UAE-based Lulu group on Monday opened its new shopping mall at Bengaluru and will complete two more properties in India during the next six months as the company remains bullish on long-term growth of retail business.
In an interview with PTI, Lulu Group Chairman and Managing Director M. A. Yusuff Ali said the company had committed an investment of around Rs 4,500 crore for the development of five shopping malls in India in the first phase of expansion in the country and out of the five, the three malls have already become operational at Kochi, Thrissur and now Bengaluru.
The 'Global Mall' at Rajajinagar in Bengaluru, comprising 8 lakh square feet, is not owned by the Lulu group but it will manage and operate the property.
"We have one large hypermarket in Kochi and one small hypermarket in Thrissur district. This (at Bengaluru) is our third Hypermarket in India," Ali said, who is visiting India for the launch of the Bengaluru mall.
Besides a 2lakh sq ft hypermarket, the Bengaluru mall will have a first-of-its-kind entertainment zone, Funtura, spread over 60,000 square feet.
"There has been some delay in our two mall projects at Trivandrum and Lucknow. We will not back off from any projects. We are going forward," Ali said.
The upcoming mall in Trivandrum will open by end of this year, while the retail mall at Lucknow is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2022.
"In the first phase, we had planned these five projects. The first batch of investment is around Rs 4,500 crore for all these five projects," Ali said.
For the next phase of investment, the company is looking at a new markets in the states where it is already present and also new States.
Asked about the outlook on retail business amid the COVID pandemic, Ali said: "Being a retail organization with almost four decades of experience, we have gone through ups and downs. But obviously, the worst is behind us. Things cannot go worse than that. In difficult and challenging times, we have to make adjustments and fine-tunes things, but now I can fairly say with the confidence, it is only going forward."
"Travel restrictions have eased out, people are vaccinated, they are more careful about themselves, people are eager to come out and enjoy and lead the life back. Enough of virtual and digital life. We are seeing tremendous growth potential," he observed.
Recognising the importance of online retail, the Lulu group CMD said that it is an omnichannel player.
"Wherever we are opening mall, we are adding online shopping as well. Online is truth but at the same time, experential shopping and touch & feel will stay," he said.
Ali highlighted that health and fitness, as well as organic food categories, have become important because of the pandemic.
While no business has been immune to the pandemic over the last two years, I am confident that it is just a matter of time before the retail sector bounces back," Ali said.
He expects a strong revival in the retail industry during this festival season.
Lulu Group, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, posted an annual turnover of USD 7.4 billion last year.
The Group with its flagship retail chain of Lulu hypermarkets and supermarkets has operations spread over 22 countries.
Currently, Lulu Group operates 215 Lulu stores and 23 shopping malls across the GCC, Egypt, India, and the Far East.
The Group's business portfolio ranges from hypermarket operations to shopping mall development, manufacturing and trading of goods, food processing plants, wholesale distribution, hospitality assets, and real estate development.
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