Sivaprasad Udupa, a director of engineering at a security start-up in the Bay Area, recently bought a home in Cupertino. Just not the Cupertino in California, the affluent city famed for its mild weather and flying saucer-shaped Apple headquarters. Udupa’s new home is in Cupertino, a villa project 14,000 kilometres away, in the suburbs of Bengaluru.
“The eye-catching name was definitely a hook and made me feel like the developer is familiar with the outside world,” says Udupa whose three-bedroom villa is located in a 13-acre gated enclave in Electronics City, the epicentre of India’s technology industry where the likes of Infosys are headquartered.
In a passing nod to California, Cupertino’s developer Concorde Group has situated the 182-sloping-roof villas on wide avenues amidst landscaped gardens and palm trees. Here, a mere shell of a villa can cost up to Rs 2.5 crore and end up making the buyer poorer by about half-a-million dollars when ready to be occupied — more than what similar homes cost in most parts of the United States.
Udupa is not the only one who has found a relatable US connection in Bengaluru, a city with more engineers and geeks than even California. Many highrise apartment blocks and gated communities are named after choice American locations. Leading developer Prestige Estates has Brooklyn Heights while Concorde has Silicon Valley and Napa Valley besides Cupertino. Yet another Bengaluru-based developer Nitesh Estates has Palo Alto, Cape Cod and even a Camp David, named after the eponymous country retreat of the US president.
But it is the Californian names that are the biggest draw, even though the new developments bear no other resemblance or reference to the originals. For instance, in the 130-acre Concorde Napa Valley residential community in the southern fringes of Bengaluru, the developer plans 1,000 villas and a two-acre vineyard. That and the hills in the backdrop will serve as reminders of the real Napa Valley, with its rolling vineyards and its superlative Californian wines.
In Nitesh’s Napa Valley on the northern Bellary Road, the four-bedroom villas cost Rs 8 crore or $1.2 million each and are advertised as “Californian living”. Its Californian features include arched windows, sloping roofs and helical columns as well as resort-like landscaping. “Our projects are named based on popular destinations which have a positive ring to them,” says Ashwini Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Nitesh Estates.
The names were conceived as marketing hooks as a majority of the buyers who can afford upscale homes are top techies and ecommerce professionals who commute between Bengaluru and the Bay Area or techie returnees from there, admits Sunil Reddy, an executive director of the Concorde Group. “About 30 per cent of the buyers in projects like Cupertino and Silicon Valley are Indian techies who are current California residents. Such names make it easier to connect with ambitious Indians who live in or frequently travel to the Silicon Valley,” he says. “Think about it, which Bengaluru homeowner does not want to say, I live in Napa Valley?”
The real estate trend is not new. It started years ago with projects like Golden Enclave, St. John’s Wood, Palm Meadows and Ozone. Bengaluru even has an age-old suburb called “Dollar Colony” whose buyers were mostly Non-Resident Indians. But the naming trend is now distinctly veering towards America — and California in particular.
Concorde advertises its fancily-named new developments as “status-defining” and “millionaire homes” to tech professionals in the 30-45 age cohort who, it says, comprise over two-thirds of its buyers. The naming convention was conceived by the real estate family’s younger members, who joined the business after graduating from American universities such as Rutgers, says Reddy.
But could anybody be taken in by a mere name? “The names are stylish and could impress a small slice of the home-buying population,” says B N Satish, executive director, South India, at global real estate consultancy Knight Frank. Satish says the IT companies, ecommerce firms and start-ups have kept the Bengaluru real estate market buoyant and at Number One in the country. So, choices are aplenty and what finally matters is the location, the specs, the developers’ credibility and the pricing, Satish says. “Without these, a fancy name won’t cut it.”
Still, such gated enclaves with fantasy labels are sought after by upper-rung techies, or even the NRI techies, as they assure buyers of palm tree-lined avenues, 24-hour power and water supply and perimeters protected by guards and security cameras. The walls are an indemnity against the chaotic city at the gates and the traffic and noise outside, the all-too-common power cuts, the alternate-day supply of water and the disorganised garbage clearance.
Udupa confesses that his Cupertino villa in Bengaluru does not exactly evoke the affluent Californian city. But, he says, it feels like a safe place to live in, is within a convenient distance from the offices of the security start-up he works for and has several amenities. All in all, says Udupa, who has lived in the US for 15 years, his Bengaluru home is “pretty good looking”.