Basant Lok, Ansal Plaza: Once tony marketplaces, now falling on hard times

Ruhi Bhasin Posted online: Friday, Sep 20, 2013 at 0000 hrs
New Delhi : Once tony marketplaces where people loved to shop or watch movies, Basant Lok, Anupam complex and Ansal Plaza have fallen on hard times, edged out by malls. Ruhi Bhasin finds out what went wrong and what these markets are doing to survive

Before the advent of malls, Delhi’s brand and fashion-conscious flocked to Basant Lok or Anupam complex, Saket, to shop or just catch a movie at PVR Priya or PVR Anupam. Over the years, however, the footfalls in these once-tony marketplaces have drastically fallen, especially during summer, as people nowadays prefer spic-and-span, air-conditioned malls over markets with deteriorating infrastructure. ‘To-let’ signs are visible in both these markets, which look deserted during weekdays. But the market associations of both Basant Lok and Anupam complex, Saket, are optimistic, saying if the markets near the Ansal Plaza mall can survive, there is still hope for them. The Ansal Plaza mall might have been one of the first to open in Delhi but, much like these markets, has seen a steady decline over the years with office spaces taking over merchandise shops.

Basant lok

Once counted among the upmarket shopping addresses in the city, the 40-year-old Basant Lok community centre has seen a 50 per cent decline in footfalls in the last few years, the market association admits. The reasons attributed for this range from collapsing infrastructure to opening of three malls in nearby Vasant Kunj. Punjabi By Nature, a popular restaurant here, has shut down and has put up boards announcing its relocation to Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj. Manchester United Cafe also shut down some time ago. ‘To-let’ signs can be seen all over the market.

“The high-street concept is still a viable business model. South Extension survived despite Ansal Plaza. The problem here is complete civic apathy. Right from sweeping of the marketplace to ensuring proper street-lighting, everything is taken care of by the market association. There has been talk of redevelopment of this community centre but nothing has happened so far. The footfalls have gone down by 50 per cent,” Kapil Das, owner of Citi Shoppe and a member of the market association, says.

He claims earlier people from Gurgaon used to throng the market but all that has changed with malls mushrooming in Gurgaon and surrounding areas.

Broken walking plazas and unkempt common areas have taken the sheen off this once high-end market, which was also popular among students of South Campus.

According to the market association, while shops have shut down, others, among them pubs, have taken their place. “While five-six shops have shut, retail outlets have opened here. Even pubs, because of which unwanted elements hang around the market, which is a problem,” Das says.

On the competition from surrounding malls, Das believes each option — mall and high-street — has its advantages and disadvantages. “In high-street, you get personalised service while shops in malls are staff operated. On the other hand, the air-conditioning in malls makes it a more appealing option during summers,” he adds.

The president of the market association believes while malls have affected business, high-streets will bounce back. “In a few years, high-streets will soon be back in business. We have seen this in other parts of the world also,” Harish Jagwani says.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is responsible for the redevelopment of the centre. The agency claims a plan to redevelop the complex is still under consideration.

“It will require clearances from DDA’s screening committee before it reaches the implementation stage,” a DDA official says.

Anupam Complex, Saket

The Anupam complex, like Basant Lok, has taken a hit due to competition from malls that have opened in Saket. But it is slowly trying to re-invent itself to survive. “Our customer base shrinks in summer when people prefer the air-conditioned malls over high-street markets but in winter, business is back to normal. The market has transformed over the years. The niche shops have shut down and shifted to the malls, which attract that kind of crowd,” Bhagwan Das, owner of Lebanese Point and vice-president of the market association, says.

While many shops have closed, new ones have opened. “It has become more ofa restaurant and coffee shop market,”

Das says.

Little China, a restaurant which opened last week, used to be a shoe shop. “People from surrounding areas basically come to the market to eat. They like to grab a bite before a movie. We also get a lot of home delivery orders. A shoe shop used to operate from this space earlier but this isn’t the kind of market where people come to shop anymore so it shut down,” Jordan, manager of Little China, says.

Chutney D’lite, a small joint which has been functioning from this complex for the past 10 years, admits there has been a substantial fall in footfalls and business has taken a dip.

“There is talk of Anupam Cinema being revamped. Once that happens things might improve,” Das says.

Unlike in Basant Lok, traders say civic agencies are making efforts to keep the place neat and clean. “The lighting and general upkeep have improved. Pavements have been re-laid. While improvement on this front is slow, at least it’s happening,” a trader says.

But broken fountains and a general lack of cleanliness is still visible all around. Once frequented by rich customers, traders say now the address only draws middle-class crowd, especially from nearby areas.

Ansal Plaza

It was one of the first malls to open in Delhi. Its prime location in the heart of South Delhi made it an instant hit, especially with cultural events organised in its amphitheatre. But over the years, like Basant Lok and Anupam complex, people have given this mall a miss altogether. With several merchandise and retail stores shutting down, the mall now has offices functioning out of it. Shopkeepers claim they are struggling to make ends meet.

Gagandeep Singh, Chief Operating Officer (malls), Ansal API, says, “Ansal Plaza was launched in 1999 and enjoyed the status of being the most successful mall for almost a decade. Every product has a life-cycle.

With more malls opening in the vicinity, there is definitely a rationalisation of footfalls,” he says.

Office space seems to outrun the number of merchandise shops in the mall. The ground and first floors still have Shoppers Stop, McDonald’s, Meena Bazaar, Lacoste, Red Tape etc., besides two liquor shops. By evening, with most office-goers leaving, the mall wears an empty look. “The mall was designed as a retail-cum-office centre with retail on the ground and first floors and offices on the two upper floors. This was done to retain perennial footfalls. With time, the rental for office space in South Delhi has seen good growth, which resulted in investors leasing the spaces to offices,” he adds.

In order to revive the mall, a new strategy is being worked out. “A new strategy is being worked out for the mall by using the new concepts of zoning, segmentation, food court, a resto bar etc. This will boost footfalls and also offer a fresh experience to visitors,” Gagandeep says.

Interview,Pramod Arora,Group President, PVR Ltd

The shift backto high-street from malls has already begun’

Is there a plan to convert Priya into a multiplex?

here is a plan to convert it into a multiplex in the next 24 to 36 months. There is also a plan to upgrade Anupam cinema in the same period through a sale-and-lease model.

>People still come to these cinema halls. What’s the reason ?

People come here because the prices of tickets are less. It is lesser by Rs 20 compared to PVR in Select Citywalk. The per seat, per annum turnout is more in PVR Anupam in comparison to the one in Select Citywalk. PVR Anupam has low rental value and does not have common area maintenance charges, making it financially viable.

Are cinema halls dependent on the success of community centres for business?

No, stand-alone cinema halls can survive on their own. But revival of these community centres is necessary as they are facing extinction. These community centres are strategically placed in terms of real estate. They can be turned around if there is a will. In fact, the shift back to high-street from malls has already begun. People will eventually turn back to high-street as an option. A classic example is Khan Market.

City has...

449: convenient shopping centres

138: local shopping centres

44: community centres

11: district centres