Friday, July 27, 2007

$40,000 for a mobile phone number

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The Times of India -Breaking news, views. reviews, cricket from across India
Rs 15.50 lakh for a 'VIP' mobile number
27 Jul 2007, 0110 hrs IST,Parvesh Sharma,TNN

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LUDHIANA: There seems to be no limit to price tags on status. Even so, paying a jaw-dropping Rs 15.50 lakh for a fancy cell phone number is clearly India's most expensive ring. That's the amount Ludhiana lad Amit Malhotra coughed up for 9780000000.

Even for a city known for its if-you-have-it-flaunt-it attitude, Ludhiana, which has the most Mercs per capita of any Indian metro and where Rs 6 lakh suitlengths are common sartorial acquisitions, Amit's new number has become an emblem of status.

"What do we say?" chortled a Hutch employee who didn't want to be named. "If people have the money, let them buy the moon."

Amit, the son of a city garment manufacturer and property dealer, won the number at an auction organised by Hutch. He learnt last week that the phone company was going to release VIP numbers and applied for one. Then he was told that the company planned to auction these numbers. The auction was conducted through a phone-conference, with the bidding process having begun on Tuesday morning and running into Wednesday evening. In the final round, there were five men battling it out for the big-draw number. The results were released on Thursday evening.

The company executive, who spoke to TOI on condition of anonymity, refused to divulge details of the auction, the names of rival bidders or the bid amounts. In the Malhotra household, there was celebration. Vijay Malhotra, the father, wasn't a bit fazed about the amount his son had blown on a phone number. "It's not something new. He has always chosen VIP numbers for his belongings. Only this time he has spent a huge amount on it."

Swamped by questions, the 26-year-old ‘VIP' said he didn't just dust his pocket out for the money. "I borrowed money from friends and relatives and will repay them soon," Amit said.

Many, of course, saw it as new India's unabashed exhibition of both success and confidence, in line with the glitzy multi-crore apartments dotting city suburbs and with the spiralling salaries. Only recently, there were reports that Chandigarh, which has the highest number of mobile phones and cars per capita, also has more than 4,000 millionaires.
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