Malls in India are different to the West.
It was raining in Mumbai, pouring in fact.
I had not been exercising consistently due to the weather. I felt lethargic. What could I do? What options do I have?
Around 2011 in Mumbai, I had read a story in the newspaper about "Mall Walks."
I remember thinking it was the best idea I had seen in a long time!
Inorbit Mall in Malad West in Mumbai had started an initiative to allow people to use the Mall space (at no charge) for their morning walk. I don't know if Inorbit were the first to do it, but it was a great initiative nonetheless.
In the coming years, other malls around the country followed. (1)
In a country short on space and rain-affected for months, this was an innovative idea; the use of mall infrastructure to solve a real logistical and health issue.
Superior local Infrastructure
The malls in India look the same as malls in other countries however in my experience, they are a different beast altogether.
Due to various factors, malls are not only utilised a little differently in India but they are also seen by customers a little differently too.
One factor that changes the nature and use of the malls in India is the weather.
With long rainy seasons and extreme summers (and winters in the north), the weather is not always conducive to wandering leisurely around an outdoor shopping strip.
Commercial spaces also face a challenge in India due to high costs and limited space.
The notion of "High Street" shopping, in my experience, is not very popular in India.
I have not found many examples where individual boutiques are located together. Good boutiques are instead scattered throughout the cities, wherever the business happens to own or rent a commercial space.
Khan Market in Delhi is one place that does have a collection of great shops and restaurants together, outside a mall setting.
Various streets in Bandra and the South of Mumbai also have excellent shops, restaurants and boutiques in relative proximity.
I'm sure there are other examples throughout the country too.
But is it "real" shopping?
I used to prefer "High Street" shopping, with its uniqueness and personalised feel, but I find the malls in India offer an extremely high-quality experience.
It's all very well thinking - "I want an authentic shopping experience in India!"
But what does that mean anyway?
When the weather is a challenge and "authentic, real" shopping is kilometres away in every direction, you may come running to the mall with me!
One of the features many malls here have initiated is special events to showcase and support handcrafted or startup businesses.
The increase in the range of products available within the mall complex from these exhibitions is a welcome addition.
Fine Dining in the Mall
One of the main differences between the malls I have visited in other countries and the Indian malls is the quality of the dining.
Often some of the best restaurants, cafes, grocery and food shops can be found in the malls.
The infrastructure (such as parking and temperature control) draws a high level of the customer to use the malls.
Of course, there are sensational, high-end dining options outside the malls in India, but unlike many overseas malls, the malls here appear to cater to a high-level shopper.
The type of products in the malls ranges from local products and brands to mid-level overseas chains to domestic and international super high-end, decadent shopping.
Parking alone is an attractive option for Indian self-drivers or those with a car and driver.
It's a significant appeal in a population this size.
The one-stop-shop features of overseas malls are also a drawcard in India.
Play areas with child-minding services offer busy parents the chance to get haircuts, buy gifts, see movies and meet friends for brunch without fighting the traffic.
My Favourites - Malls of India
I have spent many hours "exercising" my way around the malls of India in the past two decades. Here are some of my favourites:
Phoenix Mills complex
My first mall experience in India was the ever-popular Phoenix Mills complex in Lower Parel, Mumbai (High Street Phoenix and Palladium Mall).
It has developed significantly from my first visit with the addition of a luxury hotel and the Palladium section adding to this shopper's dream.
Catching a cab outside still tests my skill but Phoenix Mills remains my first "love."
Malad West malls - Inorbit & Infinity
I have worn out my shoes at both these malls over the years. Both have great shops and dining options in a convenient suburban location.
DLF Promenade, DLF Emporio and Ambience Malls, Vasant Kunj
This precinct includes three malls - two mid-to-high range and one super opulent (DLF Emporio).
I admit I used all three to walk between for great exercise however I also found some great shopping here, including unique and stylish women's shoes.
The dining options are also superb.
Select City Walk, Saket
An excellent mall in a great location, with a recent addition to the complex. Plenty of great shops, quality dining and innovative promotional events.
GVK One Mall, Banjara Hills
I so enjoy visiting Hyderabad! And the GVK One mall provides a great experience in a very nice area of the city.
World Trade Park, Malviya Nagar
The whole of Jaipur is a shoppers delight, but when you need a mall, the strikingly-designed World Trade Park is there in its shining glory.
Elante Mall, Industrial Area, Phase 1
Elante Mall is a great mall to walk around. The mix of shops is excellent. The dining is of great quality too. I had some of my favourite meals there. It also combines a modern mall feel with a "street" feel, with charming outdoor style seating and dining.
Tell me about your favourite mall in India and why. Comment below.