//Briton to construct India's biggest mall

Briton to construct India's biggest mall

Indo-Asian News Service, London, January 27, 2006

In yet another boost to consumerism in one of the world’s fastest growing economies, a British builder has won a contract from a leading Indian retail group to construct the biggest shopping mall in the country in Mumbai.

London-headquartered Benoy UK will design and construct the nearly two million square feet shopping mall in the country’s financial and entertainment capital for Kshitij, the retail development arm of Pantaloon.

The mall, which marks the foray of a British retail design firm for the first time in India, will house 350 shops, multiplex cinemas, a spacious car park and an artificial lake, said Benoy’s chairman Graham Cartledge.

"The winning of the contract to construct the largest mall in India is a testimony to the wonderful growth happening there in the retail sector. We are very excited about the emerging opportunities," Cartledge told IANS.

Benoy, which has constructed one of Europe’s largest shopping and leisure malls Bluewater in Kent and Bullring in Birmingham, said it had also won a project to design a six-storey, 500,000 square feet shopping complex in Kolkata.

The complex, which will have over 200 retail outlets, restaurants and a multiplex cinema, will be constructed using the façade of an existing building, said Cartledge.

The second construction contract has also been awarded by the retail development arm of the Pantaloon group, which operates several chains such as Pantaloon readymade garment stores and Food Bazaar and Big Bazaar hypermarkets.

Although Cartledge refused to disclose the financial details of the contracts, retail industry watchers say the construction of the two malls could cost as much as $550 million.

"Both projects are expected to commence shortly and is likely to be completed over the next two years," said a top official of Benoy that has significant presence in Europe, China, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore, besides Britain.

"We expect these projects to be replicated in other Indian cities as well as the government eases up foreign investment norms in the retail sector and more and more overseas players rush to set up shops," he said.

The announcement from Benoy comes days after the Indian government said it would allow single-brand foreign retailers like Reebok and Adidas to control 51 percent of their operations in India.

Earlier, foreign retail brands could sell products in India only through franchise agreements with a local partner.

India’s newly recognised status as an emerging economic power is visible not only in its zooming craze for swanky vehicles, growing appetite for luxury goods and urban housing boom but also in its gleaming shopping malls.

At least 93 malls are set to start operations in top 14 cities in the next two years up from over 50 now, according to a survey conducted jointly by retail industry consultancy major KSA Technopak and ICICI Property Services.

By 2010, 300 malls are likely to be operational in the country. Mall developments will spread across 60 cities in the country by the end of the decade.

Experts say malls, throughout the country, are getting bigger as they are being positioned as a one-stop-shop for shopping, entertainment, leisure and eating-out needs rather than a place only for shopping for fashion products.