You & Yoo

Mumbai may be the commercial centre and New Delhi may hold the political strings. Goa’s coastal lifestyle and incredible nature make it the state tourists flock to year in year out. But Pune, India’s eighth largest city, has a charm and strategic position of its own.

Pune, in west-central Maharashtra state, was traditionally an industrial manufacturing centre, as evidenced by the automotive and appliance industries’ presence in the city. Everyone from GM to Volkswagen to Mercedes-Benz and John Deere has offices there, as does any other automaker that hopes to get its cars onto Indian roads. Also with factories in Pune are Coca-Cola, LG, Sharp, 3M, and Frito-Lay. But these days the city is also a hotbed of education, research, financial services, information technology and communications, with HSBC, Siemens, IBM, Accenture, Symantec and Credit Suisse in town. And according to India’s The Economic Times, Microsoft is yet another among the multinationals that will be operating in or very near the city in the future. It’s an intensely sporty and cultural town that draws a diverse range of residents from across India and around the world. The list of educational and research facilities is even longer. All these factors have seen Pune dubbed as both the Oxford of the East and/or India’s Motor City.

In a 2011 address at CII Real Estate Conclave in Mumbai, Jones Lang LaSalle’s India chair Anuj Puri pointed out that the country is the fastest urbanising country in the world, and UN figures estimate almost 900 million Indians will be city dwellers by 2050 and almost 100 million households will be in the middle class come 2030. Indians moving from other parts of the country and workers dropped in from overseas all need somewhere to live.

So it comes as no surprise that property developers are taking an interest in Pune as well. Local developers are a given, but more recently international brands have decided the time was right to get into India. Five-star hotel operators are creeping in slowly, and among the earliest branded residences to make an appearance is the UK’s yoo.

Developed by Pune-based construction and development firm Panchshil Realty (Waterfront, Oakwood Residences, Pune Marriott), yoopune is the company’s first project in India. Founded by John HItchcox and Philippe Starck, yoo’s major selling point is its Starck design, but Panchshil had a fair amount of influence in yoo’s decision to move into India. “It was really the developer Panchshil presenting us with a spectacular location of 17 acres of natural rainforest,” explains Mark Davison, head of design for yoo. “The location is more important to us than a city — as is the local community. Is there an opportunity to enhance a community or even create one? Yoopune is really an urban oasis with stunning amenity spaces for the residents to socialise [in] and get to know each other. It’s a secure community, but it’s not an isolated one.”

The 216 suites in six towers will put residents in a resort state of mind. Among a raft of others, amenities will include a Six Senses Spa, a tennis court, multiple swimming pools, a cinema and yoga centre, and suites will be outfitted with Italian marble, Siemens appliances and Poggenpohl kitchens. Yoopune is scheduled for completion in 2014, and though there’s no official word, chances that rainforest — a selling point for yoo — staying where it is are high. And with all those international businesses and students in town, it’s shaping up to be a smart investment. Much like China, India is a burgeoning market with a quickly expanding and wise consumer base. “Right now it’s all about ‘Chindia’. Developers in the country are waking up to the power of brand to sell residential, in line with the rise for the design savvy consumer in the countries. We now have two projects in India after launching yoopune and the first Jade Jagger for yoo project in Mumbai, Lodha Fiorenza,” Davison points out.

So who is it that wants a chic Pune property? Though the yoo brand appeals to international investors, that design-savvy domestic market has proved strong. “The project has sold incredibly well to a mixture of locals, Indian investors and Indian expats looking for an inspiring second home for when they return to India,” Davison theorises.

India is an ancient country with a long, rich history and culture, one that Indians are justifiably proud and protective of. Though the ultra-contemporary yoo is moving in, the brand isn’t looking to bulldoze over all that makes Pune what it is in its attempts to honour its own unique design aesthetic. “We stand out by staying true to what we do — simply unique inspiring design that is relevant to the way modern people live,” Davison begins. “When we design all our projects it is incredibly important for us to collaborate with local teams and undertake extensive research of the local culture and customs to incorporate it into the design. It’s about taking the best of what we know and incorporating into the local context. The end result is always relevant and always inspiring.”