Economic Times (Mumbai/New Delhi): India’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani, may have built the world’s most expensive house – Antilia, in South Mumbai’s Tony Altamount Road – but his wife Nita seems quite a bargain hunter.
She would have to be, especially when her shopping list includes 25,000 pieces of chinaware for her high-rise home. She’s settled for 106-year-old Japanese brand Noritake, whose 22 carat gold/platinum-trimmed porcelain crockery has fans round the world.
Interestingly, the big-ticket order has not been placed at the exclusive Noritake showroom in Mumbai’s Kemps Corner, a stone’s throw from the Ambani tower.
Rather, corporate India’s first lady has chosen Sri Lanka for this acquisition as Noritake is 70-80% cheaper there than elsewhere in the world, including India. This is because the Japanese brand has its largest manufacturing facility in Sri Lanka and exports its fine china to over 100 countries from there.
M. Deva Raja, General Manager of Noritake Sri Lanka, said the company has an enquiry from Ambani for more than 20,000 pieces but has not supplied anything yet. A Reliance spokesman declined comment.
“Noritake is a must-buy for anyone who visits Sri Lanka,” said Santosh Desai, Chief Executive, Future Brands. “However, an order of such a scale is unheard of for the brand which is an elite icon. But then again, a 27-floor residence is also unheard of.”
A 50-piece dinner set with 22 carat gold/platinum trimmings could cost $300-500 in Sri Lanka while the same would be priced between $800 and $2,000 in India. Multiply that by 500 (to cover Nita Ambani’s 25,000-piece order) and the price could have hit $1 million at the upper end in India.
Even a 500-room five-star hotel with five restaurants (the only other entity which could conceivably put in a similarly-sized order) would draw the line at that price tag, particularly if a cheaper option was available.
Her thrift, therefore, was complimented by social commentator Shobhaa De. “If she is indeed buying her crockery from Sri Lanka, I would say that she is a practical Gujju housewife, cost-conscious and sensible and I admire her for it,” De said. “Why should she pay five times more for something here? She is setting a good example for others to follow!”
Noritake’s Raja said the company was studying the specifications in the order and whether they will be able to supply that many pieces.
However, all of it may not be headed for Antilia, said a source. “Mrs. Ambani has bought Noritake crockery several times in the past, especially during Diwali for gifting.”
Noritake, originating in a village of the same name near Nagoya in Japan, has been an A-lister ever since it hit the US market a little over 100 years ago. Cleverly appealing to both the mass market and the high end with a technologically superior and diverse product range, Noritake has been a favourite with homes, hotel chains and airlines for its delicate designs and durable quality.