By Ashraf Padanna /Thiruvananthapuram
By Ashraf Padanna /Thiruvananthapuram
Abu Dhabi-based LuLu group has started work on its 128th shopping mall, this one in the Kerala capital, vowing to make it a destination for “shopping tourism”.
The retail major will be spending Rs20bn (US$299mn) over the next three years on a world-class shopping centre, hotel and international convention centre in 20 acres on the busy national highway bypass.
It will create 5,000 new jobs, promoters said. More than 200 international brands will be up for grabs, besides a food court, ice- skating, nine-screen multiplex, entertainment centre for children and 3000-unit car park.
“We hope to complete the shopping mall by 2018 August and the hotel and convention centre by 2019 March,” said the group’s head Yusuff Ali MA.
“It’ll provide a world-class shopping experience for the residence. I believe in result rather than announcements.”
The leisure and shopping centre is also expected to give a fillip to the city’s software hub nearby which employs more than 50,000 IT professionals, who complain of inadequate shopping and leisure spaces unlike in Bangalore.
The group opened the country’s biggest shopping mall in the port of the city of Kerala, also the home state of the retail tycoon, in 2013, at a cost of Rs16bn (US$250mn) and it still holds its record and has so far received 60mn footfalls.
The promoters expect a similar response in the state capital as well with its family leisure centre, 3,500-capacity food court, restaurants, coffee shops and the multiplex designed by UK-based Design International consultants.
The mall will be environmentally friendly and will adopt LEED certificate specification for eco-friendly construction and maintenance. The luxury hotel will have 150 rooms.
The Lulu Kochi has a total retail space of 2.2 mn sq ft in 17 acres while the mall here will have two mn sq ft built-up space spread over 20 acres in the software hub.
“We will bring some of the best brands in fashion, cosmetics, home furnishing and jewellery,” he said.
This project is the largest private investment in Kerala in recent times, joining the Lulu network of 127 shopping malls spread across 41 countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the US, the UK, China, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam,Singapore, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Turkey, Spain and Brazil.
“Kerala was my last preference as there was a group active in sabotaging every investment project that generates jobs and torturing investors,” he said earlier.
“I had experienced it in Kochi, and so I decided to start work after ensuring that everything is foolproof.”
Besides its international convention centre in Thrissur and a luxury hotel near the Cochin International Airport, the group is also building a twin-tower in the SmartCity Kochi, the tallest IT building in India, and an international convention centre on the Bolgatty Island there.
He also promotes two airports in the public-private partnership — the hugely successful Cochin International Airport and Kannur International Airport expected to be launched early next year.
“Kerala should not remain a manpower exporter forever,” he said. “You should attract investments in varied areas and take calculated risks.”
He said when he started his first mall in Doha in 1983, many questioned its viability saying there was no demand in such a small country, but by now he had since opened seven more.
“Now LuLu is too tiny in an economic giant like Qatar,” he said.
He said the panic situation being created over oil price fall was unfounded as the Gulf economies sitting on huge reserves were no way affected.
Currently, he said, Lulu has a 40,000-strong global workforce of 41 nationalities.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan laid the foundation of the mall while lawmaker Shashi Tharoor switched on the piling work.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala presided over the function at which power minister Kadakampally Surendran unveiled the replica of the shopping mall,
revenue minister E Chandrasekharan unveiled the model of the hotel and convention centre and former minister PK Kunhalikutty launched its website.
UAE Consul General Jamal Husein Al Zaabi offered felicitations among local leaders.
This will be India’s second largest mall after the one in Kochi, also under LuLu brand.
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