Image via Vogue
Neeti Singhi, a 33-year-old homemaker from Mumbai, is in a bit of a spot. Her eight-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, who study in different schools, have different academic calendars and not a single day of their summer vacation is overlapping. A common problem, perhaps. Yet Singhi, who has worked as a lawyer, and whose husband, Abheek, is a partner in an international management consultant firm, has a clear advantage. The resident of Lodha Bellissimo, a luxury apartment complex in Mumbai's Lower Parel, has taken the help of Tanmay Panchbhay, an employee of global concierge service, Quintessentially, to make sure her children remain occupied during the summer.
The UK-based concierge firm has tied up with the real estate developers, Lodha Group, to offer residents an array of free services for a year. Started in 2000 by entrepreneurs Ben Elliot (the nephew of Duchess of Cornwall and wife of Prince Charles, Camilla), Aaron Simpson and Paul Drummond, Quintessentially charges members anywhere between £1,000 (approx Rs 85,000) and £38,000 (approx Rs 32 lakh) annually.
"My brief was specific - I wanted theatre workshops during weekday mornings and environment preservation workshops, over the weekends. Tanmay took 24 hours and got back with a list of 20 options," says Singhi, who has enrolled her kids in workshops at the National Centre for the Performing Arts.
"Tanmay told me, 'We can help you with pretty much anything you can imagine,'" says Singhi, who is looking forward to Panchbhay's suggestions for her son's upcoming trip to London to visit the Harry Potter museum. She's hoping he would come up with something that even an Internet search may not throw up. "I may have the money to spend on an exclusive concert, but not the bandwidth to procure the tickets. That's where a concierge service would help," she says.
Pools and Gyms Are Passé
For residents like the Singhis, this is a step up from a lifestyle they have already been exposed to. With club-houses, restaurants, swimming pools and gymnasiums, already common features in luxury apartment complexes, it is only expected for developers to come up with another definition of living in luxury.
In the intensely competitive market of real estate development, this is happening through the increasing customisation of services offered to residents. Several developers, including Mumbai-based Sunteck Realty, and New Delhi-based DLF and M3M offer everything, from conventional house-keeping duties to highly personalised deals, by tying up with concierge services whose business it is, for instance, to fly in a packet of macaroons from Dubai every Sunday and guarantee access to a by-invitation-only charity event of a celebrity performer.
In March, Sunteck signed on Vertu Concierge - the services arm of bejewelled cellphone makers - to offer Signature Concierge Services to residents of their upcoming apartments in Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai's most expensive real estate land after South Mumbai.
M3M Group is developing polo and golf suites in Gurgaon, and is in talks with US-based JNB Group to develop service residences, where concierge services will be offered in different price packages - much like your monthly mobile plan.
The market is ready for luxury concierge services in India, says Sunteck chairman Kamal Khetan, but the beneficiaries are clearly demarcated - those who can spend between Rs18 and Rs 20 crore on an apartment. The lucky few will be given a Vertu mobile handset (itself worth over Rs 29 lakh) free to directly access the concierge.
The economic recession seems to have done little to stop the rich from spending. The difference is that the loaded are putting their money on demands that tickle their imagination and pose a serious challenge for the concierge.
Impossible Is Nothing
A few instances of the remarkable demands of the monied, and how they were met: A Mumbai client gets a packet of macaroons delivered to her home every Sunday. She is particular about the brand, and the time it reaches her, too. After arriving in London for his father's OBE ceremony, a client discovered that he had not packed the trousers he was going to wear to the event.
The concierge service found and delivered the perfect pair of black pinstripe trousers to his suite at 3 am. A client's teenage daughter watched a Richard Gere film, Hachiko: A Dog's Tale, and asked the concierge to send her two pups of the same breed as the dog in the film. The Akita pups were flown in to Mumbai from Tokyo within days. A client couldn't find a pair of red shoes of a famous luxury brand in her size. The concierge called the handful of stores that stocked the brand and persuaded the staff of the brand's headquarters to search their own stock room. The following day, a courier arrived at the client's home, carrying the shoes, size 3½.
Author: Dhamini Ratnam
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