A whopping Rs 480,000 might seem like the price of a mid-segment car on the Indian road. But that was the money shelled out for a VIP number plate - CH 04 0001 - in Chandigarh!
Non-Resident Indian (NRI) from Britain Santokh Singh secured the number for his C-class Mercedes. He was able to get the better of nine other bidders as they tried their best to get the VIP 0001 number in the newly launched series for the city last week.
The reserve price for the number was Rs 25,000.
The craze for VIP numbers has been quite evident in the last five or six years when open auctioning of these registration numbers started in this city.
The highest bid made for any number was Rs 505,000 two years ago for the CH 03-U-0001 series.
"The trend of bidding for numbers is catching on and people have the money to blow up for numbers. Earlier only VIPs like politicians and bureaucrats had access to single digit VIP numbers. Now, anyone can buy it," says entrepreneur Sandeep Brar.
The next number in the latest series - CH-04 0002 - sold for only Rs 75,000 while CH-04-0007 sold for Rs 175,000.
The last number in this series - CH-04 9999 - fetched Rs 33,000. Other numbers sold between Rs 5,000 and Rs 120,000.
The reserve price for preferential numbers varies from Rs 5,000 to 15,000.
The registration and licensing authority (RLA) here has been generating a lot of revenue - running into a few millions - for the government through the sale of numbers.
Chandigarh has the distinction of having one of the highest densities of motor vehicles in the country. For a population of just over one million, there are over 550,000 registered vehicles.
However, the VIP numbers do not always fetch such high stakes.
In the previous registration series launched for Chandigarh (CH-03-Z 0001), the starting number went for just Rs 85,000.
"People sometimes wait for a new series to get their car registration number. The fad is quite common in Chandigarh and neighbouring Punjab and Haryana," a dealer in Ford cars told.
Besides VIP and preferential numbers - like 1111, 0555 - the number 0786, which is considered auspicious for Muslims, also sell at a premium.