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Tamara Leisure Experiences: Following Sustainability To a T The core principle of the business revolves around harmonizing people, planet and profit. The group's innovative policies and initiatives align with the United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals

By Shrabona Ghosh

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Settled in the pristine hills of Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, stands a boutique resort: The Tamara Kodai. Enveloped by lush areas and canopied by overhanging trees, the resort mounts amid picturesque verdure. The Tamara Kodai is part of Tamara Leisure Experiences which operates three brands in India: The Tamara Resorts (luxury stays), O by Tamara (upscale business hotels) and Lilac Hotels (a mid-segment chain).

Shruti Shibulal, CEO and director of Tamara Leisure Experiences, is the brain behind the three brands. The core principle of the business revolves around harmonizing people, planet and profit. The group's innovative policies and initiatives align with the United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals.

The hospitality industry faced the wrath of the pandemic and volatile market situations led to dwindling business in the sector. Challenging the traditional practices adopted by the hospitality industry, the CEO bet on a long term market view and remained bullish in seeking new and varied opportunities for investment. The pandemic presented attractive valuations for acquisitions and seizing the opportunity the group diversified its portfolio across geographies and market segments. The three new properties added during FY 2021 include the acquisition of two upscale business hotels (one in Germany and one in India) as well as the launch of one luxury Ayurvedic property in India in the first quarter of 2022.

Brand performance

Tamara Leisure Experiences' turnover increased by 111 per cent in FY 2022 compared with previous year. The business hotels made a great recovery following the pandemic, with a growth rate of 155 per cent compared with FY 2021.

"The luxury hotels performed exceptionally well when opened during the pandemic. There was pent up demand and people thronged in to experience a getaway. But the upscale business hotels and mid-segment chain did not perform well."

However, the brands seemed to have swapped positions. Currently, there is a resurgence in the growth of business and mid segment hotels, whereas the luxury segment seems to fall a little behind. "Owing to corporate travel the business and mid-segment hotels are performing better compared with the luxury segment. When it comes to luxury hotels there are a lot of options and this might be one of the reasons," said the CEO.

Expansion plans

There are different parameters that need to be taken into account while choosing a destination for the three brands. Tamara Leisures has ambitious expansion plans for its mid-segment hotel Lilac and is aiming at Tier II and Tier III cities. This year they look forward to launching the Lilac hotels in three regions: Kannur, Guruvayur and Kumbakonam. Apart from regions equipped with industrial development, pilgrimage spots are another lucrative options for expanding their mid-segment hotels. So, what are the plans of expansion in the luxury segment? "Under the luxury brand, there is no new launch this year but there is an ongoing project in Kerala."

Apart from expanding the brands in domestic areas, the CEO is also eyeing foreign destinations. The group operates four properties in Germany. "We are continuously scouting for locations, we are also looking forward to potential management contracts in the Lilac segment," the CEO said, adding that for the luxury segment they choose destinations that give real time experiences.

Innovations and initiatives

The group, under Shruti's leadership, sidestepped the status quo of ecologically damaging construction, high consumption and excessive waste, synonymous with traditional hospitality practices. Instead, she synthesized responsible practices with organizational culture, embedding environmentally, socially and economically sound policies. Rainwater harvesting, energy efficiency, waste management, eco-sensitive design, wildlife preservation, climate change mitigation, women empowerment, among others are some of her social and environmental initiatives. Over 50 per cent of The Tamara Resort employees are from local communities and an average of 57 per cent of employees at all properties are locals.

SD Shibulal, co-founder Infosys is the chairman of Tamara Leisure Experiences, when asked about if there has been any conflict of interest with the board members, she quipped, "We are perfectly aligned in our values."

Shrabona Ghosh

Correspondent

A journalist with a cosmopolitan mindset. I lead a project called 'Corporate Innovations' wherein I cover corporates across verticals and try to tell stories on innovations. Apart from this, I write industry pieces on FMCGs, auto, aviation, 5G and defense. 
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