The members' lounge at The Q club in Gurgaon

Members only: business clubs raise the bar for elite networking, unwinding

They charge lakhs as fees from patrons but it is not just money that will get applicants in

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

Many deals were nailed at the golf course of one of capital city’s elite gentleman’s club. These are spaces for wheeling and dealing, striking conversations, attending book reviews, dining and generally chilling out. “A club according to me is a third space, away from office and home where people work, play, dine and entertain, and hence it must come equipped with lifestyle and business amenities, food, fitness and entertainment”, says Vivek Narain, founder and CEO The Quorum, India’s first private standalone club. Says Narain- “We feel that there are a lot of interesting people out there, who don’t necessarily get to know each other. People mostly get stuck up in their silos of work, school, family, and neighbourhood. The idea at Quorum is to build communities of like-minded people with culture as a catalyst. And culture can take many forms- we have everything from conversations, discourse, musical shows, food curation, performances, theatre, etc. Each month has its monthly calendar of a dozen or more events curated by our programming team presenting culture in a contemporary format.”

There are two types of clubs. One, the traditional sort called “the gentlemen club” typified by the likes of Delhi Gymkhana, Delhi Golf Club and Bengaluru Golf Club. These are the kind that have wannabe members waitlisted for up to a staggering 35 years. In fact, there’s a joke doing the rounds that the waiting period can be so punishingly long, that the membership ends up goes to the offspring of the original applicant. And then there is a new crop of elite business clubs that are part of established hotel chains or have come up as standalone services in the metros. But here too you can’t just flash a credit card and secure a membership — you need to be invited. These business clubs usually offer corporate membership that cannot be assigned to any individual. The company to whom membership has been issued then nominates a representative who shall be considered a ‘member’ and be allowed to avail all the benefits and privileges of the club. Such is the case with Taj hotel’s ‘Chambers’, Four Seasons ‘The Club’, Oberoi’s ‘Belvedere’ or St Regis ‘Penthouse’.

What is the profile of members? “Newsmakers, business tycoons, corporate magnets to sum up, the discerning individuals who aspire to live a life of international appeal, world-class amenities and unmatched elements,” says Domenico Iannone, General Manager of Penthouse at the St. Regis Mumbai. “We are observing an interest of members from across industries, from real estate, information technology, leadership advisory firms, multinational conglomerate companies, new age entrepreneurs, CEO’s of successful start-ups and the list goes on.”

Events are the heartbeat of the club. The hardware is the physical infrastructure but the software is the cultural events, champagne movie premieres to sessions by world leaders to wellness workshops and Sufi nights. According to sixty-year-old Asmit Anand, member of the Delhi Gymkhana club, “My wife and me attend all literary events such as book launches or theatre. We also like special nights where there are musical performances in the lawns.”

Aesthetics are an important attribute of these clubs. Take the case of the recently renovated Chambers at Taj. At the Taj Chambers, Art concept – the artist A. Salui has created a series of iconic buildings & monuments of Delhi in stylized soft watercolor. He skillfully documents the capital’s-built heritage with warmth and reverence, whilst recording important sites and moments in history for generations to come. The Chambers retains its treasured collection of original works by renowned Indian cartoonist, illustrator, and humorist R.K. Laxman. These are famously mounted on the walls of The Chambers corridor. The uniqueness and luxurious aspects of our crockery, cutlery, glassware and customised linen are also being complimented.

Stefano Ricci, the internationally acclaimed Italian luxury lifestyle brand with headquarters located in Fiesole, has designed a meeting room (erstwhile Parliament) that showcases world-class design elements (plush carrot colour/ burgundy tone leather chairs, black customised stone light fittings etc.) and offers magnificent views of the city by day and at night. The club is home to Albero – a world-class restaurant with global cuisine, 7 meeting rooms, The Chambers Lounge, a whiskey bar and a cigar lounge. All this for a price. The Chambers Global Membership is offered at approx. INR 25 lakh on joining in addition to an annual fee of INR 3 lakh.

Says Satyajeet Krishnan, Area Director New Delhi & General Manager The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, “The Chambers Global Membership provides exclusive access and unsurpassed benefits at Taj, SeleQtions and Vivanta hotels worldwide. The membership is by invitation -from the intimate, indulgent evenings to finely curated dining and wellness retreats, the privileges include a lifetime of unfettered access to benefits, one-time membership transfer that benefits across generations, add-on card for spouses, platinum membership of IHCL’s coveted Loyalty Program, invitations to ultra-exclusive events, complimentary room upgrade, member only savings, dining and wellness experiences, 24*7 concierge and access to the business centre and club lounge.”

Dining experiences are a high point. Says Vivek Narain, founder and CEO The Quorum, “Food is actually one of the most important attributes in a club. And in India, it is the Indian food which reigns supreme. I would say that the next ten years belong to Indian food globally thanks to the richness of our flavours and heritage of our food. Indian fusion is also popular with the global Indian. Next to Indian food is Asian food followed by comfort food like Italian. Authenticity is very important when it comes to food.”

Clubs and clubhouses are different. In that, the latter are mostly a resident-only club and are part of a larger gated community with access only to its members. Says a spokesperson from DLF Camellias, “Our clubhouse is spread over 1,60,000 sq ft and is exclusively for buyers of Camellias. We don’t even give access to residents of Aralias or Magnolias. Camellias club has been designed by top rated designers like Rockwell from New York. And it has everything from spa, salon, sports bar, gym with boxing ring, restaurants, bakery, karaoke room, cards room, table tennis room, cigar room etc and has been divided into 7 energy zones like Social, Renewal, Competitive etc.”

Cultural centres are sometimes wrongly classified as clubs. Clarifies Sunit Tandon, Director India Habitat centre, “I would like to reiterate that IHC is not a club of the sports and recreation kind, but rather a Centre for intellectual and cultural engagement. Ditto for IIC or India International Centre.”

Finally, go for a club membership if you are willing to invest time and energy into forging new bonds, personal self-development and engaging with a community of like-minded people. As 35-year-old Mumbai based lawyer Ajit Singh says, “We are communal beings who love to get together in groups and share emotions – like sporting events, rock concerts and political conversations. We crave community and that is why we want a club membership. But what really matters from the point of view of social capital and civic engagement is not merely nominal membership, but active and involved membership.”

Price Chart

Club City Fee (Rs)
The Quorum Gurugram, Mumbai, Hyderabad Rs 3-5 lakh one time;
Rs 1-1.5 lakh annual fee
The Chambers, Taj Mahal Hotel New Delhi The Chambers Global Membership is offered at approx. Rs 25 lakh on joining in addition to an annual fee of Rs 3 lakh.
The Indus Club Mumbai Initiation fee of Rs 10 lakh
St. Regis Mumbai Penthouse Mumbai offers two types of memberships: 
Penthouse Pegasus (one year): Rs 2,20,000 plus taxes 
Penthouse Beacon (four years): Rs 8,00,000 plus taxes
The Club Four Seasons Mumbai Rs 7.5 lakh with annual charges of Rs 1.2 lakh

Credits: Market Research

Source: Business Standard

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