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COVER STORY

New-Leadership Aspiration Vision

Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 11:30 Hrs  [IST]

The Indian hospitality industry leadership is on the cusp of a major generational shift. A new breed of young leadership is slowly but vividly emerging out of the shadows of the baby-boomer generation. While some are second generation hoteliers, few others are third generation in the hospitality legacy.

Unlike their predecessors, the new generation of leadership comes equipped with lot of refined learning from foreign universities, experience and knowledge gained from more matured international markets and also understanding about modern technology and advancements that are coming over at regular intervals.

While generational shift is a natural phenomenon, it is bound to bring transformation in overall thought process of the society, its living standards, socio-cultural interactions, use of technology, etc. It is important every business keep a close track of these behavioural changes and adapt quickly so that they reflect the expectations and aspirations of the society it represents and caters to. The onus is largely on the relevant generational leadership to take forward the baton being passed over to them by their predecessors, to bring improvements in the system based on these demands.

Drastic changes have come in the way travellers perceived hospitality and hotel services over the years. The way they search, access, decide, book, experience, etc., have changed, thanks to disruptive technology. Conventional ways of customer acquisition are no more relevant and social internet outlets have become increasingly topical. In order to cope with these rapidly evolving changes, the industry requires leadership which is innovative, forward-looking and flexible.

Hospitality Biz
approached a number of second and third generation hoteliers to understand how differently they approach hoteliering compared to the generation before and what radical changes they plan to bring about in the systems and processes to make their businesses future ready.



Nirupa Shankar,
Director, Brigade Hospitality
Services Ltd.

Exciting times to be a hotelier
It’s an interesting time to be a part of the hospitality industry, which is metamorphosing into a more mature one. There are new brands across segments entering the market, aggregators disrupting the status quo, digital media making it a more level playing field for boutique brands and even the nature of hotel owners is changing.

My father, M R Jaishankar founded Brigade Group. Having completed more than 35 million sq ft in the past 30 years, he now plans to execute another 30 million sq ft within the next five years. The second generation’s role is to help execute and ensure that his vision becomes a reality.

Data driven approach
Having an analytical bent of mind, I like having a data driven approach to a decision making process. I trained to be a six sigma black belt and used the six sigma methodology to improve food and energy costs in our hospitality division. My latest pet project has been setting up the country’s first Real Estate Accelerator Program (REAP).

Vision
We have recently launched a Grand Mercure in Mysore and a resort in Bengaluru called Signature Club Resort, near the airport. My goal is to have these two properties ramp up and stabilise operations in 2017. We are also launching two hotels in 2017 – a 202 key Holiday Inn Chennai at OMR-IT Expressway and a 275-key Holiday Inn Express in Bangalore CBD.



Satyen Jain,
CEO, The Pride Hotels Ltd.

New learnings on a daily basis
Hospitality business is a very interesting place to be in. Every day, we learn some or the other thing new. The business demands lot of experimentation and creativity to really stand out in the competitive market.

The new generation has become used to disruptive changes like Uber and Airbnb; hence, we keep trying different things in order to get the edge in the competition and give guests better service experience. Sometimes we fail, but we keep on trying until we succeed. Our generation is using more of technology in order to become more effective and efficient.

Putting systems and processes in place
When I joined the company, a ‘Balance Scorecard’ was introduced for the entire organisation where everybody was clear about the set goals for their departments and initiatives were prepared to achieve the goals. The initiatives are tracked through online system which is visible to the top management. We use online task managers in all the departments of every hotel from top to bottom.

In order to maintain the brand, we have used international consultants to match the levels of global brands without affecting the Indianness of the hotel.

Vision
My vision is to position Pride Hotels as one of the prime upscale Hospitality Company, by providing distinctive Indian Hospitality culture surpassing guest expectations.
Sandeep Gupta,
Executive Director, Asian Hotels (West)

Embrace digital evolution
Hospitality business is extremely dynamic and various new age entrepreneurs keep re-thinking and reinventing the model to maximise guest experience. That is why OYO rooms and Airbnb have become overnight sensations and multibillion dollar companies.

The new age entrepreneurs are quite quick in thinking and adapting to F&B and hospitality trends based on extensive travel and familiarisation to various hotel brands.

Social media is changing the way we do business and being an integral part of social media gives me better insight to adjust and react faster to both positive and negative trends in our business model. It is essential to learn to brace the digital evolution and learn how to make it work as a business opportunity rather than a threat.

