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By Invitation Only

Be it a high-profile deal, a golden handshake, an investment idea, the elite prefer to do it at these high-end clubs as they offer the right ambiance and exclusivity

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Imagine a space to switch off, read, talk, discuss. An exclusive den built for social honchos, aristocrats, businessmen who wish to relax, socialise or even execute a transaction – cracking a deal isn’t a big deal here.

A place where the handshake has been more than just a coming together of hands and the symbol of many values. Addressed as the most coveted clubs, the memberships cannot be bought but only earned. It is a by-invitation retreat where India’s super rich meet and greet. Not everyone interested can make it to these elite clubs, where many of those who do not fit the profile are turned down politely.

The Need

Luxury consumers are seeking out high-end clubs where they can interact with like-minded people. The rich are willing to pay any premium to be seen in the same league as big CXOs. Hence, it is becoming an ideal business destination for CXOs and MDs with bespoke meeting suites and boardrooms with the highest levels of design and technology in an environment that offers unrivalled privacy and discretion. “The global Indian is a person of fine sensibility and has an appreciation for the good things in life and is in every sense an achiever,” says Sapna Keswani, VP, Membership & Marketing, The Indus Club, a community of a few hundred, extraordinary individuals from the business, media and creative worlds.

While the concept of having coveted clubs was born out of the need to bring in corporate leaders and leading businessmen on one platform and play a role of a facilitator, the prestigious clubs offer an ambience conducive for conducting businesses, meetings out of the workplace. “These are considered preferred options for the business leaders who would not like to work out of rooms and coffee shops of five-star hotels,” says Upasana Taku, co-founder and Director, MobiKwik.

One of the oldest luxury clubs, established in 1975, The Chambers at the Taj enjoys a rich history and tradition with its esteemed members. Prabhat Verma, EVP, Operations, South India, International & Ancillary Businesses, Indian Hotels Company, believes that a private and discreet environment for meetings and interactions allows networking opportunities amongst a compatible mix of industry stalwarts and business leaders. “A one-of-a-kind business club where unmatched service, luxury, facilities and footprint of the Taj makes the members enjoy the best in class facilities, services and experiences backed by 115 years of Taj’s iconic hospitality,” he said.

Similarly, ITC Club Prive at ITC Maratha is an exclusive haven that offers businesses complete privacy,    dedicated attention, meticulous services and state-of-the-art facilities under one roof, thus making it a conducive location to conduct business and to network. Kuldeep Bhartee, Area Manager (West), ITC Hotels & GM, ITC Maratha, says that  corporate leaders are looking for a mix of elite yet formal multipurpose spaces that transcend the traditional meeting or conference rooms at the city’s most exclusive addresses. “They prefer a more social space combined with luxurious amenities and bespoke services for networking with their business partners. Hence, the industry has witnessed a surge in the need for high-end luxury spaces in the form of private clubs.”

This November, even Soho House will enter Asian market with its first House in Mumbai. The soon-to-be-opened club will be 23rd House globally. Established in 1995 by founder and CEO Nick Jones, Soho House has 22 Houses across UK, Europe and North America, as well as restaurants, cinemas, spas, workspaces and hotels.

Jasjit Assi, Hotel Manager, Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai says The Club is the USP of the hotel. “The Club curates experiences like The World Gourmet Festival keeping in mind the discerning global travellers who enjoy our 5 Michelin star chefs cuisines, exclusively designed for a novel experience for the members,” he says.

What’s On Offer?

In most cases, the membership offer a unique mix of business, leisure and recreational amenities and services, global privileges and access to the leading clubs of the world, and iconic ‘money can’t buy experiences’ and most of all a haven for like-minded newsmakers and business leaders. Verma explains benefits like exclusive upgrades and privileged access to Taj facilities and storied restaurants, F&B discounts across the group, gold membership, to name a few.

