Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dreams of a good life

Golf Course Road in Gurgaon symbolises smart new India like almost everything does in this Haryana boom-town. Swish, glass-cladded IT, ITeS offices; big, and bigger, malls; and a series of premium, gated residential complexes along the broad, dusty avenues here — DLF BelAir, Parsvanath PrideAsia, EmaarMGF’s Palm Springs, etcetera, etcetera. It is thus only fitting that something called “Street of Dreams” should be located along this road.

No, don’t get taken in by the evocative name. “Street of Dreams” is only the name real-estate developer Emaar MGF has given to its latest marketing gambit.

Most developers come up with model flats to show buyers and potential customers what they can expect if they invest in one of their projects. Generally, one apartment in a still incomplete block is readied first, and done up. The Street of Dreams is, more or less, the same thing — only on a bigger, grander scale.

For one, it’s the first thing the developer has got off the ground. The Palm Springs, the first project Emaar MGF announced in Gurgaon a year ago, is barely come up to plinth level, while The Palm Drive in Sector 66 was launched in the market only last month. So the Street of Dreams is far more than such things are for other developers — a marketing exercise, an opportunity to afford customers some amount of “touch and feel” while they go shopping for a home in Gurgaon. “It’s like test-driving a car before you buy one,” says William R Rattazzi, CEO, Emaar MGF.

Continuing with the auto metaphor, buyers have a number of models to choose from. They can choose between a premium /luxury villa (priced Rs 3 crore and up) in the Spanish, Mediterranean or Emirates architectural styles.

It’s like going into a mall and choosing between a round-necked T-shirt or a V-necked one — the basics of both are the same, only the styling is different. So, the Spanish villa has a tiled roof, a profusion of wrought-iron railings, round columns, while the Mediterranean has a flat roof, verandahs and square columns.

The concept, points out Rattazzi, originated in the US where model complexes are quite the norm. In India, of course, the Street of Dreams is a first, replicated along the lines of a concept that Emaar launched in Dubai in 2004 and which soon became a destination, with thousands of people trooping in to take a peep at its nine different model homes.

It has been used, albeit selectively, for promotional activities by other companies — Intel used it to demonstrate its range of computers which integrate audio, video and other digital capabilities for domestic use. Of course, it is too early to say whether such things will be attempted at Street of Dreams in India too, but Rattazzi says it is under “consideration”.

New or not, Street of Dreams has caught the fancy of those looking to buy a home in Gurgaon. Every few minutes, a couple alights from a car at the inviting open gates and walks in, with measured steps, to be greeted deferentially by the sales staff and taken over the place. It’s testimony as much to the hype around Gurgaon, investing in real-estate (even though the returns aren’t as good now as they were two years ago) as it is to the success of Emaar MGF’s marketing.

And people are coming in not just from Delhi. There’s Vikram Chopra, who came across advertisements in Dehradun, where he lives and trades in the share market, and decided to check it out while visiting his friend in the capital.

He seems reasonably impressed with what he’s seen, as do most others, the only common concern voiced being — “Will this light fixture/carpet/basin, granite be part of standard fittings?”

There are some, and largely women, who are a little more circumspect. Vandana Ghadiali, who rents a flat in nearby Essel Towers and is looking to buy somewhere “my mother can move about freely”, had this to say: “I was the first tenant in the apartment where I live now and it all looked very nice at first. But the electric socket came off in my hand, the exhaust fan in the bathroom was fixed above the window in such a way that I could not open it to let in the fresh air. And what about all those pigeons you’ll find roosting everywhere? Why haven’t developers who provide swimming pools, clubs, jogging tracks and everything made any provision to clean up all the droppings?”

Rattazzi doesn’t say whether he has a solution for pigeons but the company has done everything to create an aspirational environment.

Emaar MGF will come up with such Street of Dreams in 22 cities all over the country, he says, starting with Mohali (where it has The Views, an integrated township), Hyderabad (where it will shortly be announcing Boulder Hills, a 500-acre project with an 18-hole golf course) and in Chennai.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very informative