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Finding Manhattan on India’s real estate map

As buyers rush to book new luxury flats before ground has even broken, developers must acquire land and churn out projects, reports Aruna Viswanatha.
By Aruna Viswanatha, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2008 02:24 AM IST

In the US, the trip might take more than a day, but in Bangalore, anyone can hop from Tribeca to Brooklyn, stop off at the White House, and head out to Melrose in a few minutes. The miraculous journey unfolds in a new housing development in Bangalore’s Electronic City named ‘Concorde Manhattans’, which sits on prime real estate across from a Wipro campus.

While location is the major draw, developer Concorde Group is also betting that its American naming scheme will help attract Wipro’s globetrotting employees. “Manhattans is a brand associated with grandeur,” said the company’s marketing manager Alok Mishra. Turns out, naming each street and section of the gated community was also an exercise in workplace bonding. “We searched the Net, and everybody gave one name,” said the company’s human resource executive Gangadhar Gowda.

As buyers in India rush to book new luxury flats before ground has even broken — with prices topping Rs 45,000 per square foot — developers must do more than acquire land and churn out projects: They must generate names by the dozen.

Observers of high-rises increasingly gracing the outskirts of cities note that the names tend to be of faraway places or concepts that conjure up images of gardens and greens, luxury and exclusivity. Developers describe the process of naming as largely random, turning to the Internet for inspiration or even their own mothers. But as they jockey to distinguish themselves from the cookie-cutter feel of developments and largely similar floor plans, some are finding the need to brand projects better, starting with the name.

“Many people go with English because they are more aspirational,” said Jagdeep Kapoor, managing director at Samiska Marketing Consultants, as he explains the phenomenon. “If they can’t pronounce it, then it’s very aspirational.”

Gurgaon is filled with such aspirational places. In DLF City, Phase 5, developments such as Wellington Estate, Princeton Estate and Carleton Estate overlook a landscape that is still defined mostly by construction and open dirt fields. The residents, though, aren’t quite sure what to make of the name.

When BK Sharma first moved to the complex, he was dead-set against the name. “I had a big discussion with my brother,” said Sharma, a retired railways officer. “Our childhood has passed in total Indian culture, but the name seems to indicate that we are living in an alien area.”
A DLF spokesman declined to go into the details of how the company named its projects, but did say that it was largely an ad hoc process. “Someone goes abroad and sees a name they like,” he said, “then they choose it.” “Most people do not think so deeply when they design the name,” said Sunit Sachar, who heads Parsvnath Developers Ltd’s Uttar Pradesh operations. “They just put in some good sounding names which had not been used earlier.” Parsvnath went with Green Ville for one Gurgaon development because the project ground was originally inhabited by greenery.

Emphasis on finding the right name is a relatively new phenomenon for most developers. “Now, most developers are focused on land and brand building, because a brand appreciates more than land,” said Kapoor. In the end, brokers don’t think names play a big role in the buyer’s psyche. “Property prices and sales are driven by location to such a large extent,” said Danish Farook, a Bangalore-based broker with Silverline Realty Pvt Ltd. “Name often becomes an insignificant aspect of the decision to buy.”

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