Think out-of-the-box
I broke the mould for design and brought cutting-edge designers to create never-before kind of design elements in rooms and public areas at JW Marriott Aerocity, New Delhi. I believe that identifying what makes you stand apart, exploiting it and the need to be known and stand out for something unique has never been more imperative than in today’s fast evolving world. One should keep thinking out of the box and innovating no matter what the circumstances; no one can take creativity away from you.

Vision
My vision for 2017 is to make JW an overall hospitality destination in the entire city and keep innovating F&B concepts and look for further opportunities to grow in other cities.


Sonica Malhotra,
Joint MD, MBD Group

Inducing professionalism into the system
The diversification of MBD Group into Hospitality had been the vision of my father, A.K. Malhotra. As second generation entrepreneurs, we look after infrastructure, systems, procedures and policies for scalable and robust functioning of the organisation. Anyhow, the growth remains paramount for us too. However, we try and focus on instituting professional systems in place.

Nowadays, upgradation has gradually become the catch word for almost every corporate. Depending on company’s own culture and market place, it’s vital to redefine the rules and be innovative. As new generation entrepreneurs, we stressed on planning and timely execution. Moreover, a lot of analytical acumen and innovative tools have been put in place to work professionally and matchup the global standards.

At MBD Group, we encourage an open-minded work culture, devoid of traditional hierarchies. We always wish to lead by example, passion and humility.

Vision
Each vertical under MBD Group has got a vision. If I were to talk about hospitality we expect to sign a few hotels under MBD Steigenberger brand, under management or franchise. The construction of our flagship hotel under JV, Zephyr – An MBD Steigenberger Hotel at Whitefield Bangalore would be in full swing soon.

Nirav Gandhi,
Director, Express Group of
Hotels

Not a very tempting industry

Unlike other businesses, hotel investment has a long gestation period and returns also slow to come by, hence the new generation entrepreneurs are not very tempted to pursue this business. Even though the glamour quotient is high compared to other businesses, it doesn’t off set the amount of hassles and challenges one need to deal with as compared to other industries.

The management of hotels has become tougher and more complex compared to the past. Although technology has made long strides and is helping manage things, the same has made things complex also. Earlier, business sourcing was done through local/national sales and travel agents but since the last 15 years there are multiple channels one needs to service to get the same amount of business. Similarly, loyalty of both guests and staff is non-existent today. If airlines were enhancing the hotel business earlier, today they are actually taking away guests by reducing their stay shorter.

People management

Today’s management needs to be more open to new concepts and accept them. There after they need to upgrade themselves with these new concepts and technologies.

People management is quite important in the hospitality business. If we manage our staff well, they in turn will manage our guests well.


Vishal Vithal Kamat,
Director, Kamat Hotels

Tools changed, but approach remains same
Hospitality is seen as a glamorous industry and no doubt gives you fantastic reputation and connectivity. As long as people will continue to be inspired by many greats from our industry like my father Dr. Vithal Kamat, this industry will always be in demand and desirable.

As a third generation entrepreneur, fortunately, my approach to the business hasn’t changed. Yes, the tools may have changed, but the core of Kamat’s hospitality has not. This reflects in our repeat customers and their feedback of our core appealing Indian hospitality. The only thing I’m doing differently is using the internet and softwares that are available as an opportunity to enhance the guest experience and expectations.

Innovation is key to the ‘Kamats Kulture’. Considering the age of our hotels and being a pioneer in Eco hotels in India we were able to use a lot of new technology to reduce operation costs and enhance staff work environment leading to improved guest satisfaction.

Exciting times ahead
We see the coming years as very interesting times. We were struggling due to various economic and internal reasons but now the time has come where things have turned around well. In fact, we are in discussions with a few opportunities to merge and grow our companies mutually so in the future you will find many more choices we have to offer our loyal guests in many parts of India.

Tharun Giri,
MD, The Windflower Resort & Spa

Emulating successful entrepreneurs
My inspiration in the business is two people rather than instances. One, of course, is my father, P.V. Giri, and the other person is Patu Keswani of Lemon Tree Hotels.

I think hospitality leaders like him who created large companies and brands inspite of all the red tape and difficulties is highly commendable.

As far as approaches to business go, my father was not only my boss, but also my mentor and guide. We had our share of disagreements but I can tell logic always prevailed over glamour associated with the industry. The only space where we approach our business differently is in the project stage where I prefer long term solutions to everything. I think compared to the past the biggest advantage available is accessibility to reports and information. Earlier, data and information concerning operations and its costings or sales and its segments were available only on a monthly basis. Now, this info is available to us on a day to day basis or sometimes even session to session basis. This makes it easier to get the work done.

