If you love speed and you live in India, there’s little you can do on its crowded roads.
So, the rich have found a way around this challenge; they’ve taken to the water. It’s the new craze – zip away from the madding crowd in a glittering yacht, complete with all the luxuries.
This new passion is what makes much-anticipated events like the second International Boat Exhibition, to be held in Mumbai from the 28th of this month, all sold out affairs. It’s a chance for manufacturers of leading brands to showcase their top-of-the line products, which, needless to add, fetch astronomical prices. It’s only the second year for this exhibition, but, apparently, a whopping $100 million has already been spent, between last year and now, by the rich and famous on buying the latest floating objects-of-desire.
The change that’s taken place is interesting. Yachts were once seen as playthings meant only for likes of Vijay Mallya - popularly known as India’s Richard Branson – who owns, among others, the Indian Empress, a boat costing over a $100 million. Smaller version of this wonder are now being bought by the “common” people. That’s common, of course, compared to Mr. Mallya, but still filthy rich. To reach as many customers as possible, the boat exhibition offerings start at a few thousand dollars, going up to millions.
This is why yacht clubs are said to be the next big thing in India. The country, being a peninsula, has over four thousand miles of coastline just waiting to be explored by avid holiday goers – well-off Indians who are looking for new ways to de-stress, live it up, and spend their money.
To add to this, this year the Volvo Ocean Race (once known as the Whitbread Round the World race and co-sponsored by the British Royal Navy Sailing Association) has included Kochi – a pretty city in the picturesque South Indian state of Kerala – as one of its stopovers. It’s considered a matter of pride, since this high-profile race, held every four years, is popularly seen as the one of the ultimate sailing events. And its stop in India – a first – is bound to fuel further interest in Indian sailing.
What is needed now is infrastructure, particularly marinas. Right now you could own a million dollar boat, but you’d still have to hop your way to it. As with much of the country, finding a place to put things – cars, people, houses – is an issue. It may be a recent craze but there are already too many boats and not enough parking spaces, especially in Mumbai.
That will change soon, as a number of marinas are slated to be built over the next few years.
So, while the roads are too crowded to zip about – even for those who own Audis or Porches- Indian waters are still largely unexplored. For now.