High-rise or hovel - it's all hot property Bombay becomes world's hottest property

Bombay/ office rents highest in world

FOR SALE: a one-room shanty in Bombay's Mahim Creek slum. No electricity, no running water, no view, except of children splashing in an open sewer. Price: £11,000, with a few old tyres heaved on to the roof for ballast, to keep the hut from flying away in the monsoon squalls.

Whether you are searching for a hovel or for a high-rise in the exclusive Malabar Hills colony, Bombay has become the third most expensive city in the world. Indeed office rents are the most expensive, surpassing Hong Kong and Tokyo, and at an average £93.10 about £50 more per square foot than prime space in the West End of London.

In Nariman Point, where many corporations have headquarters, office space sells for £450 a square foot. A shopfront property which sold six months ago for £800,000 was bought this month by Standard Chartered, for £1.1m: 15 days later it sold it for £1.7m. Estate agents say property values last year tripled.

Some attribute this dizzying increase to Bombay's gangsters, who have moved into the profitable business of land-grabbing. Others believe India's opening to investment after 40 years of economic isolation has set off a property spree among foreign companies and overseas Indians wanting to invest in Bombay - built on islands surrounded by swamp and the Arabian Sea, with no easy way to expand. More than 13 million Indians have piled on to these islands looking for jobs, and every year another 100,000 climb aboard.

Bombay probably has more millionaires than London, but many middle-class Indians - a teacher, say, earning £150 a month - cannot begin to afford these rents. Many are forced to move out to satellite suburbs a two-hour train ride away. These new estates can be nightmares: sloppily built concrete blocks rising out of malarial swamps.

When the East India Company leased grazing land back in 1750 on Colaba Point, now Bombay's most sought-after downtown area, it paid only £20. In the same area today, a three-bedroom flat with temperamental plumbing and power shortages, in a new 22-storey skyscraper, sells for more than £2.24m.

Discouraged after months of house-hunting, many foreign bankers and executives of multinational companies are trying to persuade their head offices that it is cheaper, and less hassle, to stay in five-star hotels. "You get so litle for the money you pay," complained one banker. "The lifts don't work, and the bathrooms are green with mould, even in the best places." Anyone choosing one of the upper-storey flats in a Malabar Hills skyscraper (price more than £1.5m) may also have to put up with vultures dropping a human nose or ear on the balcony - from the nearby Parsee Towers of Silence, where corpses are left to be picked apart in a "sky burial" by birds.

Even if you have the cash, you are not necessarily assured a flat. Some housing colonies will not tolerate meat-eaters. The smell of a frying steak wafting across from a neighbour's kitchen fills many Indians with revulsion. Some Muslim tenant groups will not allow television. In a city as crowded as Bombay, people either become militant in retaining caste and cultural identity or drown in the multitude.

Despite communal riots in January 1993 that left 500 dead, Bombay is still the place Indians dream of going to. It is a dream that gathers colour and dimension every time an Indian goes to the local cinema; Bombay is more than garish backdrop for most Indian films, it is the leading character.

Bombay's port, which handles half of India's foreign trade, and its factories - generating more than 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product - exert a strong pull on Indians in the countryside, desperate for work.

As in any lifeboat, though, those in Bombay are desperate to stop more outsiders crawling aboard. An extreme right-wing organisation called Shiv Sena this week begins its rule of Bombay, with support from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Shiv Sena's chief, Bal Thackeray, a former cartoonist who says he admires Hitler, has gained a strong following among locals by promising to drive out immigrants from Bombay, especially the millions of Bangladeshi Muslims who are pouring in. During the city's 1993 Hindu- Muslim riots, his Shiv Sena thugs led mob raids on many Muslim neighbourhoods.

Mr Thackeray's no-nonsense militarism appeals to many native Bombay citizens who think that Shiv Sena may clean out the city's corrupt bureaucracy. Bombay's underworld gangs have put up £300m of illegal buildings. As one former municipal commissioner, S S Tinaikar, recently declared: "No builder can function now without paying huge amounts of protection money to gangsters."

Political insiders claim Shiv Sena is just as dirty. Many of the slums burnt down during the riots were soon bulldozed away, and the valuable land grabbed by underworld chieftains. Not surprisingly, many foreign companies wanting to do business in India are giving Bombay a miss and heading for other less costly or corrupt cities, such as New Delhi, Bangalore and Madras.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform