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Meeting Maintenance Standards in Mall Management

India today is experiencing a retail revolution, with malls and shopping centres mushrooming by the score in II Tier and III Tier cities also. While upcoming malls are competing in terms of size and formats to take the lead, strong mall management techniques are of paramount importance to ensure strong footfalls. The demand for superior shopping experience goes parallel with superior mall management which is inclusive of appropriate maintenance of retail space using the latest cleaning technology, trained manpower, standard operating practices and schedules.

Mall management is a new industry, says Jonathan Yach, CEO of Mantri Square, Bangalore. It calls for new skills and there is a major problem of such skills in this country. Having spent 20 years in over 200 shopping centres in South Africa, Jonathan says, “India is facing what South Africa did 20 years ago. We had exactly the same problems. We had contractors who didn’t do the sort of work they needed to do and didn’t quite understand the enormity of servicing a mall”. Even 20 years ago, there were shopping centres and very few qualified people were available to run them.

“Skill deficit in the contracting business and in mall management environment is largely being felt at most malls. In fact, mall maintenance is a joint effort of the facility operations and the contractors, says Manoj Agarwal, Associate Vice President-Operations, Inorbit Malls India Pvt. Ltd, who has 22 years of diverse experience in hotel & mall operations and management. Contractors have to be trained to suit the requirement of maintenance in keeping with the SOPs. There should be training schools for the in house staff and “we need to encourage our contractors to set up training schools for their janitors”, adds Jonathan.

People engaged in mall management and mall service contractors are different sets of people with different skills. Most Indian developers think that shopping centres are the same as SEZ or office park, but its not, says Jonathan. The hotel and hospitality industry have indicated and set standard operating procedures in respect to quality and finish, which most SEZs, offices and industrial businesses don’t bother about.

Malls draw a lot from the hospitality sector. “A lot of our contractors are from hospitality sector but we now have to learn to specialise by engaging the right people and train them. Training is a must, since it’s a long journey together,” adds Jonathan.

A mall, by virtue of the business, is such that there is always high foot traffic at any given time. They need to be cleaned, secured and managed in the hands of skilled people, as over a million people a month visit some of the larger malls like Ambience Mall, Gurgaon. “People have a tendency to just litter the place,” says Vijay Aima, Vice President-Operations, Ambience Mall. Hence, it is a challenge to keep the place up and shining all the time.

In fact, people should have a thorough knowledge of what they are doing. There is a lot of research that goes into the operations of the mall. There has to be a personal touch, you need to be coordinated with by the team as much as you can. These factors have helped in making Ambience the ‘success’ that it is,” Raj Singh Gehlot, Chairman & Managing Director, Ambience Group of Companies.

Many malls are yet to adopt mechanised cleaning or even practise set SOPs to maintain cleanliness.

When it comes to safety and security, a different set of skilled team is required to maintain the mall. All sorts of people visit a mall. “We have women clad in saree coming from the city and also from the rural areas. There have been incidences of saree-clad women, especially those coming from the rural area, tripping while getting on to the escalators. Here again we have the facility heads to help out,” says Jonathan.

At a time when India is turning to be an international retail destination, with giants like Walmart looking at opportunities, unavailability of professional support services could act detrimental. Given the limitations, malls like Mantri Square, Inorbit and Ambience are setting standards by engaging high end equipment and tools for cleaning amid challenges.

In the following pages, Editor-in-Chief  Mangala Chandran, Managing Editor Mohana M and Correspondent Renu Ramakrishnan spoke at length to the operations in charge at these malls on the challenges they face in maintaining the malls.

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