Mumbai wants to be a city that never sleeps. The state government is allowing malls, restaurants and shops in select locations to be open all through the night. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Mumbai - the heart and soul of India’s high-life - wants you to shop and dine all night long... but within certain limits.

Starting end of this month, Mumbai will join the ranks of those global cities that never sleep. The Maharashtra government is allowing shops and eateries at select locations in Mumbai to be open on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week basis. And business owners have the flexibility to decide whether they want to do so or not. Even malls can join in for the 24x7 business cycle.

Establishments in commercial districts such as Nariman Point and Bandra Kurla Complex are eligible to this route, as part of an initiative the state government is rolling out to turnaround a lacklustre economy. The retail sector, in particular, has been particularly hard hit as consumers feel they are better off holding on to their cash rather than splurge on non-essentials.

The Maharashtra government, ruled by a coalition led by the Shiv Sena, reckons that a potential solution lies in offering consumers - especially the younger set - an all-night shopping and dining option.

As per current rules, all stores must shut by 10pm, while restaurants can run up to 1.30am. But from January 27, individual businesses can decide how long they can go on for. (But not all establishments can join in - pubs and bars must still shut by 1.30am.

Already, the retail sector accounts for about 10 per cent of India’s GDP and to increase it further with round-the-clock operations [will] give the ailing economy a badly-needed booster shot.

- Shajai Jacob, CEO - GCC at Anarock, the real estate consultancy

But will India’s “Maximum City” be able to make a success of all-night shopping? (Maximum City refers to the title of a best-selling, Pulitzer-winning book by Suketu Mehta, which chronicled the city and its many interesting citizens, both high-fliers and the less so.)

Culture shock

Businesses and consumers will have some adjusting to do if the initiative is to succeed. And India as a rule of thumb takes time when it comes to making such adjustments. Even Mumbai, with its bustling night-life, won’t find it easy.

After all, current rules require even concerts - headlined by the biggest global acts - have to wind down by a certain time. And cops and city municipal authorities are bound to call in on establishments that try to squeeze out some more time before shutting down for the night.

Restaurants in and around commercial hotspots could be the biggest winner in the open-all-night move. File picture of a Domino's Pizza outlet operated by Jubilant Foodworks. Image used for illustrative purposes only.

But if the Mumbai move clicks, then a lot of good could emerge from it. For one, the city’s brick-and-mortar retailers can expect some boost over the long term. The state government, obviously, will be another beneficiary.

“Already, the retail sector accounts for about 10 per cent of India’s GDP and to increase it further with round-the-clock operations [wil] give the ailing economy a badly-needed booster shot,” said Shajai Jacob, CEO - GCC at Anarock, the real estate consultancy. “Retail establishments (can) 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 to their online peers (who operate 24x7).”

Need to think this through

But retail sources suggest that making a success of 24x7 retail and dining requires certain pre-conditions. And that this model could work better in a city like Bengaluru with its tech hubs and offshore backoffice operations that need to operate 24x7. But Mumbai, where the business is mostly driven by finance rather than IT, is less of a 24x7 hotspot, they add.

Malls remain at the top of happening places in Bengaluru. Image Credit: Getty

That being the case, individual businesses will find it more sensible to remain open all-night on weekends and on holidays rather than do so every night. The same applies to malls as well.

“Dubai tested out all-night openings at malls - but it did so quite selectively, such as during Eid holidays,” said a retailer with extensive operations in the UAE and India. “That’s a better way to manage costs and business set targets than remain open perpetually.

“As for Mumbai, it would make sense only for a popular dining place at or near Nariman Point to benefit from the 24x7 initiative. But malls may find it prohibitively expensive remaining open all night long, except for on weekends.”

The safety factor

For other Indian cities, a 24x7 retail cycle will have far greater implications than just about whether there will be enough shoppers and diners coming through. There is the matter of safety, for the woman shopper as well as staff working at such all-night establishments.

People will have security concerns... but before giving permission, civil authorities in Mumbai must have considered all such issues.

- Vinay Behl, Joint Secretary of New Delhi Traders Association

Indian cities are yet to establish blanket security for women, who because of their career requirements have to do work beyond the 9-5 cycles. Any number of incidents will suggest this is the case, with the horrific killing and burning of a 26-year old veterinarian in Hyderabad last November being just the latest headline grabbing act. And then there was the rape and killing in 2012 of a 23-year old medical intern in Delhi.

A fact that Vinay Behl, Joint Secretary of New Delhi Traders Association, acknowledges: “People will have security concerns... but before giving permission, civil authorities in Mumbai must have considered all such issues. Delhi can replicate this model and give a boost to the local economy.

“Business has gone down drastically - 24-hour trading will be beneficial for malls and restaurants, particularly.”

A giant banner looks on shoppers at a popular mall in Delhi. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Whatever be the outcome, Mumbai has made the first move in becoming a city that never sleeps. Whether it pays off for retailers, restaurants and the government will be known once January 27 comes along.

