[MONEY POWER]

EDITORIAL

STREET SMART
The market’s incessant rise has encouraged companies to raise funds from the public

A CHECK ON PAY
Who got the biggest raises? Which company was most generous?

SHAKERS BUT NOT MARKET MOVERS
The ones who did not have to tap the market to get the numbers

BILLIONAIRE CLUB
A definitive list of India Inc’s richest

HIGHEST PAY PACKETS
List of the best paymasters

METHODOLOGY AND INDEX
How we estimated wealth and earnings of billionaires

BILLIONAIRE CLUB 2006
BILLIONAIRE CLUB 2005

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Urge to splurge

Have money, will spend seems to be the motto of the elite. Arati Menon Carroll narrates this tale of yachts, paintings, cars...

Vijay MallyaBy now we all know India Inc’s appetite for acquisition. In just the first four months of 2007, merger and acquisition agreements worth $43 billion were signed by Indian companies, according to a joint study by consultancy firm A T Kearney and Knowledge@Wharton, a steep spike from the $28 billion-worth deal that were signed by Indian companies in 2006.

India is today home to Asia’s biggest playground of billionaires. The latest Forbes list of global billionaires throws up as many as 36 Indian names in this cosy league of the world's wealthiest, replacing Japan as Asia’s top breeding ground for the super-rich. This is 14 more than the number of Indians who had made it to the Forbes list last year.

And billionaires, it turns out, are big spenders. The Indian market’s propensity to consume luxury just keeps growing and those brands that missed out on the first wave of establishing themselves in the market are now fighting over the mindshare and wishlists of India’s super rich. Gucci, that debuted in India (Mumbai) last month, already reports waiting lists for some of their merchandise.

“Corporate honchos come in and buy three or four Gucci loafers (approximately Rs 20,000 each) at a time,” says a source. As Tikka Shatrujit Singh, Louis Vuitton’s Indian advisor puts it , “Luxury is no longer a dirty word.” The Bvlgari showroom has already more than doubled its space in New Delhi, Ferragamo launches next and red carpet brands are taking trunk shows to Chandigarh and Ludhiana to chase the big spenders.

But while the spending is unabashed, the flaunting of it is still reluctant. Some extravagances are easier to hide than others. A purchase of a limited edition Louis Vuitton Suhali handbag can go unnoticed, but when you’re spending upwards of $2 million on a yacht or Rs 1.5 crore on a Lamborghini, it’s a little harder to conceal. Unconfirmed reports have it that Rajeev Chandrashekhar attempted to disguise a red Ferrari 575 M as a taxi in Thiruvananthapuram until he was forced to accept its inherent inconspicuity.

A Gulf Craft Majesty 66’ yacht, bobbing in the waters off the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, is a nifty plaything to have. The owner, a young player in the Indian financial services sector (A little birdie says it might be Indiabulls CEO Sameer Gehlaut), remains conspicuously absent.

She is 20 metres long from stem to stern, and will ply you down the coast to Goa if you have Rs 12,000 to spend on fuel bills by the hour. “How ironic that something so boastful cannot be shown off,” Erwin Bamps, a senior executive with Gulf Craft, the yacht’s manufacturer, had commented on a recent marketing jaunt to India.

At Mumbai’s first international boat show, the potential trigger to jump-starting the country’s marine industry and the city’s waterfront, an estimated Rs 40 crore exchanged hands. Saurashtra Cement’s Jai Mehta was seen evincing interest in a 72-feet Sunseeker.

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Business Standard December 2007