A flagrant style of luxury living is springing up above Bombay's densely populated slums for a select few prosperous enough to spend up to ?5 million on a designer apartment.
Developers are targeting bankers, textile manufacturers, retailers and IT entrepreneurs made rich by a surging economy to sell them their urban residential projects where sky gardens, whirlpool spas, high-speed personal lifts, fingerprint entry and Philippe Starck bathrooms are the norm.
During the next two years at least 16 luxury developments will open across the country as a standard of living once limited in Asia to financial hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore comes to India.
The country's most expensive flat, costing ?5.3 million, can be found in Bombay. Demand for quality housing in the city far outstrips supply, and Bombay is the seventh most expensive place in the world to buy an apartment, according to the Global Property Guide, despite half the 18 million population living in slums without a lavatory or running water. Thousands of construction workers bustle around the foundations of Lodha Bellissimo, a 48-storey tower overlooking the race-course. Despite being nine months from completion, nearly all the 300 homes have been sold. Abhisheck Lodha, the developer, said: "It's important for people to feel exclusive. Their address is a status symbol in their social circles. Where you live defines who you are."
Ranging from ?630,000 for a three-bedroom flat to ?2.5 million for a penthouse, the apartments have sun-decks, Italian marble floors, motion-sensor lighting, Poggenpohl kitchens and air conditioning that can be remotely controlled by mobile phone. The building further boasts a cricket pitch, valet parking, library, business centre, yoga pavilion, banquet hall and 18,000 sq metres of gardens.
"The amenities and open space are unique to Bombay," said Vijay Chandok, 39, a banker who has bought a flat in the complex. "There is a clear aspiration for such properties and that is only going to increase." As India's economy has grown at an average of 8 per cent during the past five years, so too has the pool of people able to afford a Western standard of designer living. There is not an expat in sight.
Piyush Pandey, executive chairman of Ogilvy & Mather in India, has bought a three-bedroom flat in Bellissimo for himself, his wife and their dogs. "The whole infrastructure takes you one level up in your quality of living. It's about comfortable living with like-minded people," he said.
By far the most extravagant residence in postindependence times is being built by Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries and India's richest man, who is spending $1 billion (?503 million) recreating the mythical island of Antilia in downtown Bombay. The 27-storey glass-fronted skyscraper will include three helipads, a ballroom, a 50-seat mini-theatre and four floors of gardens. It is expected to be ready in September. ( Times )