India’s Largest Luxury Mall Bows in Mumbai

The home of Bollywood, Mumbai is certainly no stranger to luxury.

And although there has been a considered luxury breakthrough in India over the last decade, it is only on Wednesday that Mumbai got its first upscale, dedicated luxury mall as the doors opened at the Reliance Industries Ltd.-owned Jio World Plaza at Bandra Kurla Complex.

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Centrally located, all marble and shine, and planned into the same complex as the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre that opened earlier this year, the 750,000-square-foot mall has brought global brands into the area. The largest Louis Vuitton store in the country is there, as are flagship stores for Gucci, Cartier, Bally, Giorgio Armani, Dior, Saint Laurent and Bulgari. It will have 66 stores in total; the process of opening is ongoing.

In a pre-opening event Tuesday night, more than two dozen top Bollywood stars walked the red carpet entry, past the emblazoned Jio World Plaza sign.

Among them were Bollywood star and Louis Vuitton brand ambassador Deepika Padukone; Alia Bhatt, who is Gucci’s global brand ambassador; Ananya Panday, who became Jimmy Choo’s brand ambassador in October; Sonam Kapoor Ahuja; Madhuri Dixit; Ranveer Singh, and John Abraham.

Although Mumbai has the Palladium mall at Lower Parel where several luxury and upscale brands have opened, many companies felt it doesn’t quite focus only on luxury. DLF Emporio mall in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, has mostly been the first target for big brands, many of which have finally made it out of five-star hotel retail locations that were their only options earlier.

Some opened in stand-alone and more experimental retail spaces, as Hermès did at Horniman Circle in Mumbai, with the neighborhood slowly going upscale. Last week, another big opening in Bengaluru saw an outburst of new retail with the Mall of Asia, another contender for the title of India’s biggest mall. Spread over a 13-acre property, the mall is located at Hebbal, North Bengaluru, and is being seen by many brands as an important new addition to India’s retail scene.

“Delhi has a full-fledged destination for luxury, with the DLF Emporio mall, and now Jio World Plaza fulfills the gap in Mumbai. It is well located at Bandra Kurla Complex, the city center has moved towards Bandra, and Bandra Kurla complex also has a lot of offices. If you look at it from a location perspective and a market perspective it’s very much there, and is an important benchmark,” said Pankaj Renjhen, chief operating officer and joint managing director of Anarock Retail, a leading real estate company.

Retail in India has been growing in double digits, having missed the $1 trillion estimate for 2021 as the pandemic hit. Industry estimates are that 2023 will close at $950 billion, with luxury an estimated $8 billion.

However, the number of high-net-worth individuals is growing. The millionaire — and billionaire — count in India is expected to increase quickly, with the ultra-high-net-worth individuals who have a net worth of more than $30 million expected to go up by 58.4 percent by 2027, with 19,119 in this category, and the billionaire count to be up more than 20 percent to 195 in the same timeframe, according to a report this year from real estate consulting firm Knight Frank.

Jio World Plaza intends to push this growth along. Brands launching for the first time in India at the mall include Balenciaga, Pottery Barn Kids, Rimowa, and the Giorgio Armani café. Others are opening stores in Mumbai for the first time including Valentino, Tory Burch, Saint Laurent, Versace, Tiffany, Ladurée, and Pottery Barn.

Select Indian designers at the mall include Manish Malhotra, Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, Rahul Mishra, and Ritu Kumar.

While Reliance Retail has quickly become the top retailer in the country, its subsidiary Reliance Brands has also established itself with the largest stable of partnerships with global brands and has more than 2,169 doors between 905 freestanding stores and 1,264 shops-in-shop in India. Reliance Retail has more than 18,500 stores and digital commerce platforms across India. This is their second mall — Jio World Drive, also at Bandra Kurla Complex, opened two years ago.

It comes with the financial muscle of Reliance Industries Ltd., which had revenues of 97.48 trillion rupees, or $118.6 billion, for the year ended March 31.

Jio World Plaza is helmed by Isha M Ambani, who is director of Reliance Industries Ltd., and as she put it, enriched with the inputs and vision of her mother Nita Ambani, and billionaire father Mukesh Ambani, who is India’s richest man. Each of them spoke at the mall pre-launch on Tuesday.

Isha Ambani spoke about creating a unique retail experience, aimed at bringing the best global brands to India as well as highlighting the prowess and craftsmanship of top Indian brands.

“We introduce a luxury experience at par with the best in  the world,” she said. “At Jio World Plaza we hope to bring you the best of fashion, design and entertainment from India and the world. At the NMACC opening my mother had shared her vision to showcase the best of India to the world, and bring the best of the world to India. Jio World Plaza is another step in this direction.”

Speaking about her mother, she said the mall was a result of her vision, passion and dedication, and addressed to her father thanks for his teaching of the pursuit of excellence. “That is what we strive for every day,” she said.

A fashion show, “The New Order of Style,” showcased Indian designers including Ritu Kumar, Falguni Shane Peacock, Manish Malhotra, Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, Abraham & Thakore, Satya Paul, and Rahul Mishra.

While celebrity spotting was ongoing at the event, so was taking in the architecture and layout of the stores.

Louis Vuitton’s flagship, at more than 7,000 square feet, is now the largest international luxury store in the country, and brings its ready-to-wear and fine jewelry to Mumbai for the first time. Louis Vuitton has three other stores in India, since it first launched in the country in 2002; this is its second unit in Mumbai.

Indianization and customization in the store brings in a unique hand block-printed wallpaper that was handcrafted in Jaipur, developed in collaboration with French-born textile and embroidery entrepreneur Maximiliano Modesti and Indian architect Rooshad Shroff.  Shroff also came up with his signature finish on an embroidered wooden panel with French knots, combining traditional local techniques with French aesthetics. Furniture from notable designers and studios such as Phantom Hands and Demuro Das are also used in the store.

Gucci’s  flagship spans 5,800 square feet, and uses LEED guidelines and principles as part of its commitment to implement and enhance eco-friendly initiatives and energy-efficient technologies in its stores worldwide. This is the fifth Gucci store in India, with its entry into the country in 2009. There are already two other stores in Mumbai, one in New Delhi and one in Kolkata.

The Gucci store at Jio World Plaza.

The 1,881-square-foot Bulgari store, which the brand described as “a strategic decision rooted in both the prestige and accessibility,” was crafted by Peter Marino and is dedicated to Italian design, combining precious materials, colors, and craftsmanship. Eye-catching artworks by Andy Warhol add color, as do the luminous brass and glass of the central counter, and strikingly, the handcrafted Murano glass chandelier.

Bulgari Group chief executive officer Jean-Christophe Babin said in a statement that the new boutique embodied the “essence of Italian craftsmanship, elegance, and innovation” and the fact that the cultures of Italy and India —  both more than 1,000 years old — “meet on a journey of opulence and refinement. East meets West.”

In on the journey already is Priyanka Chopra Jonas, global brand ambassador for the brand, who commented that the space “beautifully encapsulates the rich heritage of Rome and Bulgari’s dedication to Italian craftsmanship, with an exquisite blend of classic and contemporary elements, much like the brand itself.”

The Bulgari store at the new mall.

Speaking at the event, Nita Ambani revealed the upcoming and first retail opening of Swades, a new retail brand, which was featured at the end, including with model Ashley Graham in a sari. “Swades is to be an ode to Indian crafts and to Indian artisans. We will also open our stores globally,” she said.

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