Malls in Mumbai will need a lot of prep time to operate on extended hours. The big question is: Will shoppers keep turning up past midnight? Image Credit: Bloomeberg

Adding the next level to the legendary night life of Mumbai, the Maharashtra government has finally given the green signal to the proposal of keeping select malls, eateries, multiplexes and some other retail establishments operational 24x7 from January 27.

To begin with, only a few establishments will actually remain open all through the night. Besides keeping it strictly optional, the government has mandated that those operating round the clock will need to comply to set guidelines or lose their licenses.

The city that never sleeps is living up to its reputation as it joins the ranks of global cities such as London which operate 24x7. It is a definite boost to Indian financial capital’s overall economy. One of the main advantages of this move is that it will help generate more employment opportunities as retailers looking to avail this option will have to take in more people to handle the night shift.

Industry estimates further prove this point. According to available data, London has seen significantly higher employment growth in its night-time industries. Between 2001 and 2017, this sector grew by 2.2 per cent a year compared to the overall growth of 2 per cent overall.

Rake in more

This move will also help the government to generate additional revenues, even as retail establishments up their game in the wake of the current slowdown as far as overall consumption is concerned. Many offline retailers in malls will benefit hugely as they will have a more level playing field compared with their online peers, which operate 24x7.

The competition between offline and online retailers will intensify. Already, the retail sector accounts for about 10 per cent of the country’s GDP, and to increase it further with round-the-clock operations gives the ailing economy a badly-needed booster shot.

That said, the positive impact of this move is quite location-dependent and may not benefit all retailers and customers in the city. Retail centres close to major employment hubs where offices work round the clock - such as BPOs and other IT/ITeS entities - will certainly benefit the most as they will see higher footfalls even during late hours.

There’s a flipside too

Unfortunately, not everything is glitzy in cities that never rest. While the night-time economy may prosper, this move also entails the need for a larger workforce to commute at night. Public transport facilities will need to be considerably enhanced.

Also, while It may be good for businesses, there is enough evidence to suggest that working night shifts can have a significant negative impact on the health and well-being of employees and their families.

Providing even more distractions will certainly not improve people’s Circadian rhythms, and one needs to factor in the potential disturbance for people living in areas that have both residential and commercial elements. Also, while the state seems to have a fair grip on the overall law and order situation, this move will add another dimension to it.

Beef up security

Only time will tell the long-term implications on the city’s safety levels. This move calls for prudent safety measures – especially for women. Additional - and vigilant - police personnel will be required to monitor all-round activity to avoid untoward incidents.

The state government will need to up the ante on basic civic facilities like water, electricity, etc. during the wee hours as this move will significantly increase the load burden on these utilities.

All things considered, this move may perhaps best be seen as an interesting socio-economic experiment that will hopefully work out well for all concerned.

- Shajai Jacob is CEO – GCC at Anarock Property Consultants.