Indiaretailing.com: Culture Curry
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from Indiaretailing.com, presented here for discussion. The author’s company, Advance India Projects, are the developers and creators of The Celebration Malls – India’s first attempt to marry ethnic cultures and architecture with western conveniences and shopping environments – in Amritsar, Udaipur and Ambala.
By Sanjay Sachdeva, senior vice president, Advance India Projects
We are a nation ready to be mauled, or shall I say malled, but are we diluting our culture in this retail curry that is cooking?
India Shining loves glitz – that is no secret. Give us soaring buildings with
gleaming glass facades, and we think modernity and progress have come to stay.
But is the India itch to think global good for the local?
According to Robert Adam, one of the leading UK architects, the answer is NO. These malls and buildings are an example of how India is blindly aping the West.
The best of international brands in fashion are hitting our malls; the finest of international pubs, bars and fast food brands – among the most recognized names globally – are the familiar façades covering most of the malls coming up in our country.
In the middle of all this, though, we are Indians at heart. Are we really into adapting our entire lifestyles around an alien culture, or are we choosing to ditch our basics – our culture that is so rich in traditions and hospitality, and so deeply ingrained in our psyche?
Yes, the Indian youth have aspirations and do want to buy the latest fashion brands, but hey, aren’t we missing something here? Like our cuisines, our rich ethnic products, local regional shops, our fabrics and textiles, and style of shopping?
With over 600 malls coming up and retail space set to exceed 50 million square feet – an average size of 1,000 square feet per brand – India will soon have over 50,000 shops. However, with only 300 national-level brands available at the moment, what do you think most of these malls will look like? There will be an identical mix of tenants in most of these properties and the very same brands will be available in each of these malls, simply because of the oversupply that is bound to happen.
So, either 700 more brands should be created in the next two years – which is not very likely – or we should adapt to the Indian model and promote smaller Indian retailers, which have become local brands in their own right.
Deep down, culture is difficult to destroy. The Chinese tried to do it to the Tibetan culture, but it still lives and thrives. However, as global communication increases and the world gets flatter, certain aspects of our culture and traditions do become vulnerable and fragile. I believe that mall developers, like us, need to play a part in preventing that from happening.
Discussion Question: How can India capitalize on the modernity to its retail structure that western retailers promise to bring – yet preserve its unique culture? What can India learn from other countries – or even distinct regions in the U.S. – that have succeeding in capitalizing on local roots as their retail structure developed?