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Friday, April 23, 2021

India’s Forgotten Hot Spot: Hyderabad

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Victoria Mills is looking like a fine-dining temple. In the center of the room, dancing spiders crisscross the room and melt in the LED lights. No sooner are they extinguished than a second gremlin is fixed in place and rises again. Around the globe, political leaders and neighborhood beautifiers have begged the world’s retailers to pay attention to their countries. None are allowed the room Victoria has given her.

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By all accounts, Victoria Mills, a 36-year-old former government administrator living in the largely Hindu state of Andhra Pradesh, should be obsessed with modernizing rural India. In late 2009, a newspaper reported that the half-built complex of spires and high rises was 30 percent completed and well over its budget of 35 billion rupees (about $600 million). The construction, a major regional power grab from the neighboring city of Secunderabad, is especially interesting in the context of India’s wooing of foreign retailers.

The project is part of a $51 billion international retail circuit centered on Hyderabad, that’s often compared to New York’s so-called East Side Story, but backed by none of the retail titans who dotted New York’s former bedrock. Notably, in July, Macy’s Department Store Co. Inc. decided not to lease the building at 500 Congress, Mr. Mills’s 3.5 million-square-foot luxury shopping complex on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

India may rank near the bottom of cities in the World Bank’s retail rankings, but that’s not stopping some of the nation’s best minds from pitching the nation’s booming capital, an agrarian state where most young people can barely afford newspapers. The Economic Times, an influential newspaper, has flown Ralph Lauren Corp.’s chairman, James D. Davis, to Hyderabad to promote his company’s Tuscany line, calling it the safest, “least stressful” garment fabric in the world.

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Mr. Davis, like Mr. Mills, is from Hyderabad. And he also has a side gig: The Ashok Leyland Group, the largest tractor and auto-parts manufacturer in India, announced an investment of at least $300 million at its 74-acre Hyderabad campus to create a new apparel design hub.

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