Nothing happens in Chandigarh – Nothing much in any case that can count as a major event and generate enough interest and excitement. In fact at times you just might want to stand atop your house and scream out loud in order to generate some excitement !But when a huge mall opens up in a city , a city that despite being the hippest in the region, not to mention capital of two states, has strangely remained deprived of any shopping mall worth mentioning, it is an event that is bound to generate interest and rightly so. Yes it’s the latest happening hot spot of Chandigarh that I’m talking about- The Elante Mall in Chandigarh.
There had been talk about a new mall opening up with all the international brands, food chains etc but seeing how such rumours arise and spread, I chose to ignore it. Until one day in April this year when an excited call from a friend informed me that indeed it was true. So it is that I first went to Elante in Industrial Area Chandigarh. My merry trip did not get off to a very good start since I managed to get lost on the way. Industrial Area is not a part of the city one frequents often unless it is for the servicing of your car. And there were no signboards to guide you either (Signboards are still not there but by now everyone worth his or her name knows about it. And if still in doubt, just follow the general flow of the traffic- you’ll end up bang in front of it !)
Anyways, reach I did and I was pleasantly surprised even though most shops had not opened yet. There is something about the facade of a place that pretty much tells you what to expect out of it. And with fountains and nice open space in front, Elante stands tall indeed. On entering it, yet another surprise awaited me- it is vast and expansive. With its unique V- shape( it is that or have I got my sense of shapes and direction all messed up?), the Mall has all the shops nicely spaced out giving one illusion of space even when it is crowded. Having roamed around in Ambience Mall in Gurgaon and Select City Walk in Delhi, most malls, even the ones in NCR seem like match boxes to me. Somehow I almost feel claustrophobic in them. About DT Mall in IT Park, Chandigarh- don’t even get me started. Paras Downtown in any case is too much out of the way and the traffic snarls at Zirakpur intersection make a visit to that Mall a nightmare.
Honestly, even though I started visiting Elante regularly after that I was not very sure what brands would actually open, and more importantly, how much time they would take. Mango opened, as did Marks and Spencer. Zara came with its flamboyant multi floor look. Body Shop, Clinique, Inglot, Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Westside, Forest Essentials, Aldo, Steve Madden, The Collective, Color Bar, Da Milano, Promod…and the list is long indeed. MAC took its own sweet time to open forcing me at one point to stick my head in through the shutters only to find baffled workers who had no clue as to when it would open. Eating joints are by now in plenty- from international chains like Chilis and Haagen Daazs, Nandos to our very own Nik Bakers and Backpackers. Apart from the top floor devoted to eating places and entertainment, I particularly like the outer courtyard that houses these coffee shops. With lot of live performance slated for the courtyard, this promises to be the beginning of something interesting. My son was particularly excited to see Fun City that he has been missing sorely ever since we moved out of Gurgaon. And the cherry topping on his joy was Hamleys. Though not as big as the one in Delhi, yet it is exciting enough for the little ones. And finally of course, good old Big Bazaar, with its cheap discounts and deals, grabbing its trademark basement spot. Yes the pictures is complete but for an international level health club.
Having said all this, and lavished all praises for brand presence and design, how does the mall match up to its counterparts in Delhi? Well considering that it is just starting, it is way too early to pass a judgement. There are teething troubles that need to be sorted out and hopefully they will be. My concern here, for Elante, is of a different nature- not simply matching the standards that you have set for yourselves but maintaining those standards as well. Most basic of these are the hygiene and cleanliness specially of the washrooms and there has been some concern on same front. And while it is lovely to finally have all these big names in the city, I do hope these brands intend training their staff well and stocking themselves up as well. There really is no point if we still have to go to Delhi to shop for those very brands that are now present here. As a case point,right at the beginning, probably sometime in April, when I went looking for makeup brushes in Inglot, the SA had no idea what a stippling brush was. She just lamely pointed out to all the brushes she had in stock. While this kind of lack of knowledge is expected of SA of drugstore brands like Maybelline, Lakme and Revlon ( and I see plenty of that at their counters in Shopper’s Stop and Westside and Lifestyle), from Inglot it’s a bit of a letdown. I hope that all these are just initial hiccups and we will be provided with good services.
Coming to the crowd that is flocking to Elante- people, while it’s all very well to go there to look around, feel great about it and just window shop, eventually what is going to motivate these brands and invite more similar ones, is not the teeming “junta” in the aisles but the genuine shoppers. As of now, the majority of the crowd consists of those who are there just to roam around- be it the locals or those from nearby areas. While the tri city can never match up to NCR’s potential in terms of revenue generation, these brands do have to earn. So folks,enough of gawking- shop!!
Before I wind up, I just have to share this real life howler regarding Elante. On its Facebook page ( and there are so many of those) I put up a query as to when was MAC opening when one gentleman replied that it was already open- he had eaten there. Kill me someone!! MAC, my dear boy, not Mc Donald’s. The good old Punjabi spirit- stomach first ( no offences anyone). No wonder then these brands have taken so long to come here. What chance does Nando’s peri peri stand before Tehal Singh’s Chicken when MAC has had to bow before good ol’ Mc Donalds! I do hope all of them can coexist because we need both of them !!