Kochi has been a favourite destination of traders and explorers from time immemorial. It was the main port from which the export of spices from Kerala took place. Many of these traders, including the Portuguese, Dutch and British lived here for decades. Modern day Kochi, therefore, is a kaleidoscope of the cultures grafted on to a tropical coast.
Today, Ernakulam has developed at an alarming speed. As the place has already seen a blend of various cultures, it was never hard for the city and the natives to accept more people and their culture.
With major IT giants opening branches at InfoPark, Naval officers and their families settling here, and other firms operating here, the mood of the city has undergone many changes in last two decades. With more people coming into the city to earn their living, the city also had to change in order to cater to the likes and needs of all these people.
The setting up of shopping malls is one of the major developments in this area. The malls were supposed to be a complete family entertainment place where people can shop, eat, play and even watch movies. Along with people from other States, Malayalees have also accepted this culture with open hands and since then the malls have become a part of Malayalee lifestyle as well.
These malls introduced many national and international brands in the Kerala market, which have been loved by people, mainly the youngsters. The fashion sense of Malayalees has also undergone significant change.
Allen George, owner of a finance company, says, “Malls are a good concept because we can spend quality time with family without going to different places. Children can also play their favourite games and elders can also watch movies. Shopping is also a hassle-free job once we are in a mall, as we get all kinds of brands under one roof.”
Oberon Mall – Edappally, Nucleus Mall – Maradu, Gold Souk Grande – Vytilla were the major shopping malls in Ernakulam city. Built at the right places where people can easily come and spend quality time, these malls had a good customer base during the intial years. College students used to frequent these malls as the food courts served as the best places for their get-togethers.
While people of Ernakulam were enjoying a privilege that was not available to many in other parts of the State, M.A. Yusuf Ali announced the opening of their first LuLu Mall in Kochi. This was indeed news. A magnificent mall built at Edappally had become the talk of the town even before its official launch. However, after it was opened, its popularity skyrocketed, so much so that it was even added to the tour packages of many schools. Today, people from across the State come to Kochi to visit the mall.
With the opening of LuLu Mall, there has been a considerable decrease in the number of people who go to other malls and it has also been noticed that some of them witness very less activity even during weekends.
Commenting about this shift in the interest of people, Harish Hariharan, in-charge for business enquiries at Nucleus Mall says, “It is not that people have completely stopped going to other malls, because we still have a lot of customers as ours is a family mall. We have also concentrated on providing an economical shopping experience to those belonging to an average income group. Also because our mall is a bit away from the hustle and bustle of the city, those who want to peacefully do their shopping without getting stuck in traffic prefer to come here.”
He added that LuLu is mostly preferred by kids as the play area is very interesting, but everyone cannot afford watching movies at PVR and buying clothes from high-end brands and thus prefer coming to smaller malls like Nucleus.
Oberon Mall, however, was a favourite among Kochiites and used to witness a huge crowd that mainly included college students. Naufal, Sales Manager at Basics Life in the mall, is of the opinion that a majority of people do not always come to the malls to shop. They just come to the food court, taste a variety of edibles food, watch a movie and go back, according to him. “As LuLu Mall is a visual treat in itself, youngsters get attracted towards it,” he says.
Describing why she prefers going to LuLu Mall despite the traffic block, Shimmy Rose, a homemaker says, “The hyper market at LuLu is superb and I can get anything I want in terms of grocery. The meat there is also fresh. But when it comes to shopping, if I am specific about any particular brand I prefer going to other malls, because it’s not crowded and I can shop properly. Moreover, I feel that the LuLu fashion store is a bit too expensive for the quality they provide.”
Gold Souk Grande, when built, was the largest mall in Kerala and managed to gain popularity mainly because of its recall among the NRIs. However, soon after the opening of LuLu Mall, even this mall has suffered a major setback. The lack of major clothing and footwear brands could probably be the reason and people now mostly prefer to go there to watch movies, as time is not wasted during parking.
Photographs courtesy mall websites.