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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Flaunt a yacht...if you can!

If you have the cash to spare and want to splurge on something that will make your neighbours go green with envy, then why not spend on a yacht? There are a number of people in India, who’ve decided to make this multi-million status symbol available to Indians who want to ride the waves with panache.

Firms like Sorenstam, Ocean Crest Marine, West Coast Marine, Marine Solutions, Navnit Marine, Royal Yachts and Cruisers, Ferreti Yachts and many more have all sprung up to fill a void in the burgeoning Indian market.

Some people have jumped into this tried and tested waters - like the skilled yachtsman Aashim Mongia of West Coast Marine. He loves the sea and joined the NDA. But a rare blood disorder threw his career off-course and he decided to go into business for himself. He initially did find the going tough but now feels that the good times are all set to roll and he’s happy to ride the wave of prosperity. But sometimes, it’s about providing a service that you realize is completely lacking, when one goes to buy a pleasure boat for yourself.

Riyhad Kundanmal of Ocean Crest Marine is doing just that. This trained architect has branched out into the yacht selling business because when he was looking to buy one for himself, he realized there was nothing remotely structured about the market in India. So, he decided to take the plunge, as it were, into an appealing and nascent business opportunity. He’s also selling these yachts along with some luxurious homes he’s designed as a kind of package deal.

So, how does one avoid pitfalls when buying something this expensive? Do your homework. So check out all the great cruising options at the Mumbai International Boat Show, which is on from February 28 till March 2, this year at the Gateway of India and the Bandra-Kurla Complex. Visit www.mumbaiboatshow.com for details.

You can also make a beginning by asking the right questions! Director of Marketing, Ocean Crest Marine, Rihyad Kundanmal answers some pertinent ones.

Q1. How many yacht buyers are there in India?
A1. With the emergence of Ocean Crest Marine in the yachting arena, yachting has suddenly become affordable to all. A sport that was once considered only for the elite few, has now emerged with yachts starting at under Rs 15 lakhs and which is delivered to your doorstep. What the Tata Group is doing with cars, Ocean Crest Marine is doing with boats. We’re making it affordable, especially considering that India sits along a vast coastline which has untapped potential and is virtually virgin to the yachting world. With over 1.5 billion people in the country, Ocean Crest Marine is targeting only 1% of that population - around 15 million to say the least.

Q2. Do you sell most outright or is there some EMI system in place? If yes, how much does an aspiring yacht owner have to cough up per month?
A2. Ocean Crest Marine is in the process of tying up with several finance companies to assist a potential customer with their finance needs. Besides the cost of a captain (starting at Rs. 6000 per month) and the fuel cost depending upon use, the boats are completely covered with a 5 year manufacturers warranty.

Q3. From where do you import them or are most of them custom-made in India to save costs?
A3. Being the importers of Marques Monterey and Formula Yachts (USA) - both brands having 5 year warranties - we are positioned to ensure that anyone and everyone has access to yachts. Safety, superior materials, advanced technology, economical yet powerful engines, and standard onboard equipment, that other manufacturers would consider as extra options, as well as the pricing, are the factors that Ocean Crest Marine stands for. Indian manufacturers unfortunately are too far behind with technology and understanding the needs of a ocean going vessel. It’s like comparing a Bentley of the seas to an antiquated Fiat!

Q4. Is there a time-share scheme for using them and if yes, how does it work? Please elaborate in terms of cost of fuel, services provided, usage etc.
A4. With a boat under Rs 15 lakhs (the cost of an entry-level car), it would not be prudent to get into time-share schemes. But boats that are over 40 - 50 feet. Ocean Crest Marine does charter their fleet for an average of about 4 hours and it costs in the range of approximately Rs 1.5-2 lakhs, which depends on the wines and catering required. Captains, deck-hands and fuel is included in the cost. Ocean Crest Marine is moving into the lodging world, whereby destinations are being set up across the country to make it viable for an adventurer to spend weekends with a purpose, rather than just cruise up and down the coast.

