What Future for the Indian Yachting Industry? By Simon J Arrol

Definitions: A “yacht” is a vessel used primarily for pleasure. Hence “motor yacht” and “sailing yacht”.
A “marina” is a harbour that is purpose-designed for yachts.

Many international commentators throw scorn at the importance of the Indian yachting market, but as with so many things in life it all comes down to the power of numbers. With a population of 1.15 billion, a rapidly growing middle-class with an appetite for luxury goods, and economic growth at around 7%, the figures speak for themselves. “Ah yes,” say the commentators, “but everyone in India is poor”. This is not true of course, but again the power of numbers makes the point nicely. Even if only 0.01% of the population (i.e. 1 in 10,000) are presently ready to consider buying a boat then that already represents 120,000 potential customers. This is almost exactly the same as the total number of pleasure boats longer than 7.5 metres in the whole of the UK . The fact is that anyone who can afford to buy an imported motorcar can certainly consider buying a boat. And the boat will almost certainly give him/her more pleasure.

But it is lack of infrastructure that is presently constraining the growth of the yachting industry. The motorcar industry is a valid comparison. One could never imagine a manufacturer launching cars on the market without first establishing the necessary chain of workshops and spare parts stores to service them. Yet with yachting in India the present situation is the antithesis of this. Yachts are being bought but there are very few facilities for berthing and servicing them. So why is this?
Although a motor-car manufacturer can find premises for workshops and stores relatively easily, the yachting sector struggles to find land suitable for marinas and repair yards. Why? Because most of the coastline, especially in urban areas, is controlled by the State or by the Port Trusts, and their statutory procedures make the identification, allocation, and permitting of land and water for marinas and repair yards an extremely slow process. The permitting procedures, rather than funding, is where the bottleneck lies. Generally speaking, the private sector can be relied upon to finance marinas and repair yards, but in most cases the availability of suitable land and water sites is entirely in the hands of the statutory authorities.

This then begs the question, is the yachting industry worth supporting? Well here are some comparables from the UK with its population of a mere 61 million (i.e. only 5% of the size of India’s) and rather inclement weather. The statistics come from the British Marine Federation’s surveys for 2007/2008.
• Industry revenue for the leisure and small commercial marine industry in the UK in 2007/2008 was 23,250 crore rupees.
• In addition to the industry revenue, the economic benefits of tourism-related spend in the UK was estimated to be a further 16,500 crore rupees.
• Total employees in the UK estimated to be 35,200 full-time equivalent.
• The wider economic benefits of the 238 coastal marinas in the UK and the Channel Islands resulted in an estimated 5,250 crore rupees value of added contributions.
So the potential for India’s yachting industry is huge, but it is dependent on infrastructure. And infrastructure means marinas and repair yards.

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Simon J Arrol is acknowledged internationally as an expert in the field of marina development and operation. A graduate of the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology, he is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Great Britain.
Following 17years in the dredging and harbour-works industry, Arrol became Managing Director of the marinas division of Camper & Nicholsons. Most recently he was a founding director of Island Global Yachting in the UAE, designing marinas for some of Dubai’s mega-projects including Palm Island and Festival City.
Arrol has undertaken assignments in 27 countries and has managed marinas in 6 countries, including a group of marinas in the UK. He is the author of The Marina Manual, the leading documentary resource on how to administer and operate marinas safely and profitably. He is currently Technical Director of Marina India Infrastructure Pvt Ltd which is headquartered in Mumbai.

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