Sunday, September 06, 2009

Over-the-top and loving it

Over-the-top and loving it

Bangalore sure is flaunting its affluent tag. Nidhi Bhushan and Shilpa CB find out what it's doing with its money

Nidhi Bhushan and Shilpa CB



A new definition for the rich is emerging. According to this one, it's not those trying to keep up with the Joneses. They're just average Joes. The new rich, a new Nielsen survey says, are the "0.1 million of the households in the affluent pie, all of which are the proud owners of a car, a computer, an LCD, and also a holiday abroad." Interestingly, Bangalore finished second among 35 Indian cities in the Nielsen Upper Middle and Rich (UMAR) poll. So what sets Bangaloreans apart from the rest?
"The affluent in Bangalore indulge in a lot more lifestyle activities than those in Delhi. For instance, the percentage of people who visit gyms was much higher in Bangalore than in Delhi. Similar results were seen for fine dining (92% vs 87%), going on vacation (92% vs 83%). They also eat out more often, shop more often and spend on electronic appliances, books, toys than their counterparts in Delhi," says Vatsala Pant of Nielsen.
True, Bangaloreans are booing in the face of recession and splurging on premium brands, spacious gyms located in posh locations, high-end cars and accessories, gourmet meals and exotic wine. And it's not making a dent on their spending. Shadab Hussain upgraded his gym membership two months ago — this one is roomier, has better ambience and is closer to his workplace than the one he frequented earlier. "You earn more, you conquer more," is his motto.
John Ramesh has risen to the position of business manager with a software consulting firm from earning a salary of a couple of hundreds per month. He doesn't consider the material comforts he enjoys as luxuries. "They're necessities," he says, sitting in his plush fourth floor apartment. From Rs250 a month 14 years ago, Ramesh has now gone to earning over Rs15 lakh a year. His lifestyle too has seen the dramatic change that his bank balance has.
Tara Manju has just returned from a 20-day holiday in Australia and New Zealand with family and owes it to her proactive approach to enhancing their lifestyle. "The upper class people are aware of opportunities. They aggressively working towards bettering themselves," says the housewife.
A holiday is a necessity, more than a luxury. "Decades ago, people would go on long trips outside the country — it was their way of spending time with family and holidaying abroad. Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and recently Sri Lanka and Spain are the hottest spots for enthusiastic Bangaloreans," says Ashwin Narayanan, VP-sales and marketing, Travel Tours.
Supriya Kandhari, MD of Chrysalis Holidays, says: "Today, people don't think twice before spending on cruises and adventure trips." S Sripathy, 45, spends at least a week or two every year in travel. He says: "I've been exploring Russia and the Mediterranean cruises in my last few trips." And then there's Sudhanshu Pandit who has seen South Africa, Europe, Australia, USA, and more. An adventurist at heart, Pandit says: "Money is no big deal".

No sweat here
"We have people from all groups enrolling in our gyms daily. From 15-year-olds to 65-year-olds, the need to stay fit is spreading like wild fire in a forest," says Jyotsna Mogalapalli, director, Fitness One, Sadashivanagar. This, she says, is a trend that has picked up in the last three years. Gymming is a stress buster and one of the main reasons people with high incomes make it a priority, she explains.
Rupa Patil has been a regular at Fitness One for the past year and a half and feels incomplete without exercising daily. She says: "I decided to make my workout more disciplined. So I joined a high-end gym close to my office. Moreover, I want to age as gracefully as I can."
Fine dining capital
Bangaloreans exercise. But they love their food too, especially when served in style. Over 15 fine-dining restaurants have launched in the city in the past one year and more are coming. "We launched Caperberry at a time when the market didn't look too great, but we're more than happy we took the plunge. Fine-dining has become a lifestyle statement," says Abhijit Saha, part-owner of Caperberry. The market for fine-dining has matured substantially.
Another restaurateur who made his mark by introducing a fine-dining restaurant three years ago is Vijay Abhimanyu, managing director, Billion Smiles Hospitality Private Ltd. He says: "We took a big risk by opening a fine-dining place for South Indian food as it is the staple food of Bangaloreans. But, to our surprise, it worked. Today, we own three restaurants — two branches of South Indies and one Bon South. It's evident that the fine-dining culture is at its peak in the city. People go out to enjoy what they can easily make at home too," he adds. So, who's not hungry for more?

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