The Mumbai International Boat Show is organized by Ocean Blue which is a holding company that services yachts via its firm Ocean Blue Services and it also owns Ocean Blue Marinas, which is into developing marinas. Dr. Malav Shroff, Managing Director of Ocean Blue clarifies and says, “You don't need to be a member of the RBYC to get a mooring. The cost of mooring ranges between Rs 2000-5000 per month depending on the size of the boat.” Here he answers FAQs.
Q1. Does one need the permission or membership of the Royal Bombay Yacht Club or the Bombay Sailing Association to berth a yacht, which isn't easy to get. Can one berth their boats off Alibaug or Mandwa?
No, you cannot. However, it is a misconception that it is difficult to get a mooring for your boat through the RBYC. Anyone who buys a yacht can approach the RYBC to get a mooring. (Berthing is different from mooring). It is not mandatory to get permission from RBYC either, as actually, it is the Mumbai Port Trust who has authorized the RBYC to give these permissions. So, technically one can get mooring directly from MbPT. Registration of boats is through the MMB (Maharashtra Maritime Board)

Q2. What are the maintenance costs incurred? How steep are they and are experts available to help maintain them?
Maintenance costs range from 4 - 7% of the value of the yacht and increases with size and complexity. For eg. a 20 foot boat would be about 3 to 4 % p.a. while a 100 foot boat would be above 6 to 7% p.a. because it requires a permanent crew. The expertise is still evolving in the marketplace and is still in its infancy. There is still a long way to go to match international standards.

Q3. Where are the boats docked during the monsoons? Is there a special dry dock of some kind?
Smaller boats are dry docked on land and larger ones are sheltered in the protected waters of the Mumbai Port Trust.

Q4. So far, how many Indian customers have bought yachts from the dealers at your event?
In the region of about 200 - ranging from kayaks to super-yachts

Q5. Which yacht brands/models are popular with your Indian clientele? Are they what's considered 'happening' with foreign owners or are we miles behind them?
A5. The Formula and Monterey brands are considered one of the safest and most reliable in the world. What is in the international market is also in the Indian market. The Indian clientele is well advanced - having travelled the world - they are pioneers in trying things well before their foreign counterparts.

Q6. Can you give me some names of people you've sold yachts to?
A6. I could give their names, but unfortunately that would be unethical. Our yachts start at under Rs 15 lakhs and go up to over Rs 500 crore. It would not be fair to dwell into personal lives.

Q7. How much do you foresee a market for this aspirational purchase in India? Meaning, it's obviously not a volumes game, so how many yachts do you see yourself selling in a year?
A7. With Ocean Crest Marine making it affordable for all, we have in the last 3 months itself, sold over 47 yachts across the country. We anticipate our sales to cross well over a 100 units this year itself.

Q8. Lack of a marina is a big hindrance for yacht owners. Are you looking for some sops from the FM in this budget towards really developing the Western seaboard (specifically Mumbai)? If yes, what's on your wishlist?
A8. Fortunately, the boating arena is opening up for the first time with a concerted effort being put in to improve the dismal situation. Citizens are becoming aware of the need of (developing) the waterways due to the poor situation of the roads.

In order to improve the boating infrastructure, we would need to have breakwater barriers made along with suitable floating marinas, so as to make it safe for the passengers/owners to have access to the boats - not only throughout the coast, but within parts of the cities itself. For example, North Mumbai can become accessible to South Mumbai with the assistance of a marina because the traffic congestion in the city will be eased, and heavy expenses on the roadway infrastructure is saved. In addition to this, the government needs to either lower, or completely eliminate the import duty structure from the existing 35%, so as to make it viable for the consumer to opt for a boat for his daily commute, rather than be imposed with heavy taxes, which obviously discourages movement on waterways.

Along with this, the Government would need to work on marine falls near the sewage outlets, whereby the sewage itself will not be washed back ashore, but rather falls into the trenched, underwater pits.

Q9. What smart tips can you give to aspiring buyers? In terms of what to look out for and not get taken in by the glossy brochures and glib sales talk?

A9. Before buying a yacht or a boat, Ocean Crest Marine understands the needs and wants of the potential buyer, and then suggests a boat or a yacht that suits his/her needs. If one simply wanted to cruise the harbour; travel across the shipping channel; go on to the high seas or even for that matter, travel to international destinations, we would suggest something that would be the right choice.

