RETAIL HUB IN MUMBAI

With the residential populace of this suburb recording a steady increase over the last few years, retail activity has also picked up with a number of huge, state-of-the-art shopping malls and multiplexes mushrooming here to cater to the growing clientele.

While the massive Shoppers Stop edifice near Andheri flyover is already a known shopping destination, competition has been growing at a breakneck pace especially on the New Link Road with the coming of new players like Infinity Mall (2,65,000 sq. ft.), Citi Mall (1,00,000 sq. ft.) and Fun Republic, the Essel Group enterprise.

And housed within these air-conditioned malls are some of the best national and international brands. A list that includes biggies like Big Bazaar, Vijay Sales, Westside, Nike, Reid & Taylor, Mochi, Landmark, Planet M, Reebok, D'Damas, Levis, Arrow, Van Heusen, Baskin & Robbins, Fame Adlabs, McDonalds, Cinemax, Cartier, Gucci, Provogue and Timex, among many others.

Then of course there is the all-time favourite Lokhandwala market just a stone's throw away from the crowds that throng the malls. Known for its many shops that sell an eclectic mix of fashionable branded originals interspersed with cheap fakes that sometimes look better than the real McCoy, this market is one long, straight stretch lined with outlets hawking everything ranging from garments, footwear, eateries, books, electronics, jewellery, eyewear and computer peripherals to its very own art gallery, at rates that are usually heavily discounted to satiate the haggling customers who frequent it looking for a 'great deal'. Avers Deepti Dhariwal, a Lokhandwala resident and frequent shopper here, "This market is definitely a Mecca for shoppers like me, given the variety that one gets and of coursethe attractive discounts on most of the products." Not quite convinced by the air-conditioned lure of the neighbouring malls, Dhariwal is quite convinced that nothing quite beats the satisfaction of shopping or just plain browsing among the crowds, traffic and general chaos of this popular market.

Says she," Malls have their advantages but not the variety, discounts or the bargain deals that one can strike in markets like these. I do frequent the nearby malls but only when I'm in the mood to splurge orwatch a movie at any of the mutiplexes that abound this area." "Attractive prices and ready bargaining have always been one of the main advantages for shoppers who come here," concurs Deepak Shah of Little Angles, a shop that specialises in clothes and accessories for children. With residential, commercial and retail development activities on the upswing in Mumbai's suburbs, the government has also realised the need to improve existing infrastructure facilities on a priority basis. On the anvil are mega projects like the ambitious Rs. 1,306-crore Bandra-Worli Sea Link that aims to reduce the massive traffic snarls on this route. Then there is the logeshwari-Vikhroli link road and Santacruz-Chembur link road projects that are expected to improve connectivity immensely on completion in May 2007 and May 2008 respectively.

On the rail front, the 146.5 km. Mumbai Metro Rail Master Plan will be executed in three phases starting with the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (Line 1, 15 km), ColabaMahim-Charkop (Line 2, 32 kms), and Bandra-Kurla-Mankhurd (Line 3, 14 kms). All three phases are scheduled to be fully operational by 2021, thereby taking the pressure off the seriously overburdened Mumbai suburban train network, while simultaneously improving connectivity between the easternand western parts of the city. Further, the city will also witness the construction of about 16 new flyovers to ease the traffic scenario under a Rs. 420-crore project to be implemented by MMRDA.

FUTURESCAPE

With real estate development activities at most of Mumbai's suburbs showing no obvious signs of slowing down in the near future, fuelled by a peaking demand, property rates at Andheri (West) have galloped to touch a high of Rs. 10,000 psf for prime residential and about Rs. 12,000 psf for commercial property according to Narain's Corp, the city-based property consultants and realtors. However, there is some good news for those shaking their head in disbelief with sources in the Estate Agents Association of India (EAAI) predicting a 40 per cent fall in residential property rates in suburban Mumbai by this Diwali, courtesy sluggish sales, an overheated property market and a direct result of the rising interest rates. Industry sources also point to the RBI's recent directives to reduce interest rates on home loans upto Rs. 20 lakhs as a pertinent indicator of the downward trend. For the moment, however, there has been little or no impact on demand for premium property at Andheri which continues to find a steady stream of buyers and investors among the city's elite. For the rest, it could well be this coming Diwali that will decide the fulfilment of their dream --- of finally owning a decent home at this much sought-after Mumbai suburb of Andheri.





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