MUMBAI'S sprawling, 600-acre textile district (known as'Giran gaon' in Marathi) is undergoing a dramatic transformation. While many of the chimneys are being knocked down, the few that survive are being dwarfed by new skyscrapers, which are rapidly changing the skyline.
And the former labour-dominated area is also becoming home to five-star hotels, catering to business executives jetting in from all over the world.
Says Anil Malik, general manager, ITC Grand Central Sheraton Hotel & Towers (which has itself set up a luxury hotel, now a landmark in Lalbaug): "About four to five new five-star hotels are coming up in the textile district. The next three years will see a dramatic transformation in this area."
In the past, most business visitors to the city preferred to stay in south Mumbai, as the commercial hub of Mumbai was located in the Nariman Point/Fort area. But in recent years, other business districts have sprouted up, including the former textile hub, the Bandra-Kurla complex, and suburbs like Andheri. So central Mumbai is emerging as a much sought after location, and consequently luxury hotels are coming up here.
The ITC Grand Central is one of the tallest hotel buildings in India, but its architecture is a blend of various colonial styles. The canopy, for instance, derives its inspiration from the Bombay Secretariat building on the Oval. "We have used a lot of bricks, sloping roofs, and wrought iron to give this special effect," says Malik. In fact, about a million special bricks were imported from Malaysia and used for cladding purposes.
The hotel, which has been reporting good occupancy rates, now aims to target the Arab Gulf visitors to Mumbai, especially those who come here during the monsoons. "We are located in what is the city's medical zone," says Malik. "Close to the hotel there are several leading hospitals, including the Tata Memorial Hospital, Hinduja, Lilavati, and Jaslok."
The hotel has two floors – dubbed'Eva floors' – exclusively reserved for women travellers; it features an all-women staff, including butlers, to ensure security and privacy. With a growing number of women executives travelling, there was a need for such a facility, adds Malik.