South Africa : Bentel Associates International increases footprint in India

Bringing global perspectives and expertise to India's commercial built environment

South Africa, Johannesburg – October 2008: Over the last five years commercial design specialists, Bentel Associates International (BAI) has established a significant footprint in the Indian commercial built environment where the company currently has over 50 projects in various stages of design or construction.

India's property market is a vibrant and growing sector with several growth initiatives being taken to transform the urban landscapes. A new emergent middle class, a steady and growing market size, abundant availability of natural resources for manufacturing, cost attractiveness, a reliable business community, high levels of intellectual manpower, engineering expertise and a reform process that has brought about impressive economic liberalization, have resulted in unprecedented growth in many areas of commerce and industry including the retail property sector. Ten years ago, India had no shopping malls but today they are becoming increasingly popular.

Expertise in the conceptualisation, design and development of malls is necessary to optimise long-term sustainability and profitability. Johannesburg based BAI has had extensive local and international experience in the successful design of shopping malls and retail complexes. The company opened offices in Mumbai in 2003 to service their rapidly growing portfolio of prestigious clients who have recognised the value of BAI's global perspective and retail design expertise.

The award-winning company has developed an excellent understanding of the complexities of doing business in India, as well as the cultural context in which their designs will be placed. BAI's ability to solve complex design issues and to consistently meet and exceed developers' expectations and needs is a major contributory factor to their success in India.

The recently opened Oberoi Mall in Mumbai was one of BAI's first projects in the country. In 2004, Nick Kyriacos, BAI MD met with Oberoi construction, the developers of Oberoi Mall. "It was literally a 24-hour trip to secure the confidence of the client," says Kyriacos who flew to India, met the developer, saw the site, developed the basic concept for the Mall and sealed the deal, all within 24 hours. "The first time I saw the site I realised that it just begged for a specific design solution and together with the client we rapidly came up with the optimum solution for the development." The ability to rapidly solve complex design issues, envisage a concept and a solution that meets the clients needs within such a relatively short space of time is testimony to the skill and expertise of the BAI architects.

The initial concept was developed over the next six months and construction commenced six months later. "The construction of Oberoi Mall took quite a while to complete," says Kyriacos. "Our client had exacting and uncompromising quality standards which are reflected in the success and outstanding quality of the completed mall."

"India's retail growth is booming, particularly in Mumbai where is a huge gap in supply and demand for high quality retail space. Oberoi construction saw an opportunity in this sector and there is no doubt that Oberoi Mall has raised the standards in retail shopping, dining and entertainment in Mumbai."

It is interesting to note that property values in the surrounding areas have escalated since the opening of Oberoi Mall in June. The highly accessible Mall is situated in Goregaon East, in the northern suburbs of Mumbai. Designed for high visibility and easy access, the Mall forms part of Oberoi Garden City, a mammoth and picturesque mixed-use development area just off the Western Express Highway.

After opening, Oberoi Mall attracted its first two million visitors in a record time of just 100 days. Discerning Mumbai shoppers enjoy the wide range of shopping, dining and entertainment options that are offered in the 45 000m2 GLA one stop leisure and retail facility on three shopping levels, one entertainment level and two parking levels.

"Oberoi Mall is focused on the mid to high-end market," explains Kyriacos. "The Mall is a modern contemporary building and has been meticulously planned and strategically designed to ensure the best experience for shoppers as well as retailers. Our brief included upmarket design aesthetics and top quality finishes. These include imported Italian marble wall and floor finishes throughout the Mall.

Designed on the philosophy of converting structural elements into aesthetic forms, the defining feature of the Mall is its 100 metre long glass enclosed atrium over four levels which has been intentionally designed to allow shoppers an uninterrupted view of every shop front in the Mall.

Natural and artificial lighting play an important role in the design. The lift shafts are clad in glass and illuminated with LED lighting as part of the vertical elements that draw the eye upwards to the next levels. During the day, there is an abundance of natural light that filters into the Mall through a retractable roof, which also serves as a smoke extraction system in case of fire. Frosted glass bridges and reflective escalators add to the interest of the atrium while the elevator shaft glows in changing light patterns.

Externally, the northern façade of the building is completely glass clad and illuminated. The west façade of the building is defined by the glass curtain walling that links the internal workings of the shopping centre and the atrium to the hustle and bustle of the Mumbai Western Express traffic. The inner aspects of the Mall are completely visible from the highway so every motorist is linked directly to the internal energy of the centre. The high visibility element and the emphasis on vertical circulation were the principles behind the design of Oberoi Mall.

The complex provides a host of options with its combination of shopping, food courts, kids' zone and entertainment for the entire family. There are over 300 popular brands offered including some of the world's favourite and most stylish brands. Over 80% of the Mall is leased to well known international retailers. The predominantly fashion and lifestyle retail mix includes popular brands like L'oreal, Pepe, Sepia, Zodiac, ITC Wills Lifestyle, Van Heusen, Louie Philippe, Esprit, Raymonds, Adidas, The Body Shop, Guess, Next, Tommy, Lacosta, LEE and Biba.

The anchors are a six- screen, 1900 seating capacity cinema multiplex, the largest Home Centre outlet and the Central department store, which together utilize around 60% of the total space. The large food court, gaming zone and children's entertainment area on the third level and constitute an additional 15% of the retail space.

"Oberoi is the second Mall designed by BAI to open in 2008 and we are looking forward to the completion and opening of a number of centres we have designed including the very upmarket Ub City in Bangalore due to open towards the end of the year and the Whitfields (previously known as Ozone) mixed-use development also in Bangalore, which will open in the New Year," says Kyriacos.

BAI's strategy of regional focus in India is evidenced in all the main cities. In the east, South City Mall in Kolkata has already opened, Oberoi Mall in Mumbai marks their first mall to open in western India with further projects due to open in the near future in the central and southern areas of Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Many of BAI's Indian clients are enjoying BAI’s increased presence in the country and are requesting not only their design skills but their technical, implementation and interior design services as well. There is no doubt that commercially and aesthetically BAI have been an unprecedented success in the Indian continent. Their client portfolio includes many of the most significant developers in India including Emaar-MGF, IVR Prime, Reliance, Dainik Bhaskar, the Merlin Group, PS Srijan, Inorbit, the Merlin Group, Mantri Developers, Prestige Group, Shrachi, Pansari and Oberoi Construction.

‘We are very pleased with the continued growth of our portfolio in India and hope we can continue to contribute effectively to realising the goals of Indian retail developers and investors,’ says Kyriacos. Apart from their high levels of expertise, an exceptionally co-operative attitude and the excellent service mindset characterises all of the company's operations in India. "We have a very positive outlook as regards our continuing and growing presence in India," says Kyriacos.

© Lois Aitchison, FVS Marketing & PR, 2008

For more information:

Nic Kyriacos – Bentel Associates International

Tel: (011) 884 7111

Fax: (011) 884 7110