VR MD, Ro­hit George on Ex­pan­sion Plans

“VR’S strat­egy is to hit the mar­ket in mul­ti­ple ways. The com­pany is look­ing at pur­chas­ing land and will get down into brown-field devel­op­ment level. The way the re­tail mar­ket has been played out, it is nec­es­sary to build plans for the fu­ture,” says Ro­hit

Images Retail - - FRONT PAGE - – By Surabhi Khosla

Virtuous Re­tail has been at the fore­front of re­tail news in In­dia over the past many years. VR, as it is bet­ter known, is the re­tail arm of the Xan­der Group, and re­cently marked its 10th an­niver­sary in the re­tail in­dus­try.

Renowned as the fore­front of build­ing and op­er­at­ing cut­ting-edge life­style cen­tres, VR Group’s ob­jec­tive is to serve the evolv­ing re­tail mar­ket in In­dia as well as dis­cern­ing In­dian con­sumers.

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful launches of VR Surat in May 2013, VR Bengaluru in 2016, and the ac­qui­si­tion of North Coun­try Mall and its sub­se­quent con­ver­sion to VR Pun­jab in early 2017, the brand has now moved on to pol­ish­ing the lat­est, ex­cit­ing ad­di­tion to its kitty – VR Chen­nai.

VR’S cur­rent port­fo­lio com­prises of 5.5 mil­lion sq. ft. of space with these four flag­ship cen­tres across In­dia. Go­ing by its rep­u­ta­tion of lever­ag­ing ex­ten­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties across the value chain of devel­op­ment, own­er­ship and op­er­a­tions, VR aims to grow its port­fo­lio by adding cen­ters in other key mar­kets, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion of Delhi, the Mum­bai Met­ro­pol­i­tan Re­gion, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Brand Im­pact

VR got into the re­tail busi­ness ex­actly 10 years ago. The group was formed in 2005, iron­i­cally at a time when the re­tail sce­nario in In­dia was in the dol­drums, se­verely struck by soar­ing in­fla­tion rates.

How­ever, the group took it slow and steady, mak­ing im­pact­ful in­roads in the field to suc­cess­fully es­tab­lish or­gan­ised re­tail of 4-5 per­cent over the

years. To­day, this rate has grown to ap­prox­i­mately 10 per­cent.

“Fun­da­men­tally from a macro stand­point, we have al­ways be­lieved in In­dia’s con­sump­tion story. For us, the big­gest chal­lenge in the mar­ket to­day is to find qual­ity real es­tate,” said Ro­hit George, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Virtuous Re­tail South Asia.

At the side­lines of the In­dia Re­tail Fo­rum 2017, held in Mum­bai, he said, “Back in 2007, when the mar­ket was in a sim­i­lar kind of eu­pho­ria, ev­ery­one wanted to have a re­tail mall of his own. Be it the land owner or any real es­tate de­vel­oper, ev­ery­one wanted to be a re­tail leader, ir­re­spec­tive of ex­pe­ri­ence or back­ground. That was the time when cap­i­tal was given more im­por­tance than skill, knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever, over a pe­riod of time, peo­ple started real­iz­ing that re­tail was a very spe­cial­ized busi­ness. They un­der­stood that suc­cess­fully run­ning a mall re­quired ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge. Peo­ple un­der­stood that there were cer­tain lev­els of re­tail busi­nesses where it was im­por­tant to un­der­stand dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories and also how the mar­ket was mov­ing. We fig­ured out that it was im­por­tant to hire a team of pro­fes­sion­als to de­sign an ef­fec­tive re­tail space.”

The Mar­ket Stand­point

From a mar­ket stand­point, VR has been bullish over the past seven to eight years and will con­tinue to be so in the near fu­ture.

“We con­tinue to look for ac­qui­si­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties in In­dia’s top 10-12 cities where most or­gan­ised con­sump­tion pre­dom­i­nantly is. Our strat­egy is to hit the mar­ket in mul­ti­ple ways. We are look­ing at pur­chas­ing land and will get down into brown-field devel­op­ment level. The way the re­tail mar­ket has been played out, it is nec­es­sary to build fu­ture plans. We are ag­gres­sively try­ing to leave build an im­pact­ful foot­print,” said George.

