Paying millions to become No 1 in Chandigarh
It might take a lot to be No 1 in any sphere, but the Punjabi spirit of making it to the top by all means - including paying millions of rupees - is showing at least in getting the number '1' on their luxury vehicles.
Chandigarh resident Narinder Singh Shergill is the first one in the region to break the Rs 1 million (Rs 10 lakh) barrier to get the vehicle registration number of his choice - 0001.
Shergill's adventure in picking up the expensive number at an auction in Chandigarh last week - which cost him half the price of the Toyota Fortuner SUV that he recently bought for around Rs 2 million - may have earned him a few angry words from his wife but the proud owner of the number, CH-01AC-0001, has no regrets for paying a high price for the number.
"My wife did get angry when I went home after buying the number at the auction. I always wanted that number and for something that you really desire, the price does not remain important," said Shergill, who is an agriculturist now dealing in real estate.
"I was shocked initially when I learnt that he (Shergill) had bought the 0001 number at such a high cost. At this price, we could have bought another luxury car or two mid-segment cars," wife Jaskaran Kaur said.
Shergill had recently received compensation running into nearly Rs 20 million (Rs 2 crore) for a prime piece of land, 20 km from here in Punjab, which the government acquired for expansion of a national highway.
Shergill is certainly not the only one chasing 'VIP' numbers for high prices.
In recent years, nearly half a dozen people have paid up to half a million rupees to pick up the '0001' series number.
In Punjab's Jalandhar city, 150 km from here, a Delhi-based businessman, Pravin Chaudhary, bought the '0001' series number for his luxury Rs 20 million Bentley car for a whopping Rs 725,000 in August 2008.
The non-resident Indian (NRI) owner of a C-class Mercedes bought a VIP number - CH-04-0001 - for that price in April 2007. NRI from Britain, Santokh Singh, was able to get the better of nine other bidders as they tried their best to get the '0001' number in the newly launched series for Chandigarh.
The reserve price for the number was Rs 25,000. Any number of choice comes for a reserve price of Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 if it does not have more than one bidder.
"Earlier only influential people used to get hold of VIP numbers. Now, if you have the money and the intention, it's yours for the taking," said businessman Vikram Singh.
The craze for VIP numbers has been quite evident in the last 5-6 years when the open auctioning of these registration numbers started in Chandigarh.
The highest-ever bid made for any number was Rs.505,000 two years ago for the CH-03-U-0001 series.
The registration and licencing authority (RLA) here has been generating a lot of revenue - running into a few millions - for the government though 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 1.1 million, there are over 650,000 registered vehicles.
However, the VIP numbers do not always fetch such high stakes.
In a previous registration series launched for Chandigarh (CH-03-Z-0001), the number went for just Rs 85,000 as there were not too many bidders for the last alphabet (Z) of the 'CH-03' series.