Camellias in Gurugram is India’s new luxury address. With apartments starting at Rs 35 crore, a stamp of approval from Hafeez Contractor and every possible luxury, the ultra-exclusive project is one of a kind.
Normally, I don’t dedicate a column to an individual project. The reason is simple—most of the time there is nothing remarkable or disruptive that merits a review. In that context, I am delighted that DLF Camellias in Gurugram, Haryana has lured me into making an exception.
It’s a project that several people have advised me to visit over the last t/wo years. Here’s the thing, though—most people who asked me to pay a visit had not been there themselves. That’s because the project is designed to be ultra-exclusive with restricted access and marketing. The price currently starts at around Rs 35 crore for the smallest apartment.
I visited Camellias last year during a personal visit to Delhi. Gaurav Singh, who looks after DLF’s marketing, invited me for a view of the project. It was not a fully-completed then. Yet the scale meant that it took over half my day to see the project in its entirety.
I liked the project. The apartments were large—starting at 7,400 square feet and closing at 16,000 square feet. The design was appealing. The landscaping was good and the views were exquisite.
The buildings gave a sleek impression. The plans for the amenities and common spaces were ambitious. Yet, perhaps due to the high expectations, I returned without feeling dazzled.
Big boss approves
Then two weeks back I met India’s most famous architect Hafeez Contractor for interaction—and a berry pulao.
Contractor has an extraordinary volume of work across the country, doing some of the most exclusive projects and townships, including a part of Camellias.
He is enormously wealthy, often counted among the top taxpayers of the country. I was curious to know about the project that impressed Contractor enough for him to make it his residence.
Expecting that he would be staying in one of the glitzy towers he had designed, I asked him, “Where do you stay?” Shrugging his shoulder, he said it was obvious “Parsi Colony, Dadar.” But, he added, “If I had to stay not in Bombay then I would stay at DLF Camellias in Gurgaon. I said that to KP Singh (DLF promoter) as well”.
With someone like Contractor endorsing the project, I wondered if I had undervalued Camellias? Fate played its part soon and last week, Gaurav again invited me to the project. I was reluctant and told him, “You’d shown it to me last year. No point in seeing it again.” He said, “It’s the full thing with the clubhouse and amenities. Trust me—you will not have seen this before.”
I hear the “you would not have seen this before” line too often and invariably, return disappointed, most of the time.
This time, I wasn’t. The scale is humongous with the clubhouse being 1,60,000 square feet—three times that of its neighbour and honourable project Magnolia.
Designed to dazzle
The amenities and open spaces are designed to stun even the most elite of the customers. It will certainly intimidate a mid-segment buyer. I have no idea about the actual mandate given by DLF to the New York-based architecture and design firm Rockwell Group but my guess would be DLF telling Rockwell “money is no object and I want to dazzle the world. Show me how”.
The basics like the temperature-controlled pool are covered. Then comes the spectrum of food offerings, the restaurant design, the bowling alley, hair salon, conference rooms, gym and boxing ring—all are meant for you to sit up and notice.
Even something as mundane as the cutlery or door handles is designed for a second look and feel. Hospitality is everywhere—from the British-styled pub to the luxury retail outlets.
I was told that the luxury retail outlets will change periodically but when I visited, the 135-year-old glassmaker Lalique was open, offering products ranging from Rs 12,000 to Rs 20 lakh. The company has no other outlet in India. I suspect barring a helipad, there is no super luxury that’s been missed out in this project.
I later met Aakash Ohri who has been with DLF for 25 years and played a critical role in the Camellias dream. Ohri is an unusual professional in today’s analyst-dominated world.
While other listed companies talk far little about the product, Ohri has it on top of his mind. His journey with Camellias was not easy. It began slowly with the first sale clocked in 2014. Deals followed but so did cancellations. The steep jump came about in the aftermath of COVID-19—both in terms of volumes as well as pricing.
Will this project make enormous money? The company may make lofty claims to analysts but I have my doubts. The cost structure associated with the construction and maintenance of such projects will never make it financially lucrative. Such projects, like super-tall buildings, are often made for reasons other than their financials.
Is this the peak of luxury in India? It’s risky to label any project or moment as the “peak” in today’s fast-changing world. But I don’t see any developer in the medium-term with the courage, capital and vision to make a parallel project.
Oberoi 360 West at Mumbai is an awaited luxury champion by several commentators. I hope to be proven wrong when it is completed but due to the inherent limitations of the market, a Mumbai project just cannot match up.
In the end, DLF has pulled off a remarkable feat with Camellias. Hafeez Contractor will perhaps never want to leave his quaint Parsi Colony in Mumbai but Camellias may just be the project that will eventually seduce him. It will be a worthy choice.
Source : Money Control