Apartments in Delhi-NCR lose ‘desi’ touch, get foreign feel

- March 16, 2024

While housing societies and areas established before 1990 had indian-sounding names, post-liberalisation era spawned complexes in Gurugram and Noida with European names to attract expatriates and the global Indian

FOREIGN TOUCH: Many residential apartments that have come up in Gurugram and Noida have fancy European names PHOTO: GETTY

Residential apartments in the National Capital Region have been witnessing a gradual shift from desi names to European ones for some time now.

Back in the day, housing societies established by like-minded people, or those within the same office or profession, were given names that the local population could connect with — like Narwana Apartments, PNB Employees Society, Press Apartments, Azad Apartments, IFS Apartments, Engineering Estate, Nirman Vihar, Pharma, and Swasthya Vihar.

In recent times, however, names like Malibu, Trecento, Capetown, Ivory County, Smartworld Orchard, and Ultima have cropped up, mainly in Gurugram and Noida, the two bustling cities on the South and East sides in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana respectively. These are high-end apartments.  

But why such a huge paradigm shift in the names of residential projects?  From rank desi names to names with colonial background?  

Explains Vinod Behl, the veteran Real Estate expert, “I remember when Malibu Township came up in Gurugram, it was the start of new trend of giving European names to realty projects. That was mid-1990s and India had started feeling the impact of economic liberalisation slowly but surely. 

Nikhil Jain, former CEO of Ramprastha Developers, says foreign names are meant to attract expatriates

“That was also the time when Gurugram was becoming a favourite place for realty players to build their high-end projects and IT companies were opening their offices here. Realty company bosses realised that they must give European names to their projects to attract young buyers with deep pockets.”

The trend that started in Gurugram moved to Noida later in a big way. Now you can find housing projects with names like SKA Orion, Manorialle, Mywoods, Kingston Heath, Elite Golf Greens and so on in Noida.

“Well, we the PR and marketing firms help our real estate world clients keep names with international essence. Now, you cannot have high-end apartments with names like Kallol, Upkaar, NavKunj, Rajdhani, Nikunj, Tulsi and Vidhyut as we see in Mayur Vihar, IP Extension and Rohini,” says Dushyant Sinha, founder of noted PR and Marketing firm, ICCPL.

There is a very interesting story behind Upkaar Apartments in Mayur Vihar. It is said that the society management was inspired by the Manoj Kumar movie ‘Upkaar’. Therefore, they settled for this name.

Nikhil Jain, former CEO of Ramprastha Developers, says that foreign-sounding names are needed to attract expatriates.

“Hundreds of expatriates live in places like Gurugram and Noida on rent. They gladly pay huge rents. They prefer apartments with European names. You cannot expect Japanese and South Korean expatriates to identify with Indian names as compared to English names,” says Jain. Ramprastha has built projects with names like Atrium and Edge in Gurugram.

English names to housing projects are not new to the Capital. 

East Park Road, South Extension, Western Extension Area, Defence Colony, East End, West End are some of the areas with English names in the Capital that have existed for long. Model Town can also be included in the list. 

Old Dilliwalas would surely remember the time when we had names like Robert Square, Lake Square, Tailor Square and Alexender Square in the Gole Market area.

Each of these squares had 16 very spacious houses.

Even Hema Malini, playback singer Bhupinder and tennis great Ramnathan Krishan lived in those squares.

These squares were built in 1930s during the British Raj era. You can still see some houses in those squares in Gole Market. 

Perhaps, the first luxury apartment complex in the Capital was Sujan Singh Park. It was built in 1944 by Sardar Sobha Singh in the memory of his father. Those were the days when India was ruled by the British. Still, he had given an Indian name to it.

The Capital has surely changed since the era of cooperative group housing societies/areas. Those were the days when buying a flat worth Rs 2 lakh was not that easy? 

Recalls a senior journalist, who also served as President of Press Apartments in IP Extension, “Once, the Asian Games were held in Delhi in 1982, a delegation of journalists met the then Union Housing Minister, Buta Singh, to use his good offices in allotting a piece of land to them (journalists) where they could build their houses. Buta Singh told the media delegation that instead of land, he could allot flats in Asian Games Village to them. The offer was very tempting as the flats and the area was superb, and located in South Delhi. However, when the prices of flats were quoted, the idea was abandoned as buying a flat from Rs 2.76 lakh to Rs 3 lakh was unthinkable for us in those days. It was huge money.”

The journalists then got land in IP Extension, where Press Apartments were built. It may be recalled that Radhika Roy, the wife of NDTV founder Prannoy Roy, owned a flat in Press Apartments. 

Compared to those times when cooperative group housing societies were just coming up and it was difficult to even cough up a couple of lakhs, the price of flats in Noida and Gurugram currently range from Rs 1 crore to Rs 100 crore. The class of buyers has completely changed. 

“Those who are buying flats in luxury apartments are globe-trotters. They move to different parts of the world for official purpose and holidaying. They earn big money. They want to live in an area with world-class facilities and English names,” says Jain, who also adds, “I personally feel that we should not discard the Indian names completely.”

Says Dushyant Sinha, “I will tell you that we suggest many, many English names to our clients with a touch of exclusivity and finally settle for one name. Further, thanks to strategic digital PR and marketing campaigns, we ensure that these names become synonymous with opulence and sophistication.” 

Dushyant Sinha, founder of ICCPL, a PR firm, says that it is tough to give Indian-sounding names nowadays

It goes without saying that the era of staffers of one department/profession in an apartment or housing society ended long back. 

There was a time when those working in pharma sector named their society as ‘Pharma’. The staffers of different government hospitals and urban and development ministry named their areas as Swasthya Vihar and Nirman Vihar respectively.

It was not always about colleagues in the same office and profession. Very large number of areas/societies came up in the Capital with people of one particular state or religion living together. Kala Niketan, Lahore Apartments, Narwana Apartments, Mithila Apartments, Multan Nagar, Bhera Enclave and Mianwali Nagar clearly hint at the people who built these areas and who live there. 

For example, people mainly from Narwana in Haryana and Mithila region of Bihar live in plush Narwana and Mithila Apartments in IP extension respectively.

But should we accept that with the passage of time, the name of the areas/apartments should also change?  After all, change is constant.