Checkout blues

We are now at the curve where many malls could be razed

Every new business goes through a life cycle. The initial phase is one of disbelief and skepticism, followed by optimism and exuberance that leads to a painful period of consolidation before settling into a steady growth phase. Mall developers in the country are in the middle of a similar roller coaster. From the initial cynicism about why Indians will never shop in air-conditioned malls, to one where everyone with an open patch of land ended up constructing an air-conditioned building full of shops, we are now at the curve where many of these ‘malls’ could be razed to make way for residential buildings. What then went wrong for those who got it wrong, and what’s going right for those who are still in business is the subject of this issue’s cover story Darr @The Mall. 

As we look ahead, more than mall developers, it is retailers who will have to work hard to get their business model right. High rentals, exorbitant operating costs, online competition and more importantly, extremely price-sensitive buyers are making their job really hard. While demographics is a big plus, and is assumed to drive consumer spending, it is no guarantee for retailing success. It is no surprise, therefore, that many foreign labels have scaled down their expansion plans or packed their bags altogether.

Among other stories, we have a feature on Wildcraft, the country’s first homegrown outdoor-gear maker. The brand has made a remarkable comeback but can it sustain the onslaught of some seriously large foreign players? To find out, see Into The Wild.

A story that fascinates me, personally, in this issue is that of a whole bunch of non-profits, who are working to improve governance. While their work is badly needed in a country like ours, their expansion and, hence, impact is hampered by lack of funding. Activists of all sorts have been mostly at the receiving end, and people who back them invariably fear getting into trouble. This perceived collateral damage is holding them back from scaling up. To find an account of the progress made so far by these non-profits see Making Governance Count.