IRN: Please tell us a little bit about the project - Express Avenue; when was it conceived, what is the vision?
Dheeraj: Express Avenue is a venture of Express Infrastructure Private Limited which is a 100% subsidiary of Express Newspapers Pvt. Ltd(The Indian Express Group) . Our Managing Director Mrs. Kavita Singhania is the visionary behind this landmark project.
IRN: What are the top 3 things that need to be in place for a mall to be successful?
Dheeraj: Good Tenant and Category Mix along with the right zoning. Good location, design and aesthetics. Top of the line mall management.
IRN: The relationship between mall developers and retailers has often been a tenuous one in India, especially when it comes to rent negotiations. What is your recipe for this relationship?
Dheeraj: Its got to be a win-win for both the retailer and the developer for the mall to be a successful shopping destination. One-sided relationships are bound to fail in the long run. The retailers have to understand that the land prices in India are amongst the highest in the world on account of increased demand which in turn is a direct result of the country's high GDP growth and ever growing middle class segment in India. Similarly the developers have to make an earnest attempt to understand the business models of the retailers. Both retailers and developers have to maintain highest levels of transparency.
IRN: Do you have a fixed rent model, revenue sharing or some other model in place?
Dheeraj: Majority of the shops in Express Avenue are leased on a revenue share model with a minimum guarantee.
IRN: What is the difference you have noticed between the Indian market and your experience abroad? What is your forecast for the Indian retail market?
Dheeraj: Organized retail in India is still at an infancy stage with just about 5% share of the total Indian Retail market. The markets abroad have come of age with organized retail being at the helm of affairs. As a matter of fact in the United States which is considered a Mecca of retail, close to twenty percent share of the total retail sales are being attributed to online sales. Similarly, if we compare consumer spending in retail, in India maximum amount of disposable income is spent on food. Fashion takes a backseat. In the western world, it is exactly the opposite with fashion being in the forefront of consumer spending.
IRN: From your discussions with retailers, do you notice any trends in terms of what formats or segments of retail are working, what's not working?
Dheeraj: Specialty retail would be the next big thing in retail.
IRN: What metrics do you place emphasis on when evaluating the success of a mall?
Dheeraj: It's always the amount of footfalls and conversions that define the success of a mall.
IRN: Any future plans for Express Avenue? Any other locations?
Dheeraj: We are currently concentrating our efforts in making the current project the most successful project in the entire country.
IRN: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Dheeraj: Express Avenue is destined to bring Chennai to the forefront of Fashion in India. The depth of the retail mix at Express Avenue with mass, middle of the road and luxury brands, all zoned but under the same roof is bound to be a first in India. Similarly its mixed used status with a hotel and commercial spaces on either ends makes it home to the single largest captive audience for a shopping mall.