Safety being the most prominent factor. Before handing over a yacht to a client, we hand over a qualified captain in addition to the training we impart to the buyer himself. Our part as the sales team is not to sell the yacht and feel that our work is done. On the contrary, our work only begins there, as we want to ensure that the after-sales service is far better than the sale deal itself.

Q10. In Mumbai, you need the permission or membership of the Royal Bombay Yacht Club or the Bombay Sailing Association to berth a yacht, which isn't easy to get. Can one berth their boats off Alibaug or Mandwa?
A10. It is a misconception that memberships are required to berth boats in the Mumbai Harbour. Memberships are encouraged and recommended, but not mandatory. The reason for memberships is to avail of the private slipway opposite the Taj Hotel, which has been leased to the Royal Bombay Yacht Club (RBYC), the Bombay Sailing Association (BSA) and the Colaba Sailing Club (CSC). Memberships indeed can be expensive and exclusive, but the Colaba Sailing Club has a one-time entrance fee of Rs 10,000-12,000 and an annual renewal fee of Rs 2,000-3,000. Memberships are open and available to anyone interested or keen on sailing. Non-members too can avail of the bay, but at the same time cannot use the private slipway or the facilities of the tender boat service to and from their yachts. They can use the non-private slipways at gate 2, 3 and 4 near the Gateway of India.

Boats can indeed be berthed off Mandwa as well, but once again, it is strongly urged to have membership(s) for any facilities needed. Once a member of any sailing or yachting institution - either in Bombay or Mandwa - the use of the Club tender boat is reciprocal.

Q11. What is the cost of these memberships?
A11. The RBYC costs Rs 5,00,000; the BSA Rs 1,00,000 and the CSC Rs 10,000-12,000. Not too expensive considering the cost of memberships available at any other reputed club or social institution in Mumbai.

A12. All of our yachts come with a full 5 years manufacturers warranty. So, besides the fuel and incidentals, everything else is covered for the first 5 years. The average maintenance costs for boats without a warranty are as follows:

The maintenance cost of a boat under 20 feet is approx 30,000-40,000 annually; 25 feet approx 1,00,000 annually; 30 feet approx 1,00,000 - 1,30,000 annually; 40 feet approx 2,00,000 annually; 50 feet approx 2,00,000 to 2,50,000 annually.

This is just the general service, maintenance, lifting, storage, transportation and cleaning charges. Damage or any kind of mechanical issues beyond the manufacturer’s specifications are additional.

Q13. Where are the boats docked during the monsoons? Is there a special dry dock of some kind?
A13. Ocean Crest Marine is in the process of setting up dry docks all over the country. But for the moment, space at Princess Docks is available for the larger yachts and the smaller ones will be stored on the grounds of Ocean Crest Estates boatyard at Mandwa and at the Ocean Crest Marines Drydocks at Dharamtar Creek. The costs for storage all work out within the annual maintenance costs. Special cradles, trolleys and slings are available to handle the yachts, when out of the water.

Q14. So far, how many Indian customers have bought yachts - from you and/or your competitors?
A14. Approximately 47 yachts have been sold by Ocean Crest Marine in the last 4 months itself. With the emergence of the yachting market now opening for the first time, we are hopeful that this year itself, we would cross numbers in excess of 150 units after our presence at the Mumbai and Dubai Boat show. Thereafter, when the set-up is complete across the country, with dealership networks in place, the yachting arena will see a rise in numbers.

Written for MoneyLife magazine


DouglasAdams said...

Hi Manali,
I thought your travel articles on Uran and Bordi and Manori at dancewithshadows were really awesome. I got the feeling I was actually visiting those places. Best of luck with your freelancing :)

Manali said...

Thanks so much. I've also written articles on Mangalore, Murudeshwar and a visit to the Taj which you might want to read as well.Keep giving me feedback.

DouglasAdams said...

You're welcome :) Mangalore sounds interesting... maybe I will take a look at that. It would be easier for me to mail you though, if I had your email id.

Manali said...

Sure mail me at rmanali@hotmail.com.