As a business leader, Manoj Adlakha, SVP, & CEO, American Express Banking Corp, understands the lifestyle and spending habits of affluent consumers, hence the American Express Centurion card is highly coveted for the unparalleled benefits and access it provides. “We have the capability to facilitate no pre-set spending limit, thereby enabling additional spend capacity for card members who get special access to events across the globe,” says Adlakha.

The Sought-after Address

With the market full of young upwardly mobile entrepreneurs and business heads, networking is one of the most crucial part of enhancing business prospects. “This gathering wants its share of secluded privacy in a classy ambience and doesn’t mind paying for the niche spaces. It’s an office away from his office and a living room away from his home,” says Aneesha Ratra, Director, Equus, The St. Regis Mumbai. 

Besides, the luxury consumer base with the current e-commerce and technology bloom, there is far more micro segmentation in the profile of the luxury customer – they are the aspirational young adults, also known as the millennial. Quintessentially Lifestyle caters to exclusive global concierge with the most unique and unusual members requests – be it delivering a limited edition handbag or vintage whisky to your doorstep, closing down a store for personal shopping experience or even getting a celebrity chef to cook at the private dinner party – a few select global concierge services. The young, ultra HNIs have the purchasing power and are now becoming consumers of luxury, says Group CEO Mishti Bose. “Their tastes are quite different and evolved with attention to detail, better customer service and enjoyment,” says Bose.

An extension of their office and networking, Verma thinks most corporate honchos like to be associated with discreet and efficient services at The Chambers as it seamlessly extends into a travelling CXOs work or meeting place. In addition to creating value for their businesses and growth, Taku finds that these members clubs also act as a facilitator for golden handshakes and investments and make easier to do business. These places also provide the much-needed privacy to conduct business meetings or deals, interviews.

As a corporate, Sunil Kaul, MD, Leica Camera Asia Pacific, says that his VVIP customers look for utter exclusive and prestigious experience. “An exclusive programme like a ‘Gentleman Night’ where we invite HNIs to experience the exclusive ranges of ‘gentlemen toys’ – luxurious watches, cigars, whiskeys, and some limited Leica editions,” he says.

As a result, these places redefine the idea of a luxury private members’ club with its unique mix of business, lifestyle and entertainment elements. “With probably four out of five CEOs of prominent companies already members at the clubs, especially from media & entertainment, BFSI and consumer industries, the Indus Club is now the preferred destination for C-Suite executives whether for business or to simply unwind,” says Harit Nagpal, MD & CEO, Tata Sky. Harsh Mariwala, Chairman, Marico, believes that “these places redefine the idea of a luxury private members’ club with its unique mix of business, lifestyle and entertainment elements. It sets the bar for others to aspire to.”

Not For The Ordinary

The membership is ‘prestige based’ more than’ need based’ and if you are fortunate enough to be among the select few then the range varies, bringing in a series of diverse programmes, conversations and experiences across the spectrum of art, culture, business, literature, music. The Indus Club has a one-time joining fee  of Rs 10 lakh whereas The Chambers at The Taj invites a national membership for Rs 20 lakh plus taxes.

The new-age standalone luxury clubs have brought in a certain newness into the sector. ITC Maratha’s Bhartee says, “Clubs that are part of large hospitality chains have a distinct  advantage as they can offer a variety of additional services and privileges such as access to multiple fine dining restaurants, spa and salon facilities, fitness centres, butler service, etc., which appeal to HNIs. Also, their experience in catering to high-valued distinguished guests helps them profile the Club members more accurately and maintain the level of exclusivity.”

The Quorum is a members-only urban lifestyle club in Gurugram and caters to a collective of people doing interesting things with their lives and are not focused exclusively on the corporate world. “At The Quorum, we curate a series of precision-engineered experiences and philosophical encounters that engender meaningful and personalised engagement within our community. While we don’t actively promote ‘networking’, our club naturally sets itself up well for people to collide,” says Vivek Narain, founder and CEO.

The culture has been around for a while, but now with the change in demographics and the era of the new age entrepreneurs, exclusivity is in increasing in demand and according to Ratra, it is the coolest thing to be a part of, as it offers the much sought-after prestige and style factor

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