Tottering road infrastructure already having caused chaos in Shimla, the governments’ love-affair with the Private Public Partnerships (PPP) for approving large commercial buildings for creating additional parking spaces in the city here is beginning to shake up as e-Commerce hits bricks and mortar built stores across the country.
Grabbing large open public spaces to build three parking-cum-shopping complexes has already broken down the two century old Cart Road at a central point in the city near the massive High Court building.
Two other PPP model parking-commercial complexes at Sanjauli and Chota Shimla are in an advanced stage of construction.
A lot of money stands invested and going by the experience of the builder cum operator of Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT), Shimla, an uncertain future awaits the commercial valuation of space being created at these parking buildings.
Constructed and operated under the PPP model, the ISBT complex is said to be running in losses but may overcome them with time.
With more and more people being gripped by online shopping, big retail and the footfall at The Mall Road show rooms has already taken a huge hit. On the other hand the eateries are booming and so are the goldsmiths.
Shop owners feeling the pinch have even held demonstrations, demanding curtailment of e-Commerce operations. Even the tax authorities are at sea as to how to deal the tax jurisdictions with a business that is carried out over courier services.
Sensing an opportunity to keep the service going, even the Indian Postal Service is planning to latch on the online shopping bandwagon that would extend the e-Commerce reach into India’s rural heartland.
As more and more technological innovations disrupt traditional business models, getting the best bang for the buck approach is creating a level playing field for smaller players by hitting many big brands.
The change is visible as signboards of shops change fast. The high end fashion retailer Hilfiger shut shop and moved on after running up huge losses in the two years it operated the retail outlet at the Mall Road here. It had displaced the very popular Brasita Coffee shop to occupy the prime space.
Kuotons, another fashion house, shut down its retail outlet after failing to make any gains by running the store for two years on The Mall.
Even the global giant Citi Bank vacated a prime commercial space after making it presence felt in the small hill city for some time. The bank had displaced a local hardware business to place its branded ATM machine at the prime spot.
Given the technology driven changing business dynamics, investors who found favour in swimming with the PPP model are a worried lot as they have banked on milking the moolah by selling or renting the commercial space in the backdrop of leaving out two or three floors for parking space in the multi-storied structures.
At Shimla, a city that is hapless as it finds its civic and public spaces eroded and encroached, the government now proposes to build 49 more parking places, with some commercial space being the bait in these structures.
The irony being that the chief minister of the state had to spare time from his busy Vidhan Sabha schedule to inspect a site where one of these parking building is coming up. The road has broken down. Two connect one half of the city with the other half by motor transport, driving time has increased by an hour’s time, which otherwise was covered in 10 minutes.
It was the British who constructed the circular Cart Road. Two hundred years later this road with a limited carrying capacity is the most critical road to carry the cities increasing traffic load.
The chief minister in a huff passed instructions to have the road up and ready in a month.
As the summer approaches, a tourist rush for the hills is expected but the drive to cooler climes of Kufri and Narkanda is not going to be without trouble this season.