March , 2021
The story of a turnaround
14:21 pm

Saptarshi Deb


The Merlin Group is spread across several verticals of the real estate sector. Apart from being a leading name in the premium residential segment in eastern India, the organisation has significant presence in the commercial real estate segment.


The group holds the ownership of the buzzing Acropolis Mall in southern Kolkata and is also one of the developers in control of the prestigious South City Mall. Additionally, it owns the popular Ibiza – The Fern Resort and Spa on the southern fringes of Kolkata and also owns Princeton – one of the premium new age social clubs in Kolkata.


According to Saket Mohta, Managing Director, Merlin Group, “The commercial segment is definitely one of our focal areas. Apart from our existing commercial properties, we intend to add 25 lakh square feet of commercial space in the next five years. Additionally, we are also looking to build more IT parks in different locations across India.”


The Covid-19 pandemic was a major blow and the going wasn’t easy in the last fiscal. According to Mohta, “Malls were the last to open. We suffered to the tune of `50 crore last year as we supported the retailers and had to waive off the rental. Even now, we have not recovered our full rental and are getting only a fraction.”


However, the worst seems to be behind. Mohta added, “We have recovered 70% of pre-Covid footfall in the Acropolis Mall. The situation started to improve from the onset of the festive season last year.”


Under Mohta’s leadership, there has been a continuous focus on diverse on ground and digital promotional events. The quick turnaround for the Acropolis mall can be largely attributed to innovative marketing strategies. The company took the initiative to organise food festivals to stimulate footfall. Additionally, they organised premium horticultural events that triggered public interest and generated fresh footfall.


Speaking on the emerging trend of online sales, Mohta stated, “We are quite hopeful about the revival of sales in malls as people still prefer offline sales over online sales as they have benefits of various factors like seeing and feeling the product before purchase, instant gratification and saving shipping cost. Customers can gauge the quality, fit, ergonomics or weight of a product while they purchase in malls. This cannot be simulated in online shopping.”


The group’s hospitality offering Ibiza also suffered during the lockdown. However, it is back on track with many travelers availing it for staycation purposes. According to Mohta, “We leveraged some marketing strategies and created awareness on social media about our Covid protocol and social distancing norms. That was a game-changer. Customers were satisfied. Now, we have already won back 80% of pre-Covid sales figure and our rooms are completely booked during weekends and a lot of destination wedding events are also taking place.”


Princeton was also affected by the lockdown. However, innovative thinking on the part of the management helped it to sail through. According to the club management sources, “We had started home delivery service of our food during the lockdown and we are still continuing. We reopened our restaurant once we got the permission but we had suffered losses because the banquets remained unused and unrented during a large part of the year. However, we have recovered. People have reposed faith in our Covid and social distancing protocols and with the announcement of the opening of the swimming pools, we are expecting a surge in our membership.”



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