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24 August 2008

Travel to Gurgaon:
Pell-mell malls


“Gurgaon Shopping Centers”
Link reference: YouTube.com

SHOPPING CENTERS in most modern cities turn commercial districts into well-balanced hubs of urban community life. But not in Gurgaon, up north in the National Capital Region of India. While this bustling city is witnessing an unprecedented explosion of malls, there also seems to exist a never-ending competition for The Most Chaotic Shopping Space Award.

“In Gurgaon, window displays on a brand-infested building resemble acne on a makeup-drenched face.”Thirty months ago, when I first visited Gurgaon, massive construction began on shopping centers, office buildings, residential facilities, flyovers, and the extended Delhi Metro transit system. I remembered Manila's Ortigas Center in 1991-92, when the three lords of Philippine retail—Robinsons, Rustan's, and SM—simultaneously built what were then their largest retail spaces amidst burgeoning skyscrapers and flyovers. In today's Gurgaon, I've lost count of the number and location of malls dotting the cityscape. They multiply endlessly, grandiosely, confusingly. Car parks exist only as a footnote in property development, morphing public sidewalks and side streets into traffic-jammed parking lots. Mounds of dusty construction debris remain at the property perimeter, creating no-entry fences between adjacent malls and encouraging competitive neurosis. Giant posters on the façade overwhelm the names of the shopping centers, turning the buildings into nameless billboard Rubik’s Cubes. Let's not even talk of window displays: visual merchandisers in this city seem to have given up on designing truly compelling displays, perhaps knowing that they'll be lost anyway in the distorted cacophony of posters. In Gurgaon, window displays on a brand-infested building resemble acne on a makeup-drenched face. They profit no one.

In 2010, Delhi Metro will finally open right smack in the middle of Gurgaon's shopping complexes. Expect urban chaos to reign over pedestrians and motorists fighting for footfall and parking space supremacy. Today is the right time to form the right habits. My suggestions:

1. The city government must now look into legalizing the use of parking areas, traffic discipline in the side streets, and strategic drop-off points along the main MG Road for the commuting public.

2. Developers must seriously consider investing in car park buildings.

3. They must shun the paranoia of creating pedestrian barriers between malls, and collaborate instead with each other on creating skyways that will seamlessly bridge every mall and every Delhi Metro station to create one true, massive commercial complex.

4. Mall operators must standardize the advertising space that they sell on their buildings to ensure retail branding integrity and visual appeal.

5. Window display artists must train under me for a stratospheric fee. Just kidding. Seriously, mall operators must look at show windows more as highly differentiated investment facilities than as tediously designed showcases for the words “SALE” and “50% DISCOUNT”.

Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Manila have been effectively using such tools to manage traffic and convenience around their sprawling shopping centers. Look how modern, environment-friendly, and consumer-centrist their cityscapes are.

After all, if shopping centers are in Gurgaon to stay, they might as well be mollifying rather than be pell-mell. And if they are to remain competitive and profitable, then replace The Most Chaotic Shopping Space Award with The Shopping Space Model of India Award.

Related Stories: Gurgaon Shopping Malls; Gurgaon (".com" i.e.); Manila Calling

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