Im­por­tance of De­sign & Zon­ing

Be­yond the type of ten­ant, or the size of an an­chor, the most im­por­tant ques­tion to ask from a de­vel­oper’s point of view is what type of a user ex­pe­ri­ence is be­ing cre­ated for con­sumers. From in­te­ri­ors and aes­thet­ics of the in­te­rior, but also the need to cre­ate a devel­op­ment that of­fers the con­sumer a var­ied and unique ex­pe­ri­ence.

The qual­ity of the ex­te­rior and in­te­rior light­ing, the na­ture of the pub­lic realm, the de­sign and place­ment of the en­vi­ron­men­tal graph­ics and way find­ing el­e­ments are all de­signed by spe­cial­ist con­sul­tants that when man­aged well can add great value to user ex­pe­ri­ence.

The recog­ni­tion of peo­ple want­ing to move around quickly with good sup­port­ing in­fra­struc­ture and of­fer­ing qual­i­ta­tive pub­lic spa­ces sup­ported by a rich of­fer in ten­ant mix adds to cre­at­ing the sense of life­style.

Con­cur­ring with this,

We con­tinue to look for ac­qui­si­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties in In­dia’s top 1012 cities where most or­gan­ised con­sump­tion pre­dom­i­nantly is. Our strat­egy is to hit the mar­ket in mul­ti­ple ways.

George said, “At some level, we are a cu­ra­tor of ex­pe­ri­ences from the point of view of the con­sumer – es­sen­tially how the con­sumer thinks about our prod­uct. We make sure that ev­ery­thing is new, in­no­va­tive. We will not take de­sign which is in Surat and repli­cate it in Bengaluru or Chen­nai. A lot of our prod­uct is based on his­tory and es­sen­tially just what con­nects the com­mu­nity and the city to our project.”

“Apart from this, there are cer­tain other things which need to be kept in mind be­fore de­vel­op­ing a mall. De­vel­op­ers need to un­der­stand what makes a mall dif­fer­ent from oth­ers.

Is it a high tech in­ter­ac­tive fa­cade? Is it a new open pub­lic plaza hold­ing a range of events dur­ing the day and turn­ing into a per­for­mance plaza at night? Or is it a place where peo­ple can gather and watch a film via blue­tooth on the big screen? Is it the re­tail sup­ple­men­tary to an even big­ger type of of­fer­ing? The im­por­tant thing is to think outof-the-box and find new ex­cit­ing ways to in­cen­tivise peo­ple to shop and linger,” he added.

“We need to think of malls as life­style cen­tres that form an in­te­gral part of our town cen­tres and daily ac­tiv­i­ties. In­stead of bor­ing long fa­cades, we need build­ings with ac­tive edges that cre­ate and an­i­mate the streets,” he fur­ther stated.

High­light­ing the bal­ance be­tween the de­sign, brand­ing and zon­ing, George said, “It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand what brand mix works for a city. Mall de­vel­op­ers should also ex­plore other av­enues which are im­por­tant and nec­es­sary for a whole­some shop­ping and so­cial space ex­pe­ri­ence. In the case of Virtuous Re­tail, we are in the busi­ness of cre­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. At ev­ery step we are a mas­ter re­tailer. We bring the right ex­pe­ri­ences to peo­ple. Ev­ery place is not about the right re­tail mix.”

The Om­nichan­nel Ap­proach

Om­nichan­nel of­fer­ings and the chal­lenges be­hind the process are top of mind for ev­ery mall de­vel­oper, re­tailer, re­tail an­a­lyst, and in­dus­try ex­pert.

Con­ve­nience and ease of pur­chase have be­come key de­ci­sion-mak­ing fac­tors for re­tail con­sumers and Om­nichan­nel pro­vides con­sumers with var­ied op­tions to achieve this ob­jec­tive.

“We have a very strong Om­nichan­nel strat­egy and we have a very solid rea­son be­hind cre­at­ing Om­nichan­nel re­tail­ing – to get cur­rent re­tail­ers to trade up, in­crease sales and en­hanc­ing con­sumer ex­pe­ri­ence. Im­ple­ment­ing an Om­nichan­nel plan and in­tro­duc­ing new tech­nol­ogy aids both of these, and we are well on the path to Om­nipres­ence,” George con­cluded.

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