At your service trends

Updated on Aug 25, 2007 04:01 PM IST

You have the money, but not the time to get Gordon Ramsay to cook you a meal? Maybe what you need is a luxury concierge.

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None | BySeema Sreedharan, Mumbai

It is not easy as it used to be to stay ahead of the masses. Today, exclusive translates to flying a Su Misura expert from Ermenegildo Zegna, India to India to tailor your suit. A vacation translates into taking a deep flight aviator pilot training in the Caribbean.

Or buying a car means a lunch with the president of BMW and a test drive on the company's secret test track. A new breed of luxury concierges can do this and more for you, at a nominal fee ($25,000/ Rs 10 lakh) and a single call.

"Money and access are not an issue with Mint Lifestyle clients," says Eric Merchant of Los Angeles-based luxury travel and concierge service.

"They don't come to us for reservations at their neighbourhood restaurant. They come to us wanting reservations at the top restaurant in Barcelona - at places they've never been or aren't aware of. The rich are looking for a level of access that's truly unique and memorable, or what is above and beyond what they could arrange for themselves.

"Typically, it's about the client getting to a place or staying there. They've done it all," says Merchant. "They've stayed at the Four Seasons. They've stayed at the Ritz."

Mint Lifestyles has only 120 members at a time. "This allows us to maintain the exclusivity of our services," says Merchant adding that of the 120 there are several Indians too. "It's a global network, but not anyone who has the money can be a member. The membership is by invitation only. The services - read exclusive hotel bookings, private dining with celebrity chefs, privilege tickets celebrity events - comes to you at a membership fee of $25,000 (Rs 10 lakh) per year.

The service that has received the most media attention so far is London-based Quintessentially, largely because one of its founders is movie star Ben Elliot, whose aunt just happens to be Camilla Parker-Bowles.

"Yes, we can charter yachts and jets, but we can also find you the best tea in town for ten bucks. We do not try to offer the most expensive, but the very best," says Clementine Brown of Quintessentially. Brown counts not only corporate CEOs, but also independent businessmen, film producers, architects, hedge-fund managers and even housewives as clients.

"We've handled some really outlandish requests - like tracking down a bottle of the purest mineral water or getting a very well known football player for a child's birthday party. There are three different levels of membership - the General at £750 (Rs 61,560), the Dedicated at £2,500 (Rs 2 lakh) year and the Elite from £10,000 (Rs 8 lakh) to £24,000 (Rs 20 lakh) per annum."
Incidentally Quintessentially is also planning to start its India chapter by the end of this year.

Closer home, it's Deepali Sikand's Les Concierges that's making waves. Sikand promises discretion to her clients, so she will not name the person whose request left her speechless. But the founder of Bangalore-based Le Concierges is willing to reveal the outlandish requests she keeps receiving as part of her job.

"My client had just gotten engaged and he wanted to make his fiancée happy, so he wanted us to make life size chocolate replica of him and his fiancee. I don't know who ate whom, but we sure got it done," she quips.

Les Concierges has fulfilled some challenging requests over the last four years - flying a famous bespoke tailor from Hong Kong to India for a client, a tour of Hitler's headquarters and an opportunity to play polo with a Maharaja. So, next time you feel like a caviar facial at midnight, you know whom to call. You may actually get your wish fulfilled...but remember the membership fee.

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