The Lulu Hypermarket chain is making its first foray into India with a dh1.2bn investment
Lulu branching out with Indian mall
South Indian expatriates living in the Emirates will soon see a familiar retail brand when they head home for the holidays.
Lulu Group, a subsidiary of Indian-owned Emke Group, based in Abu Dhabi, will open its first mall in India in the first quarter of next year. The mall will include one of the company's trademark hypermarkets.
"After all these years we are opening our first store in India. We are making this mammoth shopping mall," said V Nandakumar, a spokesman for Emke.
The 2.2 million square foot Lulu Shopping Mall, which will be one of the largest malls in India, will open in Kochi, Kerala, at a cost of more than Dh1.3 billion (US$353.9 million).
Once the mall is established, the company hopes to expand the brand further in India's fragmented but lucrative retail market.
Retail sales in India are expected to expand rapidly in the next five years as a growing middle class becomes more affluent and develops a higher level of disposable income.
Total Indian retail sales are predicted to increase from $395bn this year to $785bn by 2015, according to a Business Monitor International India retail report.
"India was late in coming to the retail industry," Mr Nandakumar said. "Organised retail was not popular until about 10 years back. Now you have big players like Reliance and Future Group."
The Lulu Shopping Mall will house more than 300 national and international brands and include seven multiplex theatres, family amusement centres, a bowling alley, restaurants and a 3,500-seat food court.
With an annual turnover of $4.5bn last year and a presence throughout the Middle East, Emke now wants to take advantage of the growing Indian market.
The retail sector is a major part of the economy, accounting for 22 per cent of the country's GDP and contributing 8 per cent to total employment. A growing market for personal loans will also contribute to a trend towards annual retail sales growth of 12.2 per cent. MA Yusuffali, the group's managing director, hails from Kerala along with many senior staff at the company.
Emke employs more than 22,000 Indians within a staff of 27,000. It also runs Abu Dhabi's Al Wahda Mall, Khalidiyah Mall and Al Raha Mall, and is in the process of building Mushrif Mall in the capital.
Mr Nandakumar says the hypermarkets, which make up 60 per cent of the group's sales across the Middle East, have enjoyed growth in sales so far this year of 17 to 20 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Lulu recently began to expand its Express-branded local convenience stores, with three outlets opening in Dubai and Fujairah.