June 14, 2007 It's just so hard to find the right home for your family of 6, 168 cars and 600 full-time personal staff. India's second-richest man, Mukesh Ambani, decided the only way was up. His 60-storey high vertical palace in Mumbai, to be completed in 2008, tells an epic tale of excess - and the locals aren't happy about this ostentatious display, some calling it the "dawn of a new age of vulgarity".
Forty-nine year old Ambani inherited much of his US$20.1 billion fortune and built on it as Chairman and MD of Reliance Industries, India's largest private enterprise, founded by his father Dhirubhai Ambani, who built it up from the ground and brought in huge flows of cash in canny stockmarket plays. The company has interests in energy, oil, retail and biotechnology.
While Dhirubhai was happy to live in an unassuming one-bedroom apartment through much of his early career, Mukesh Ambani is keen to make more of an impression with his new home, to be called "Antilia." One focus of the enormous residence, which is already worth over UK£500 million in its unfinished state, will be its hanging gardens, reportedly intended to be a 21st century interpretation of the hanging gardens of Babylon. Other features of the project will include:
- 27 floors in total, including 6 floors of parking for Ambani's 168 imported cars - these floors are already built. Each floor will have ceilings more than double the height of a normal building.
- An entire floor dedicated to in-house car maintenance by full-time mechanics
- An entertainment floor including a 50-person movie theatre
- Three floors of dedicated terrace gardens for relaxation
- Two floors focused on health and fitness, with facilities for athletics, swimming and gym workouts.
- Two floors set aside as a complete guest apartment
- Four floors of living space for Ambani, his wife Nita, his mother-in-law and three children. Three rooftop helipads and an entire floor set aside for air traffic control
The Ambani family of 6 will be served full-time by a staff of around 600, many of whom will have quarters in the house.
Impressive stats, surely, but many locals are disgusted by such a vulgar display of wealth in stark juxtaposition to the poverty that marks much of the country. Traditionally, rich Indians have been more conservative with their finances. India's prime minister made his opinions clear, calling on business leaders to "eschew conspicuous consumption" and "be role models of moderation," while newspaper columnist Praful Bidwai was more blunt: "Mr. Ambani is building an edifice to his own ego. It will not go down well with the public and there is a growing tide of anger about such absurd spending."