While newer malls house a combination of different brands such as Zara and Pantaloons with hypermarkets such as Big Bazaar, Ansal Plaza falls short in this respect.
The absence of a cineplex may also be a deterrent to footfalls over weekends. “Today, when people come to malls, they like to watch a movie and enjoy good food. Perhaps with a multiplex or a food court, this mall will fare better,” says Kumar.
“Original positioning of Ansal Plaza was to offer retail and F&B (food and beverage) services with a few offices. This gives customers the convenience to shop and we are very proud to say that this positioning has worked for the mall,” counters Singh.
There are still some who keep coming back to Ansal Plaza for its eating joints. “ Though shopping in the mall isn’t as attractive as it used to be, I still love to eat at Oriental Bloom,” says Himanshu Hira, an Ansal Plaza loyalist. Through karaoke bars and restaurants such as Harry’s, Mirchi and Geoffrey’s, the mall attracts foodies.
“I come to the mall because of its location. If the weather is good, sitting in the amphitheatre is great,” says Ruchira Suri. The amphitheatre, with a center stage, hosts cultural events and shows. “We screened the Indo-Pak cricket match during the World Cup 2011 and the amphitheatre was fully occupied,” says Singh.
So what lies ahead for the capital’s first mall? “We keep organising flea markets, fashion shows and food festivals so that people get the feel of an overall experience of openness interspersed with innovative retail concepts,” adds Singh. There are plans to organise book reading sessions with an open cafeteria in the amphitheatre, weather permitting.
As the first mall in Delhi, there is a lot of nostalgia that comes with Ansal Plaza. However, competition is fierce and the shopper wants more.
It remains to be seen if Ansal Plaza can up its ante and fight back.