Gulu Lalvani at the Royal Phuket Marina
Gulu Lalvani has founded and successfully ran Binatone, the world's second largest manufacturer of digital cordless phones, has appeared on Britain's rich list and lives a jet set life. But what the keen yachtman is most passionate about right now is his luxury marina development, a gated community with villas, seven golf course, restaurants and shops, in Phuket. The holiday hotspot - Bill Gates, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss have all visited - is state-of-the-art and, quite likely, a paradise for sailors.
Luxpresso spoke to Gulu Lalvani about his vision for the Royal Phuket Marina, sailing and his yachts.
Below are edited excerpts.
What is luxury to you?
To everyone, the idea of luxury is different. To me, luxury is a home where toy can keep your own yachts right behind… I like to come back from sailing and then park my yacht at home, and want to be able to go sailing whenever I want, with family or friends.
Why did you choose Phuket to build your marina, over other destinations in Asia, or even the world?
Boating is fairly new in Asia. It has traditionally been confined to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the US, which are the main cruising jaunts in the world. But when I went to Phuket 20 years ago, I saw such beautiful islands that were the settings of so many Hollywood movies.
Also, this is the century of Asia; the economy is down in Europe and the US, not many people are buying yachts.
Lalvani at his Phuket villa
When you started out, what was your vision for the Royal Phuket Marina?
In 1991 there were hardly any boats here; taxes were too high. A $1 million boat would cost $2 million with import duties. So I got the government to remove the import duty, bought sand banks in 2002 and began building the Royal Phuket Marina.
The idea was to create a hub for yachting in Asia, and Phuket has a lot to offer. We completed phase I in 2008 and phase II in 2010, and already have 150 yachts parked here. We hope to double that capacity by next year.
As a keen yachtman, what is your favourite sailing route?
Since the 70s I've been sailing in the US and Europe. I would visit at least three new destinations, each with the four 'S's - sun, sand, sea and good sailing conditions - every year. But Phuket is the best. It's just 2.5 hours away from Burma, very close to Malaysia and is even closer to the Andaman Island than any Indian territory. Asia has many great sailing routes; in fact there are 32 different islands near Phuket that can be explored.
Lalvani's villa has enough berths to park his five yachts
As a yacht connoisseur, can you tell us about your favourite boats?
I have five boats. Everyone has different tastes in boats, I used to like sailing boats but have speed boats now. They're between 33 ft to 80 ft and can travel at 20 knots to 80 knots. One could have bigger boats, but for week-long trips, an 80ft boat is much better.
You have lived and worked in several cities - Mumbai, Hong Kong, London, Phuket - which is your favourite?
I travel around a lot. I spend about six months in Phuket and six months between London, Hong Kong, Istanbul and Gstaad in Switzerland.
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