The Mall Frenzy

“During my childhood days, my parents took me to temples on Sundays. But parents today take their children to malls”, says Kishore Biyani, the CEO of Future Group.Though the gigantic Indian malls today consume a major share of electricity available to India, their well-lit ambience renders an ideal environment for a weekend spree.

It’s been exactly 15 years since a dream called Greater Noida was conjured. But its residents still complain about frequent power cuts. This tells about a major crisis that India faces today: the crunch of power. Moreover, the power available isn’t distributed equally. One major indicator of the inequitable distribution of power stands in the form of the gargantuan malls that are mushrooming in India at a very fast pace.

According to Indiamap retail, over 300 malls are expected to be built during the next two years and most Indian cities will be exposed to this modern method of retailing. At present, there are a total of 96 operational malls in India and the number will spike to 158 by the end of this year (Source: Images). The growth has been such that India has emerged as the second attractive developing market for retail. But behind the superficies of the ongoing success saga of the Indian retail, there’s another story that is lurking mute.

The glitzy ambience that the malls flaunt, consume a mammoth share of the total electricity that India generates. This leads to the acute shortage of the electricity supply in the neighbourhood areas. The result: polarised distribution of power. About 56% of rural India today isn’t covered by electricity infrastructure and the remaining 44% get only a sporadic supply.

Moreover, India faces severe constraint in the supply of coals. As a result, power stations have to shut down leading to dire shortages of electricity.

The State Electricity Regulator of Maharashtra has remarked that the power these malls consume has been exponentially rising for the last three years. Maharashtra, which faces a deficit of up to 6000 Mw of power in the peak season, needs to emphasise that energy conservation is a priority. Therefore, the mall owners have been asked to pay higher tariffs for the huge amount of power that they consume. After such a huge hike in their tariff bills, the malls and multiplexes in Maharashtra have seen their electricity bills go up by as much as 70% in the last 2 months.

In the ultimate analysis, India has to move towards a greater use of the renewable forms of energy.

A focussed strategy of R&D could bring down the costs of the renewable energy devices and meet the needs of a diverse range of consumers. Simultaneously, the malls can, for the moment, play down their electricity consumption by turning down their air conditioners and using fewer lights.

Deepali Pavagadhi

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