The travel and hospitality sector in India gets continuously challenged by factors ranging from foreign brands, government policies and regulations and changing trends. The concept of shared economy and new-age companies like OYO Rooms, Airbnb and food- delivery services like Fresh Menu and InnerChef have also played their share to disrupt the industry with the help of technology. However, marquee Indian hoteliers and restaurant owners have carved their niche over the years by following the simple yet important Indian concept –“Atithi devo bhava” (Guest is equivalent to God). Entrepreneur spoke to three industry leaders to understand what helps them clock successful business despite several challenges in the domain.
GAURAV GOENKA - Managing Director, Mirah Hospitality
Gaurav Goenka joined the Mirah Group in 2005 and almost immediately charted his own path and founded the hospitality arm of the group. He took over a hotel property in Lonavla and rebranded it as Citrus, making it the group’s second major acquisition, post Khandani Rajhdhani. Mirah has grown into one of the favored hospitality brands in India under his helm.
On Building the Right Team
“We’ve been in this business for over a decade now and have built a brand with a lot of passion and dedication. Our USP is a very bright team of professionals and we have invested heavily on system and processes that has helped us run multi-brand and multi-city operations,"
"The real success lies in the fact that one believes in his team and concepts,” Goenka said.
Mirah Hospitality is a comprehensive, end-to-end solutions provider and leading player in the Indian food and beverage and hospitality sector. The brand has grown from a single brand to an empire of over 100 outlets across 20 Indian cities in a short period of time.
VISHAL KAMAT- Director, Kamat Group
Kamat Hotels (India) Ltd is one of the fastest growing hospitality groups in India. KHIL was initiated on March 21, 1986 by Late Venkatesh Krishna Kamat, a visionary in the business and has steered it into a successful public limited company by 1994.
He began working at his family restaurants at the age of 13 and continued to work till his graduation. After graduation, he expanded his culinary horizons with his first stint at ‘Vithal Kamats - Original Family Restaurant’. He spearheaded the standard designing of the kitchen, centralization, standardization and execution.
The hotel industry needs to get its due
Despite being in the industry for years, Vishal continues to believe that the tourism industry has not been given its due credit. “A hotel, even a small plot engages 100-150 people at a time. The value which our industry adds to our economy, is not as much appreciated,” he said.
Maintaining a Brand
He opined, it takes a lot of personal conviction to build a brand and it is also necessary to inculcate that conviction among the people in the organization. “I am proud of my veteran staff, who today act as mentors to the younger generation and take the legacy forward,” he adds.
CHANDER BALJEE, Managing Director, Royal Orchid Hotels
Baljee saw the glory of an IPO in 2006 and the dust of financial crisis in 2008. Today, Royal Orchid Hotels is the only Indian hotel company from Bangalore to have made an International foray with new markets in Africa. Its two brands Royal Orchid and Regenta hotels today stand with 38 hotels in 26 cities across India and Africa.
Speaking about competition, Baljee said, “Entrepreneurs in the hotel industry must be willing to adapt to the current economic scenario and imbibe the evolving technologies which are gaining tremendous hold in the market, with the consumers today making impromptu, yet informed decisions through their mobile phones. During times of festivals and holidays, it is the hotelier who works double time. Some industries are labour intensive, and others are capital intensive; however, it is the hotel industry that carries the pressure of being both capital and labour intensive.”
“What is luxury today will become a necessity tomorrow, and with new methods of marketing and technology, one must take unconventional paths to anticipate fast changing habits of the customers, food choices, mobile booking platforms and social media habits,”
Being IPO ready
“After the incremental growth of the Royal Orchid brand from one hotel in 2001 to four hotels in 2006, the brand name had received notable recognition in Karnataka and in turn gave me the confidence to proceed with an IPO on the NSE and BSE. 2006 was a great year for us as the stock markets saw an upswing. No hotel stock had hit the market for a long time, and so we took the risk and were overestimated by 42 times. The response was overwhelming, further giving me the confidence to drive forward and gain a pan- India footprint with 40 hotels,” he said.
(This article was first published in the May issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)