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‘We have grown from nil to 19 hotels in last four years’ - Param Kannampilly, Chairman & Managing Director, Concept Hospitality

As a domestic hotel company, Concept Hospitality has been able to carve its niche in the Indian hospitality landscape with The Fern brand over the last five years. The hotel company recently relaunched its smart budget brand, Beacon, to enhance its portfolio. Param Kannampilly, Chairman & Managing Director, Concept Hospitality, shared the success of Concept Hospitality and The Fern brand so far and the mission ahead in an interview with Hospitality Biz’ Leaders Forum…

Thursday, November 6, 2014, 12:15 Hrs  [IST]

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Q. How was the journey for Concept Hospitality and The Fern brand so far? How did you able to carve out a space for the brand Fern in a highly competitive Indian hospitality landscape?
Param Kannampilly:
It has been very exciting journey for our group. The Fern brand has grown in last four years from no hotels to 19 hotels. The unique philosophy at Fern has clearly distinguished itself from our competitors which are one of the key reasons to our success. The unique proposition of Fern hotel is that it is an environmentally sensitive hotel chain that offers personalized service and contemporary facilities. Since, all the hotels have started post 2009 they all have a fresh new feel which is endearing to our guests.
 
Q. The last couple of years had been quite stressful for hoteliers because of poor economic and financial slowdown. How Fern properties able to manage the slowdown? Did it impact your expansion plans?
PK:
It did affect the industry at large, however, we at Fern hotel successfully managed to overcome the challenges. In fact, we are grown and added 10 hotels in last 2 years. Incidentally, we are the fatest growing chain in mid segment in India.

Q. You are a strong proponent of Green Hotels. How do you able to push the green concept with your owners in day to day operations? Do you see a change in mindset of investors/owners to such concepts over the years?
PK:
Increasingly, with the awareness of preserving the environment, almost all hotel owners are very receptive to investing in green hotels. It’s our duty and responsibility to ensure that this culture of being environmentally friendly is inculcated into the future generations. Being environmentally friendly does mean a healthier bottom line. We have been able to achieve a six percent increase in bottom line versus competition.

Q. Could you explain expansion plans going forward? How many new properties, additional keys are you targeting over the next three years? Do you have plans to add new brands into your portfolio to fill the existing gap in terms of segments?
PK:
By 2017 we are likely to open 30 new hotels whereby taking the total tally of our hotels to 50. Our Key count is also likely to double in this period where we would be close to 3500 keys. We have just re launched our hotel brand Beacon which would cater to smart budget segment and in the last five months it has grown to from the existing one to a group of seven operating hotels and four yet to open
 
Q. In the light of new government at the Centre bestowing highest priority to the tourism development, how would you think it reflecting in the hospitality businesses going forward?
PK:
With a stable government in centre the outlook for the industry looks very positive. One envisages an increase in business travel to various metro cities. Corporate are expected to do well and this would lead to more incentive, conferences, dealer meet etc; which will auger well for the resort properties. Additionally, with stability increase big ticket reforms are easier to accomplish, we should see a simplification in tax structure and the government has already announced visa on arrival which will undoubtedly increase tourist inflow into India.
 
Q. Trained and skilled manpower is a major issue before the industry in its march ahead. As an hotel company, how do you look at this issue of manpower? Do you have plans to invest in training infrastructure at any point of time?
PK:
Fern Hotels has always viewed that training is very critical for the success of the industry and to the success of Fern hotels. We at Fern hotels have introduced several training programmes across all levels to impart the latest skill sets and knowledge to our employees. We currently do not have any plans to venture into education but we have created an online training centre for all our employees to pick up skills and grow their careers.

Q. What are the trends do you see in hospitality education? How would advent of institutes of international repute like Ecole Hoteliere in India help upgrade the standards of education and trained manpower?
PK:
India is known for its hospitality and with international institutes like Ecole Hoteliere coming up will supplement the training and education that our students today are receiving. This would definitely make international business practices and up-to-date curriculum accessible to our students as well. A special thrust on technology is key to the success of the hospitality industry today, and the curriculum these institutes follow have that thrust.

 
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