Bombay is not only the commercial capital of India but the centre of leisure boating. Although the official name for the city is Mumbai, locals still prefer to use Bombay. While growth in boating has been stunted since 2010 by luxury taxes and the lack of full service marinas, the industry, whilst small, is innovative and resilient with a hard core of industry veterans such Aquasail, Marine Solutions, West Marine, Ava Marine, Navnit Marine and others dug in for the long haul anticipating better times.

With the economy growing at 7% per annum, currently the fastest in the developing world, and a revival of the Indian Marine Federation, the trade body for India, the potential looks more positive.

During a recent visit to Bombay by IBI’s Asia and Middle East Correspondent, Mike Derrett, a visit to the Mandva Beach Box revealed a concept that within the space of three months has become one of the ‘must-see’ destinations in Bombay, especially for the younger generation.

A joint creation by Aashim Mongia of West Marine and Devika Saigal from Mandva Port, the Beach Box is situated next to Mandva pier, a 25-minute fast boat ride, or a one hour slower ferry trip across the harbour from Bombay.

Mandva is already a popular destination for visits by locals and tourists eager to escape the hectic atmosphere of crowded Bombay. By cleverly utilising 21 recycled shipping containers, Mongia and Saigal have created an area of pop-up shops and cafes centred on an auditorium overlooking the beach and sea. Combined with entertainment running over the weekends, this has resulted in a big increase in visitor numbers and the utilisation of leisure boats and the ferry service to get to the destination.

According to Saigal: “We get about 8,000 to 10,000 people a day visiting Madva at weekends, which is double the numbers visiting before we opened the Beach Box this February and the neighbouring restaurant Boardwalk last year. The art, music, entertainment and cultural events that we hold at weekends, especially against a backdrop of a sunset, are proving extremely popular.”

Mongia, who has also just been elected president of the Indian Marine Federation, an ICOMIA affiliated trade body, highlighted the benefits to leisure boating: “The Beach Box has kick-started the boating cycle, giving our customers an additional reason to own a boat and somewhere to bring their friends,” he said. “We are also starting up a sailing school for children using Optimist dinghies and there is wind surfing, kite surfing, catamaran and dinghy sailing taking place on the beach.

“This has all become possible because of the State investment in rebuilding the pier and also building a protection breakwater that now enables boats to safely moor up to the pier in all weather conditions outside the monsoon season.”