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New status symbol of India's elite

Last updated on: May 1, 2013 14:11 IST

New status symbol of India's elite

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Geetanjali Krishna


The Italian jacuzzi is on the blink. The Japanese client has to be entertained and everything must be perfect. Don't worry, the great white butler is here to navigate well-heeled Indians through the oft-tricky waters of the world elite.

Trained in the playgrounds of the world's rich and famous, he can rustle up a classy four-course dinner, fix that Jacuzzi pump as well as polish shoes and iron shirts.

As the rich aspire to relive the world of PG Wodehouse and Jeeves, high-end staff is fast becoming the ultimate status symbol.

Why in India, though? The country has a tradition of household service used even by its burgeoning middle class.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Perhaps, in the rarefied world of the super-rich, this is precisely why high-end household staff could hit the right spot.

"Luxury today means attaining the levels of sophistication that others merely aspire to," says Bertold Wiesner, managing director of Society Butler, an agency that provides high-end staffing solutions. "The Gentleman's Gentleman or, in other words, the butler, exemplifies this!"

What's more, the butler may be like Wiesner (he has attended St Andrews University at the same time as Kate Middleton and is a trained actor) - a sophisticated aide de camp who delivers the luxury of old English aristocracy to your door.

Till now, most high-end staff recruitment agencies have focussed on the US, the Arab countries and China.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Society Butler is one of the first agencies to dock on Indian shores this year.

Wiesner understands Indian working conditions and culture, having had a three-year stint with a Chennai businessman (where he was reportedly paid 100,000 pounds a year) at his sprawling villa on Lake Geneva, an apartment next to the Eiffel Tower and an estate in Washington DC.

At his Madison Avenue offices in New York, high net worth Indians have shown interest.

"Indian clients talk about the difficulty of finding loyal and efficient staff in India. Many recruit individuals abroad because they do not trust the Indian maids, chauffeurs or butlers in India," says Wiesner.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Leela Hotels

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Perhaps, Wiesner's services could be too bizarre for the Indian khansamah or bearer! He recounts serving tea to an employer while he was jogging on a treadmill large enough for him as well as his dog on a long leash!

Another time, he had to transplant a fully-grown tree into his employer's garden for which he hired an army helicopter.

He needed to 'borrow' a helicopter again while hunting for an employer's lost dog. After a fruitless mid-air search, he returned, only to find that the pooch had sauntered back on his own.

Serving the often-capricious fancies of the super-rich requires training. "We teach staff to adapt to all customs, places, time zones, mannerisms and behaviour. They need to be tech savvy, preferably speak multiple languages, be effective negotiators and able to drive non-stop for 12 hours!" says he.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Wiesner , India

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They also need to maintain fine laundry, choose wines, make perfect beds and more. Obviously, such services don't come cheap.

"The staff we place is primarily European. Their salaries start at 㿙,000 per annum, and above that the sky is the limit!" says he.

Wiesner and co run Society Academy to train domestic staff, and Society Conceirge, that provides customised solutions to individual as well as corporate lifestyle needs.

With their plan to open a Mumbai office this summer, good old Jeeves will soon be resurrected in India - albeit with a BlackBerry and iPad instead of the obligatory silver salver.


Photographs: Reuters

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