Mall Chauvinism Champion

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Suresh Kumar Kurapaty is a driven man. His external sense of calm and composure hides a bustling energy and passion that is driving him to change the Shopping Mall/Brand/Retail experience in India. BrandKnew(Published by ISD Global) caught up with Suresh on the sidelines of the recent TAVF Conference held at the Renaissance, Powai, Mumbai. Here are the excerpts from the freewheeling conversation.
BK: Tell us a bit about your growing up years and background
SK: I come from a very small town in Andhra Pradesh. Being in Army School, the trait of
innovation and leadership was imbibed in us and the same has helped me through the journey.
BK: What was the motivation behind you founding TAVF? How do you see it evolving? How
has the experience thus far been?
SK: There was a big gap that I saw between what the brands think, what the agencies believe and
what the customers want. Also it was about time the malls evolved from just being space
providers to active participants in brand building.The market was ripe so I took the opportunity to introduce TAVF to the industry.
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BK: What in your understanding are the biggest challenges that the retail/shopping mall industry
is grappling with at a Pan India level and where do you see the solution and thereby
opportunities emerging from?
SK: The biggest challenge which today the malls are facing is customer footfalls– to overcome this
Malls/retail industry can do a few innovations –
A) New innovative ideas for brand activations
B) Need to do new brand acquisition which is exclusively available at their Retail Outlet/Mall.
Focus on CRM/Loyalty programmes which are used to drive people to the mall
Creating community-based events which are done quarterly like – dance, festival celebration,
Bloggers activity, Kids edutainment IPs.
Lastly, it’s very important that retailers are involved totally in all the above which can infuse footfall and
shopping enhancement.

BK: With the onslaught of e commerce, we at ISD Global have been posing one question to
retail brands and eco systems: Are you worth a special trip? What would be your take
on that?

SK: Definitely, the brands these days are taking various measures to make the trips attractive for
their patrons. Instead of taking e commerce as competition they are using the e commerce to
complement their brick and mortar stores. Brands like Zara and H&M have launched their
website stores in the last two years and these websites have only increased their reach among
the target audience in the physical space.
Increased use of AI and AR is more common than it used to be 5 years ago.In the stores
these days, AI is used for taking measurement, what colours suit a particular customer, which
style is better than the other etc etc.
To shoulder this responsibility the malls have also gone one up now, they offer better
interiors, art and architecture to become premium spaces. Malls are now moving towards
focussing on hospitality rather than just being the usual real estate providers to the brands.
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BK: Based on your experience over the years, which are the shopping mall brands in India that
have got their act together in terms of attracting the right footfalls, tenant mix, anchor stores
and the overall retail customer experience?

SK: To my mind brands like Zara know the pulse of the market, the price points are just right to
keep it premium and out of reach of just about everybody and yet comfortable for the target
audience and right on the fashion quotient as well. Launch of their website was also a good step
in the right direction as it has ensured opening of one more touch point and has helped
in reaching deeper into the market.
Also Bata is upping their game, despite having a huge and constant market base they innovate
every day to become relevant to a wider audience.
BK: In some of the mature markets, the growing chorus has been RIP Shopping Malls- do
you allude to such sentiment or your thoughts are varied?
SK: Like I said the malls are now moving on from being your regular real estate providers and
becoming hospitable with right mix of food and entertainment. Additionally, they play the
role of community centres in terms of being relevant in their immediate proximities and
taking up community centric causes.
Also in places like North and Central India where the temperatures go to an extreme of upto
55 degrees in the summer, malls provide an excellent and comfortable outing.
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BK: In terms of retail space available in context to the overall population, do you see India being
under malled at this stage?
SK: Yes definitely there are one or two additions every year but the same is not enough. The high
streets have evolved to shoulder the responsibility but the population still remains underfed or
has to travel around a lot to reach a good experience centre.
BK: We have seen a tectonic shift from ownership to usership/experiences- how has the retail
eco sphere responded to this change of mindset and behaviour?
SK: The retail ecosphere has embraced this with open arms, a lot of conversation now happens
around how will a particular mall design/store design be user friendly and enrich the
experience rather than being idealistically beautiful.
BK: What does the road ahead look like for Umbrella Aegis/TAVF?
SK: We want to make TAVF the biggest marketing forum with brands gathering together which
offers an opportunity to share, discuss understand Futuristic Trends, Technology,
Innovation and Marketing strategies that will have a prominent impact on Ideation and
Communication of Brands, Venues and Media Vehicles. It aims at Integrating all marketing
communication channels in one place to explore and elaborate on the future of advertising.
BK: What does Suresh Kumar Kurapaty do in his spare time?
SK: In my spare time, I travel around the globe to do my research, meet people, speak with them
to connect and share ideas, as in the real world you get the hands on knowledge. I also speak at Institutions and
Global forums.

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About Author

Suresh Dinakaran

Suresh Dinakaran is the Chief Storyteller at ISD Global, a brand strategy & creative ideations entity based out of Dubai and Managing Editor, BrandKnew. With over two decades of insights, expertise and experience in building and growing brands across multiple geographies and media platforms. Passionate about innovation, disruptive ideations, creative leadership and imaging the future apart from writing, movies, music and sports. He can be reached on suresh@groupisd.com

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