In Mumbai, the shutters will always remain up.

Comment: India tests waters for all-night shopping

A promotional event at a mall in Mumbai. India’s inflation rate accelerated faster than expected to 10.2 per cent in May. Image Credit: Bloomeberg News

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 positive impact of this move is quite location-dependent and may not benefit all retailers and customers in the city.

- Shajai Jacob

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.

Mumbai open 24X7: Residents speak out

Dubai-based Mumbaikers

Neeta Ross, 68, Sharjah, home-maker

Neeta Ross

“The government is trying to do something new - let’s give them a chance. Sometimes we are so opinionated but maybe we can be open-minded and support the government’s plan to open Mumbai’s malls, multiplexes and shops 24/7. Let’s see first how it’ll work then we can make the necessary adjustments later.”

Sameera Salim Master, 50, Clinical psychologist, Dubai

“I am in favour of this move and I feel people of all ages will welcome it if the infrastructure supports it properly with the main concerns being security, accountable taxi services, policing on roads and shopping areas as well as plainclothes officers keeping watch. We don’t want to attract the wrong kind of elements like pickpockets, drug dealers, etc. If the traffic and noise are controlled, Mumbaikers will accept it willingly.”

Venkat Iyer, 47, Communications consultant, Dubai

“Mumbai is a city that is always on-the-go. The new rule is a major step forward and will help make Mumbai more vibrant. For a city that never sleeps, this is a natural extension – a trend followed by major cities across the globe.”

Venkat Iyer

Urvashi Kadam, managing partner at a marketing and PR company, Dubai

“Mumbai being open 24X7 is probably good for the economy but will raise other issues. The Municipality does whatever maintenance it carries out at night in Mumbai and if they are not able to operate even during the off hours, much needed maintenance will not be carried out as effectively. The city’s infrastructure will be under pressure – trains and public transport, not to mention people who already have a long working day and spend hours commuting. There is the question of safety as well, having a larger presence of the police – a cost in itself. The authorities should weigh the benefits against the costs after a short period – 6 months or so and, at that time, reconsider or not.”

Sneha Nair, 33, PR professional, Dubai

“Mumbai is a vibrant city where culture thrives. It always has a life of its own at night – be it by Bandstand or the Worli Sea Face. This move by the government will help regulate this. I believe this new move will contribute to making Mumbai a city not so unlike its global counterparts.”

Shradha Mohanty, 48, Dubai resident

Shradha Mohanty

“Super excited at just the thought of being able to eat and shop at all my fave places in Mumbai at any time of the day or night! Wonder how would the police/ government deal with the extra security measure that are needed at certain places? Does the current economy allow for the smaller business to employ more people since there would be shifts needed at the work place?”

Reactions from Mumbai residents

Shashwat Karkare, teacher and drummer

“Mumbai 24/7 has its upsides and downsides. The positive thing is hotels and businesses will flourish. The issue of safety will [probably be better] as the city will not be desolate – with restaurants running round the clock, there will be people around. But it’s encouraging bad labour practice and people will be forced to do double shifts, that’s also bad for health. As of now, I am on the fence about the subject. We will only know if the positives will outweigh the negatives once it’s put into practice.”

Sahej Marwah, freelance writer and author

“There are both positives and negatives about Mumbai being open 24/7. I m glad it will give us more time in the day. Many of us have jobs that go on until the wee hours of morning. By the time we finish work, step out and get a social life, recreation is shut and we are left being at home. This defeats the purpose of metro city. The negatives are that at anytime of the day, traffic could be bad and get worse . Still, it’s a small price to pay for having a more open city with more opportunities and things to do.”

Kavya Srivastava, works in a financial firm, in her 30s

As a Mumbaiker, my main concern is the traffic condition. Upon hearing the news about Mumbai remaining open 24/7, the first thought that crossed my mind was: ‘Does it mean traffic will never subside, like it does now after 10pm on weekdays?’ Also, are we going to completely lose the much needed quiet and serenity the city offers during night drives? No, I am not a pessimist and I love the city but minus the traffic. I do feel the move would be nice for the economy and party-goers or students feeling hungry at night but then it’s likely to attract more job-seekers to the city, and increase the levels of stress and competition.

Sarala Rao, 72, home-maker and social worker

Sarala Rao

“I think this decision has its downsides. It may provide more distractions for youth to stay out late at night. It could have a negative impact on their studies, discipline and tempt them to spend more time in clubs and malls. The issue of safety for women, particularly working women, is also important. I think if the city does not ever get a break, it will affect the productivity of people who may be tempted to stay up late due to the many distractions. Even sectors like transport, infrastructure and civic responsibilities may be affected. Plus, many professionals and working people do enjoy a two-day week for recreation and downtime. How much more time is needed to shop and enjoy?”