It’s all in the name, as Hari Sadans and Krishna Kunjs transform into Caesar’s Towers and Beverly Hills
Gokuldham to Greece: Tapping into the minds of builders who are picking unique names for housing projects to cater to buyer’s aspirations
The treadmill at the Evander Holyfield Gym, on which you’re jogging, faces a stunning Manhattan horizon. You gaze at the drizzle, run for longer than usual, then glance at your smartwatch, realise you’re late and rush home upstairs. Ding, sounds the elevator. You step out in a suit same as the grey outside. It’s a heavy shower now, and your chauffeur is late. You go from ‘Podium 7’ to ‘Reception’. Ding… no time to Uber either. You sprint past the big apple artwork, the landscaped pet park, out of the gate and shout ‘Madison Avenue!’ to a waiting yellow cab. Wait, you’re in a new dimension now, it’s a kaali-peeli - the driver hears it as ‘Malad Link Road,’ and refuses. Welcome to Ajmera Manhattan, a top character of the Mumbai realty multiverse.
Except for the cabbie’s refusal, all of the above is a sanitized reality on the horizon, including the gym designed by the American boxer. Ajmera are one of the many developers who have ‘changed Mumbai’s landscape’; but that is only PPT jargon. They have definitely changed Mumbai’s name-scape, and surprise, we found out they’re saying ‘You’re welcome, the customer asked for it.’
Observed recently by Twitter user Balram Vishwakarma, the contemporary avatar of Bombay’s Busybee, through a post that went viral, Mumbai’s building names have evolved from the ‘Hindu deity + home synonym’ format (Krishna Sadan, Shiv Kunj) to a ‘Builder name + Greek or European concept/Celestial body’ format. It has driven a wholly new genre too, where names are ‘first copies’ of Manhattan and Cape Town.
Booking trends show Mumbaikars lapping up pigeonholes such as Sicily in Sion or strutting with their Pradas into high-rises next to MHADA.
Let’s step back and redevelop this: From the mid-’00s, February ’05 to be precise, when CM Vilasrao Deshmukh drew a dotted line from ‘Mumbai to Shanghai’, our dreams and realities began intertwining like ginger. While roads remained potholed and air got worse, standalone buildings made way for gated skyrises with names far from being down-to-earth. We grew up from hearing stories about Tendulkar play in Sahitya Sahwas (Bandra east) to watching reels of Kohli’s car enter Omkar 1973 (Worli).
“Everyone wanted a better lifestyle for their families. Ghar khareedne wala toh mostly bahar reh kar EMIs bharta hai, but he considers ki ‘meri wife ki kitty party kahan hone wali hai?,’” explains Sanket Choughule, marketing head of Paradise Group, among the first movers in Navi Mumbai, with properties now christened ‘Sai Riverdale’ in Taloja and the upcoming ‘Cape Town’ in Upper Kharghar. The realtor’s ‘boomer’ properties bear names such as Samarth, Ganga and Sitara – but an epiphany at a property exhibition made the founder’s son and MD Manish Bhatija engineer a thought. “We had a Bali themed installation… complete with water bodies and floating gazebos. He wondered why not think big for themed constructions?” Choughule recalls. Among Paradise’s proud constructions now is Sai World City (Panvel), themed after six eras from Caesar to Charles, flaunting Egyptian themed spas and a colosseum styled amphitheatre. In its mission of targeting ‘first-time buyers with affordable homes’, Paradise is also in Dombivli, promising a Dubai lifestyle where residents can ‘walk from their home to the mall.’
In a nearby dimension, big daddies in the premium category, location notwithstanding, have named their properties Aden, Erika and Cleon (Rustomjee), Valletta and Artesia (Raheja); and Enigma, Beverly Hills - Lokhandwala and Mulund (Ajmera). “We were clear that we wanted to connect with nuclear families – particularly professionals like bankers. We wondered how we could match up to the real Manhattan,” explains Bhavesh Joshi, deputy GM (sales and marketing) at Ajmera. 300 out of 444 units at Manhattan are booked.
There may be a secret sauce here, points out Amit Tandon, a stand-up comedian who in 2018 upgraded from Kalpataru Pinnacle (Goregaon west) to Lodha Fiorenza (Goregaon east). “The name has to be a word that people don’t know the meaning of… like ‘Belvedere’. We are happy to pay 20 per cent extra for an English name,” he smiles.
In the luxury segment, there is also a hint of subtlety (some of Godrej’s properties are named The Trees, Nest, Five Gardens and Alive), and there is another with names such as Kanakia Paris (BKC), which Tandon calls ‘audacious and desperate.’ In 2016, Kanakia, the makers of Wall Street (Andheri) and Silicon Valley (Powai), went all out in their sales pitch for Paris by flying in legendary French footballer Zinedine Zidane in what was his maiden trip to India. Kanakia’s Paris, with its cafes, walkways and a 30-feet iron replica of the Eiffel Tower, has been sold out. Whether its Gen Zs still watch Gokuldham society of ‘Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah’ or its ladies have baguettes at kitty parties remains to be probed.
Let’s get real, the name can’t ever be the deal-clincher for us, that importance is reserved for more critical aspects such as vastu compliance or proximity to a Jain temple. Tandon reinforces the realtors’ insight, that buying a home isn’t a solo decision now; the buyer considers her/ his seniors, play areas and amenities. Choughule of Paradise succinctly captures the EMI payer’s mindset -- “If he knows his family is happy back home, he feels good about it!” He says, Kalyan and Ulhasnagar residents want to stay rooted there, but demand better lifestyle. Hence, the builders oblige by bringing the world to their doorstep. “They have money!”
And this money is fuelling realtors’ visions ranging from practical to whimsical. Wadala’s Manhattan has involved architect Hafeez Contractor to design its spaces. “Today, the focus is on efficiency, planning, construction and timing but that does not mean buildings have to be not good-looking,” Contractor says in a promotional video, which ends with Dhaval Ajmera, director, suggesting “Next time, anyone asks where do you stay in Mumbai, just say ‘Manhattan!’”
In this luxury sector, even the ground floor shops are cherry-picked. Viceroy Savana (Kandivali) has retailers such as Blue Tokai, CaratLane and Bombay Gourmet, its outdoor premises resembling a hipster’s Insta feed. “Our aim was for the commercial premises to provide a comparable brand commitment to delivering a high-end and lavish lifestyle experience,” Cyrus Mody, founder and managing partner of Viceroy Savana, says.
The only people who’d frown on this trend are food delivery executives who navigate traffic, rains, security protocols and in some skyrises, take the uncool elevator labelled ‘For delivery boys and maids’ to the 32nd floor to hand over a cupcake.
Sorry for the trouble folks, in new India’s ulti-verse, we build a new parliament building while battling two waves of a deadly pandemic. Next on the agenda, Agra’s mausoleum could be redeveloped and rebranded ‘Tejo Mahal, by Shah Group.’