Last year, in June, an Indian businessman threw a house warming party for his newly-acquired mansion in London’s posh Belgravia in Central London. Almost all the invitees turned up and they didn’t have to travel far—they all happened to be in London. In fact, most already had homes there. London is still very much the magnet that attracts Indians in droves every summer, but it has also become a status symbol among a certain peer group; if you don’t own your own home in London, you do not qualify for the millionaire club. There is even a phrase for Indians who have houses on posh areas in London, the ‘Bollygarchs’—they are the leading property purchasers in Britain’s capital along with the Russian oligarchs. According to a recent analysis by real estate agent, Wetherell, in the last 12 to 18 months, Indians have bought over £1 billion (R10,900 crore) worth of prime property.
For Indians, like the Russians, owning a home in London is not enough; it must be in one of the three prime locations of Belgravia,
Mayfair and Knightsbridge for that added cachet and to keep up with the Jains. According to the Wetherell report, Indians constitute the largest group of overseas buyers in Mayfair, accounting for 25% of all purchases in the last year. Two other areas are also considered prime, St John’s Wood, right next door to Lord’s cricket ground, and Grosvenor Square, where the Lodha Group bought an iconic property last year for £306 million (R3,118 crore), while billionaires like Lakshmi Mittal find Kensington Palace Gardens a better fit for their profile. Combine the status factor and peer pressure, and it is no surprise that despite the economic downturn, Indian businessmen look to London as the place to buy a second home.