Guess how Lucknow-ites celebrated their New Year's eve? More than the thumri or ghazal or classical music nights, typical to the city's culture, it was the newly opened mall, Sahara Ganj, that became the subject of celebration. According to Sahara India Parivar officials, more than 80,000 people visited the mall on December 31.
Yes, Sahara Ganj is buzzing with activity these days. On average 10,000 people are visiting the mall on week days and 20,000-25,000 on weekends. Spread over 425,000 square feet of covered area and with average lease rate of Rs 100 per square feet and premium space commanding a maximum of Rs 250 per sq ft, the mall is totally leased out, according to the company.
Some big brands like Big Bazaar and McDonald's have already made their initial bucks. In fact, Big Bazaar is spread over 25,000 sq ft on three floors. Pantalooon, Guess, Marks & Spencer are next on the list.
Located close to the city's most happening though crowded area, Hazrat Ganj, the mall is a pleasant deviation from the traditional chikan work, mom & pop stores, restaurants and sweet shops that dominate the area. And for the city's nouvea riche heading to Delhi or Mumbai every now and then to shop for their favourite brands, Sahara Ganj has come as a breath of fresh air.
According to Sunder Lal, senior advisor, Sahara India Parivar, closely associated with the project, Sahara Ganj marks a remarkable transition. "Lucknow is witnessing a high level of consumer spending owing to an upsurge in disposable income and the retail boom has caught on heavily," says Lal.
The city also acts as an excellent midway for a lot of people travelling to neighbouring towns like Sultanpur, Amethi, Kanpur, Unnao and Gorakhpur. This gives Sahara Ganj a lot of spillover customers.
Not everyone, however, is impressed. Nalin Sen, a II year B Com student, says: "It is like any other mall and nothing is really afforadable, except of course, McDonald's. I wish a lot of affordable brands were also stocked in the mall." Nevertheless, Sen finds the exterior impressive with a tinge of purple and steel columns. "It makes a good picture at night," he says.
Company officials also claim that Sahara Ganj can offer a good alternative to Hazrat Ganj with expansive parking and an exclusive food court. "But those addicted to tradtional food will still go to their age-old mithai shop and eat. The food court at the mall is also expensive," says Chandana Das, a lecturer who does most of her shopping at Hazrat Ganj.
However, Sahara Ganj is not only about shopping. It has a multiplex by PVR and amusement stores and therefore comes in a package - a perfect hangout for weekends. The true test of Sahara Ganj will happen during the sultry summer. Will it be ble to wean shoppers travelling in rickshaws in the lanes of Hazrat Ganj or any other shopping areas towards its air-conditioned atmosphere?
According to Lal, Big Bazaar has already been a major success, just as it has in Sahara Mall, Gurgaon. "Pantaloon, Marks & Spencer, Big Bazaar and PVR are the anchors. They will be followed by storess like Provogue, Pepe, Levis, Spykar, Koutons, United Colours of Benetton and Arrow," says Lal.
The company also claims designer clothes and accessories from Gucci, Arron, Rado and Opal will be stocked. And those wanting to redo their house will have access to The Home Store and the Furniture Store.
The mall has been conceptualised by W S Atkins, a UK-based premier international construction and design firm. They have been the designers for Bangkok Hotel and Casino, Cairo Air Park, Monte Sao Bras Country Park in Portugal and Daegu Stadium in Korea.
Sahara also claims the mall has been designed as per seismic zone V (earthquake-resistance) norms. The interior designing was outsourced to design firm DellaTechnica. With a huge atrium, spacious corridors, capsule lifts and space for parking nearly 600 cars (partly underground) it certainly offers more than the city had asked for.