Mumbai: Amid stores and restaurants at Mumbai’s cavernous Orchid City Centre mall is a flashy red machine that looks like an ATM.
Except, it’s not a cash machine. It is an air ticket dispensing machine complete with information on where you can fly to, and it sits in a kiosk replete with a sales assistant dressed like an airhostess.
The kiosk is a part of a pilot project that seeks to bring travel agency TravelPort’s services to malls. TravelPort plans 50 such kiosks in malls by March 2008. Others have had the same idea. TravelPort’s kiosk is next to online travel agency Yatra.com’s kiosk.
Firms are installing kiosks that sell mobile phones, lottery tickets and a combination of services including banking and bill payments in an effort to piggyback on India’s retail boom and a growing mall culture. The size of the organized retail industry in the country is estimated at $9-10 billion (it is growing at around 30% a year).
Mobile phone and lottery kiosks have worked at stores and malls run by Pantaloon Retail India Ltd, the country’s largest listed retailer, which operates the Orchid City Centre mall. “If you are already in a mall, you may not want to shop online. But providers who offer services that complement the mall’s merchandise will do well,” says Partho Dasgupta, who heads Future Media, which handles all advertising and promotions that run in the malls of the Future Group, of which Pantaloon is a part.
“We want to be where the customers are. So it makes sense for us to be in malls,” says Amit Tandon, business head of India Transact, which runs a pilot project for a chain of multi-utility kiosks, India’s first, according to Tandon.
The India Transact kiosks will have 10 applications, including bill payments, travel bookings, shopping, banking, buying talk-time for mobile phones, and information on restaurants, nightclubs, and movies. It has tied up up with partners such as rediff.com for shopping, IndusInd Bank Ltd for banking and Visa for bill payments. The kiosks of both India Transact and TravelPort have television screens that run advertisements, another possible source of revenue.
“This is essentially a computer in a mall,” says Raman Mangalorkar, who heads the retail practice at management consulting firm ATKearney. “Buying things like holidays or consumer durables is planned decisions and people may not buy just because a kiosk is available,” he says.
Over the course of its pilot, Travel Port has had shoppers dropping in to check out what the kiosk was selling, and then come back a few days later to pick up passport applications that the kiosk stocks, and even book holidays in Hong Kong.