When Rajesh Siddhi, Bhaskar Dhungana and Nakim Uddin (pic, left to right) revamped and launched the standalone movie theatre QFX Jai Nepal in Kathmandu over a decade ago, little did they envision that they would one day go so far as to build a mall. Years of experience, knowledge of the market and the added challenge of introducing something unique to the retail scene in Nepal compelled the trio to try their hand at mall development.
“People want a complete lifestyle experience. Eating, shopping, entertainment — all these go hand in hand. That’s why our mall is designed to emulate an ecosystem,” said Bhaskar Dhungana, one of the owners of Team Quest, the company that built LABIM mall after acquiring Lalitpur Bishal Bazar, a previously desolate mall in Pulchok.
Spread over 200,000 square feet in the heart of Lalitpur city, LABIM epitomises the sophistication of a modern-day mall with its blend of contemporary and classic architecture, open spaces and a huge gleaming sun roof.
“We want to create an ambience where people, even from outside Patan, will make the effort to come. Our goal is that LABIM becomes a destination,” said Rajesh Siddhi.
To cater to the needs and desires of urbane consumers, the four-storey complex boasts a wide array of well-curated and sought-after brands — North Face, Timberland, US Polo, Converse, Lego are all instantly recognisable — along with a make-up salon and electronics stores. Roadhouse, Dalle Momo and Crema Cafe are among the restaurants stationed on the second floor, while kiosks for eateries like Himalayan Java and Bajeko Sekuwa populate the open area on the ground floor. QFX cinemas, with three theatres with silver screens, 4K projectors and an average seating capacity of 180 each, draw crowds to the topmost floor.
“We hand-picked all the tenants, and took great care in terms of strategic placement in all aspects,” said Nakim Uddin, who emphasised the importance of having the right tenant mix to ensure success. “All lots have been rented out.”
“We have tried to encapsulate the feel of the streets of Durbar Marg with an open mall concept. People should feel they are strolling on the streets rather than inside a mall,” explained Grihendra Munankarmi who oversees marketing and sales at Team Quest.
This atmosphere is enhanced through the airy contours of the structure and natural light filtering through the sun roof. Besides being a practical and cost-saving innovation, the design also takes into account how city dwellers value outdoor rather than enclosed spaces.
Despite added costs due to the earthquake and blockade, and the likelihood that it will take some years to break even, the developers are hopeful for LABIM’s future. “We don’t necessarily need to be conservative, sometimes new schemes do work,” said Siddhi.
In fact, almost a month-and-a-half after its opening, things are already looking up. Uddin claims that customer response has been positive and the mall is garnering popularity. However, far from being complacent, the proprietors intend to introduce various events to ensure customer engagement throughout the year.
Said Dhungana: “The priority is to keep interest alive. Fresh ideas are a must, and we plan to constantly present novel attractions and happenings in LABIM mall.”
Mall-mandu,, Subeksha Poudel