We are all living in a fast changing global world as the power of the worlds economies swing to Asia.
Driven by the economy growing at 8% a year, a second generation of rich Indians are eagerly embracing new lifestyles and ways of "spending rather than saving".
The middle class is growing too, it’s estimated that over 5 million households now have a net worth of over one million US dollars, excludingtheir house. This goes a long way in a country where the cost of livingis not as high as in Europe. India has a high rate of literacy in Englishand a high proportion of the population are soaking Royal Bombay Yacht Clubup knowledge from the western media via satellite TV, magazines and of course the internet.
As a result new leisure activities are widely understood and western branded products are keenly sought.
Until recently the only active leisure boating in India was carried out by small fleets of sailing boats based on clubs that are a legacy of the British colonial days. (The English language has two important boating words from the sub-continent: dinghy is from the Hindi word dingi or little boat, and catamaran is from the Tamil katumarran, meaning two logs tied together.) Now boating is on the radar screen as an 'in' activity and over the past five years some 100 leisure boats, most of them power boats in the size range 30’ to 84’, have been imported into India.
Small numbers maybe, but a sure sign of growth. The total number of leisure boats in India is probably just over 1,000, the majority of these being locally manufactured small boats. Increasingly now they are being imported, many from the boat builders in the Arabian Gulf. Although no marinas exist in India, projects are under evaluation around the coast and on inland lakes in locations such as Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, Pondicherry, Bangalore and Chennai. Most of these are being supported by State Governments who are starting to realise the value of marina developments in the growth of tourism and the service economy.A good example - the Arabian Gulf, where waterside properties and marinas stimulated massive economic growth.
The main location for leisure boating in India is the commercial capital of Mumbai, a city of 16 million people with some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and where most of the movers and shakers of Indian commerce are based. I find it a in your face place, impossible to ignore. It’s also home to one of the bastions of boating in India, the imposing royal Bombay Yacht Club.
Located in the heart of Mumbai, the Club occupies a prime position in an imposing building next to the Gateway of India. Built to commemorate the visit of King George V in 1911, the de facto emblem of the city and the Club vie with the world famous five star Taj Mahal Hotel for Harbour views. Built in 1898, the Club has a charming 19th Century English boarding school aura about it, I find it more English than England! With a marvellous collection of nautical memorabilia, I love to visit for the time warp experience and the opportunity to drop anchor with some interesting characters. The members are keen to welcome overseas visitors and you may well be surprised, as I was, by their boating exploits. I remember my first visit to the Club in 1999 and discovering over lunch that my marvellous and modest host, j S jehangir, had sailed two of the Clubs 20 ft (6 m) Seabird half decked sailing boats from Mumbai across the Arabian Sea to Muscat in oman, an open sea distance of 1,000 nautical miles - and then back again! Apart from the Club's fleet of twenty Seabirds, the swinging moorings by the Gateway of India are becoming crowded with a growing number of power boats. With various marina projects under evaluation the future for boating looks bright.
Another indicator of an emerging boating market is the success of the Indian International Boat Show in Cochin, its fifth year. There was a definite air of optimism at the show, which had grown 30% in size from the previous year. other encouraging sign for the growth of boating in India was the first Annual General Meeting of the India Marine Federation held last year; joe Nejedly of Praga Marine boat builders was elected Chairman. Executive Committee member Shakheel Kudrolli outlined the objectives of the Federation which included primarily tackling out of date Commercial Ship regulations which apply to leisure boats. An effective association is vital to smooth the growing pains of the industry and it’s good to see this already in place.
The attention for leisure boating switches to Mumbai this February for the launch of the first Mumbai Boat Show. With almost 70% of buyers Mumbai based, the show promises to put leisure boating on the map. The associated Industry conference is an opportunity to ensure issues of marina development and rules and legislation can be aired with the authorities. Show Director Malav Shroff is positive about why he has launched the event: "After the success of the Cochin Boat Show, Mumbai is now ready for leisure boating. We feel that the timing is right and that the industry will grow and add value to the tourism sector in India, but perhaps most importantly we have a great opportunity to develop an industry that will add value to the economy of India".
Mumbai is famous for its Bollywood film industry, the dream factory of the nation. I couldn’t help remembering that leisure boating in the UK got a huge boost in the 1980's with the popularity of a soap opera called Howard’s Way. This BBC epic ran for two years and featured a boat builders business, scandal, intrigue and sex, as a result - the industry boomed for years after!
So bring on Shilpa Shetty and see what new heights leisure boating will achieve in India!
Author Mike Derrett has worked in the leisure marine industry since 1970. He runs a consultancy business Mike Derrett Marine which specialises in ad- vising clients on devel- oping boating markets in Asia and the Arabian Gulf. He has been a keen sailor and power boater since the age of thirteen. His other interest is teaching flying in vintage Tiger Moth aircraft. He has found that flying and boating attracts similar personalities.
Boating vision for India