12 May 2008

Bihar getting malls & multiplexes: Thanks to Prakash Jha's firm

Bihar getting malls & multiplexes: Thanks to Prakash Jha's firm

This is retail in 70mm. Stars may wear IPL stripes, but the director’s cut rules supreme in hinterland retailing. Simply put, Prakash Jha, the maker of films such as Hip- Hip Hurray, Gangajal and Apaharan, has sniffed an opportunity far away from the strobes of Bollywood — in Bihar , euphemistically dubbed the heart of darkness . At 54, the film-maker is changing the face of Bihar by setting up agri-malls in each of the state’s districts replete with multiplexes and education hubs for farmers. Besides, the multiple national award winner is busy setting up hotels in Bihar and Jharkhand, the first sugar factory in the state after Independence, and an institute in Patna to spawn and source mall management talent — all for about Rs 1,100 crore. As foreign investors are queuing up to garner stake in Jha’s infrastructure company, brands like Big Bazaar, Adlabs, Raymond’s and Siyaram have already expressed venture tie-up interest.

If all goes according to plan, 30 mall-cummultiplex-cum-coaching centers will crop up in as many districts of the state and neighbouring Jharkhand. Twelve of them are ready to roll, and construction work is on at other sites — Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Patna, Hajipur and Darbhanga. “Most of the metro retail space is getting saturated and with growing thrust in Tier II and III towns, Jha’s projects are cost-effective .

If it costs Rs 800 crore to set up a mall in Mumbai , he’s setting up 30 malls at the same cost in Bihar,” says Bapaditya Basu, associate director of Jones Lang Lasalle Meghraj, realty and retail consultants to Jha’s project company.

Prakash Jha, along with log-time associate Manmohan Shetty, has founded P&M Infrastructure , where both are investors in a team of five. “An Irish realty firm has expressed the desire to pick up 40% stake in our company, and we're waiting for FIPB clearances,” informs Jha. According to Jha, the valuation of his mall projects alone stood at Rs 200 crore six months back, which has risen three times as of today.

It augurs well for a film-maker like Jha, who already possesses a production and distribution arm, to set up cineplexes. “That’ll complete the troika in movie-making , with production, distribution and exhibition from the same studio,” claims Jha, seconding a trend that is becoming rampant nowadays, a la Adlabs or PVR. “We will have 100 screens in Bihar and Jharkhand in 2-3 years, and the tickets would vend at Rs 30-40 a pop,”

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