At the age of 21, Avijit Yadav was selling jeans door to door to a network of retail stores across North India. That is, until the refusal to accept no in an interview launched a brief career in advertising as a Trainee Executive.
Nine years later in 1995, after roles with Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, and Saatchi & Saatchi, Avijit left advertising to become Marketing Manager of two shopping centres in Dubai.
Today, he serves as the CEO of Tamdeen Mall Management (TMM) in Kuwait, which manages 387,000 square metres of retail space across six operating and three under-development shopping malls. Avijit reports to the TMM Board, advises them on management risk and maintains a delicate balancing act of managing customer expectations, financial results and a dynamic team.
He and his team work closely with the company development and projects wing on innovation. He’s also launching three new projects, including a hybrid outlet mall (Al Khiran), a premium value mall (The Warehouse) and a community mall (Tamdeen Square) in Kuwait.
“Expansion is difficult, expensive and comes with some serious risks. And there are barriers to entry due to scarcity of land,” Avijit explains.
“To counter this, Tamdeen Group and TMM have come up with a simple but effective two-pronged strategy: acquire land over time for future development and relentlessly implement a vision – build great places, create exceptional experiences, deliver outstanding sales. This strategy ensures we can attract the best retailers. Our belief is if we offer exceptional experiences, the shoppers will come.”
Shoppers’ attitudes and beliefs are always on the move. They want to be inside today, outside tomorrow, and they want new experiences and conveniences as they become aware of them.
However, this road map to success does not reflect the perils of the actual journey. When Tamdeen opened its flagship luxury mall property in 2009, 360 Kuwait, the world was reeling from a recession. It was a challenge to attract quality retailers.
Though the mall was almost fully leased, only half the stores were open at launch. Avijit, who had just joined the company, worked hard with the team to motivate retailers and drive footfall to the mall. It took around two years for the recession to move on, but by then, the mall was full and the retailers were successful.
Avijit believes that creating exceptional experiences starts with building great places. With this in mind, at Tamdeen, the team is constantly looking ahead through formal and informal research to predict how shoppers will evolve.
“We need to build and lease at least three to five years ahead. Shoppers’ attitudes and beliefs are always on the move. They want to be inside today, outside tomorrow, and they want new experiences and conveniences as they become aware of them. To win, it’s important to ride trends, not fads.”
Tamdeen will soon launch a hybrid outlet mall, a first in the region to meet shopper expectations of value and experience, offering a unique shopping experience combining outlet shopping, entertainment, food and beverage, events and leisure. There are qualities that unite all TMM properties.
“It’s all in our vision,” says Avijit. “Our malls feature unique designs – floors of marble, wood and carpets, Chihuly chandeliers, vertical gardens designed by Patrick Blanc and vast common areas – 40% space compared to a 25% benchmark. We spend a lot of time on things that are difficult to copy, create a super ambience and put shoppers in a good mood, which encourages them to shop.”
Over the years, the company has shown it cares about its staff, retailers, vendors and anyone connected to its business. One example is when malls were closed during COVID-19 – the company owners decided not to charge rent during this time. Moreover, they continued to pay employees and vendors even though offices were closed.
“Our thinking was simple,” Avijit says. “If we don’t have retailers, we don’t have a mall. We’re all in it together and will get through by supporting each other. The decision created positivity among staff, retailers and vendors when they realised that we were willingly taking a hit alongside them.”
Avijit continues to help and inspire the team he serves. He hopes that they will do the same and, in the process, they will all end up in a good place both personally and professionally. He smiles, “The most important thing is to do the right thing.”
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