Starting a hotel business in Bengaluru in 2001, when the city had just started to see the Silicon Valley kind of buzz, was a riveting experience for Chander Baljee – Managing Director at Royal Orchid Hotels.
In a conversation with Entrepreneur India, Baljee took us through his entrepreneurial journey of hunting for an ideal location for hs hotel back then, to having an initial public offering in 2006 where he raised Rs 130 crores through its maiden public offering and private placement of equity.
Hotel Royal Orchid was born with its first property which came up at Old airport Road, Bangalore. This property was the first home grown 5 star luxury brand to the aspirant Indian. Baljee was involved in the process of launching and building the brand.
By 2004, his brand had established four hotel properties and proceeded for expansion across India to establish a national presence. Having signed new projects in Jaipur, Hyderabad and Pune, these hotels were on lease, keeping the company asset –light.
Prior to launching this brand, in 1973 Baljee took over “Stay Longer, Bangalore” on lease, re-launching it as Hotel Harsha, which is now known as Ramada Bangalore.
Living through good and bad times
Baljee’s love for orchids motivated him to christen his chain by the name of the same flower. While 2006, the IPO helped him immensely from the financial aspect; Baljee also saw the rough side of the market in 2008.
“There was a lot of pressure across all hotel companies pan India back then. We had to do away with a lot of debt. Back then we had a hotel in Hyderabad and based on certain evaluation we decided to sell that hotel. Are debt came down drastically,” he said and thus bailing them out of the crisis.
Talking about battling funding and economic highs and lows, Baljee said that in funding one shouldn't over leverage. “Always look at the worst consequence also. You should see your graph and excel sheets and evaluate what could be the scenario under the worst consequence.. Ask yourself if you’d be able to meet your targets under the worst case scenario,”
Baljee said that an entrepreneur should always have a devil’s advocate, somebody who can take your idea and pick holes in it.
You’ve got to deliver what you promise!
Baljee said that for any format of hotel or hospitality business one must know that he has to deliver what he has promised. For all the touch points with the guest, one has to keep a system in place so that these experiences of the guests are standardized.
From the Silent Town of Shimla to Becoming the Pioneer in the Hotel Space
The Royal Orchid hotels became the only Indian hotel company from Bangalore to have made an International foray with new markets in Africa. The two brands Royal Orchid and Regenta hotels today stand with 38 hotels in 26 cities across India and Africa.
Rising from an early humble beginning in Shimla, today Baljee is recognized in the country as one of the pioneers of Indian hospitality and has been periodically rewarded for his contribution towards the industry by the Government of India and several recognized bodies.