Friday, April 07, 2006

Do only B-school grads earn a crore?
FRIDAY, APRIL 07, 2006
There are some good things in life that one can still get for less than a crore, like mother’s love, a Malayalam film and dates from Mallika Sherawat. For most other pleasures, a crore is, quite suddenly, not large enough. The crore, fondly called ‘khokha’ by almost everyone except P Chidambaram, is a British corruption of ‘kohit’ in Sanskrit. Today, it will not fetch you a private banking membership. Or a two-bedroom flat in south Mumbai. Nor is it big enough to serve as alimony for the newly melancholic corporate wife or to buy the best Indian art. To fully comprehend the death of the crore, try seeking a home in Mumbai. Thirty-two-year-old Anjali Krishan’s desperate search for a home, not in south Mumbai but in Khar — 20 km from Peddar Road where Lata Mangeshkar lives in fear of losing her voice to a flyover — forced her to chase brokers despite a budget of nearly a crore. ‘‘One CR,’’ as the brokers say. She was shown desolate homes filled with dead pigeons. ‘‘Brokers would not even return my calls because they were busy with bigger deals,’’ she says. Builder Niranjan Hiranandani considers a crore a significant amount. Yet, he says, ‘‘More and more people are looking the crore in the eye and telling themselves that they can have it.’’ Even in a country where most people routinely play down their incomes to the sweating survey official, the growth of households with an annual income of over one crore is all too perceptible. There are 50,000 households today with a self-confessed annual income of more than a crore, according to a report of Capgemini consulting firm, and the figure is expected to touch 1,40,000 in the next four years. One in 800 households in Mumbai, and one in 500 in Delhi earns over a crore. From 2003 to 2004, the number of those who made more than a million dollars or about Rs 5 crore grew in India by 14% from 70,000 individuals. Faster than in America or in the UK. The crore itself is losing its aura to the concept of a million dollars. A crore is no longer enough to impress most banks to offer their private banking facilities. Five crore in investment-worthy assets, not including one’s home, is today the qualifying mark for Kotak’s Wealth Management membership. Kotak alone has about 2,800 such privileged customers who will be pampered individually by highly paid bankers. Even Kotak’s premier private equity fund that invests in real estate is only for those who can show over Rs 2.5 crore in assets that can be used for investment. Not long ago, a crore was a prestigious salary that corporate chieftains proudly confirmed to journalists in private so that the scribes could publicise the achievement. Just over a decade ago, when Pradip Shah moved from CRISIL to take over an overseas fund, his rumoured salary of a crore was considered path-breaking. This week, the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad announced that four of its students would begin their careers with over a crore. Mrinalini Deshmukh, a divorce lawyer, says a crore is today barely enough to satisfy the expensive tastes of some disenchanted wives of salaried corporate men. Until three years ago, even Sachin Tendulkar was paid just about a crore by the Indian cricket board. Today, a senior cricketer is set to earn at least Rs 8 crore a year, not including his fee for selling fast moving consumer goods.

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