Vision
We are in final phase of consolidation of our business which grew tenfold between 2012 and now. We have some land banks and we also have identified certain revenue generating assets for acquisition to grow our brand. We want the next round of expansion to make us a national brand with assets pan India.


Roop Chaudhary,
MD, Hotel Noor Mahal Karnal

Hospitality business is not every one’s cup of tea
Of all I’ve learned in my past years in this industry is that hospitality in general isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Your relations have to be strong; one needs to have an extremely flexible approach to work, and needs to understand the true sense of the word ‘Hospitality’. It’s never your average desk job and the moment one starts to follow it like one, it doesn’t work well in the longer run.

My parents started their business as first generation hoteliers in the early 90’s. Being new to the service industry themselves, they started ground zero to learn the tricks of the trade. Sales, PR, marketing, technologies, brand imaging, etc., were unknown to their generation. I made sure that before I take over the mantle, I gain complete knowledge as an employee’s perspective in regards to many areas of the business.

Learning & implementing newer concepts
I started with tapping the ongoing trends in public relations, marketing, brand imaging and management which were mainly my forte alongside micromanaging the sales that were being generated by these untapped markets. Making sure that my properties are viewed as a destination rather than plain keys based hotels and more importantly making sure my teams believe in the authenticity of what we’re offering the guest.

Being a second-generation hotel owner allows me to learn from the triumphs and tribulations of the first generation. There is a huge untapped market and brands are getting better, the competition is getting bigger. In sync with market evolvement, I and my team will continue to find newer paths to expand my company, to improvise and enhance guest experiences.



Amruda Nair,
Joint MD & CEO, Aiana Hotels & Resorts

Exciting industry to be in
I am a third generation hotelier and my latest business venture is completely independent of the family business. Aiana Hotels and Resorts is an independently owned, completely new brand of hospitality. Aiana Hotels will be very different from The Leela in terms of service philosophy, positioning and signature elements.

It is exciting to be a part of Hospitality industry as it provides a great platform for combining technology, innovation, design and service. As a young entrepreneur I was keen to create a brand that resonates with the traveller of today. My generation believes in being independent, taking risks and being proud of their roots. Aiana is about being authentic, intuitive and proud of being Indian.

Vision
Our vision is to be a globally respected hospitality brand that embodies the best of Indian service culture as a leading operator of properties in South Asia and the Middle East. We will achieve this vision by innovating fresh service, design, and operating concepts, creating smart, stimulating places in tune with our environmental and social values. Aiana as a brand was launched 18 months ago and we currently have eight hotels signed under contract with over 1,000 rooms under construction across Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and India. In 2017 we plan to launch a 180-key Serviced Apartment Aiana Suites & Residences in Doha, 611 room Aiana Makkah and a 33 villa boutique hotel Aiana Munnar.


Rahul Chaudhary,
Executive Director, CG Hotels & Resorts

Drivers of change
The new breed of new generation entrepreneurs is bringing a shift through technology. The largest hotel chain in the world, Airbnb, doesn’t own assets. That’s a major shift that technology has brought in. There was no OTA, social media or digital platforms 10 to 15 years ago. It is new generation entrepreneurs who brought in that change.

The new generation of entrepreneurs in many hotel families are setting up their own brands rather than partnering with international brands. Also, they are better informed and equipped to negotiate partnerships on a feasible model than the older generations.

I don’t think that even in our generation the ego factor of owning hotels or the feeling of a hotelier has diminished, it will continue to be there. But it all depends on where you are with regard to the hospitality space in your current line of business. I have been in this space for the last 15 to 20 years and have come out of the ego phase long back.

Now it is more to do with our vision of creating a different hotel company with its feet in all segments of hospitality space from New York to China. While we had our ego boost by having hotels from Bali to Sri Lanka and from Nepal to Maldives and Philippines, the goal now is to push our own brand, Zinc, in terms of reach, scale and returns.


Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar,
Executive Director, HRH Group of Hotels

Industry requires agile & alert entrepreneurs
I think hospitality, especially in the domain of F&B, is extremely exciting today for a whole spectrum of entrepreneurs and professionals. Cuisine is the rage of our times, added to this are the beverages. Wines, whiskies and vodkas from every corner of the globe now available even in every suburb of our metro-cities and mini-metros. Naturally, such a scenario is highly motivating and demands the best of training, domain knowledge from entrepreneurs and professionals alike.

I am a third generation entrepreneur in the heritage hospitality business. My grandfather, late Maharana Bhagwat Singh 'converted' Jag Niwas Palace into the Lake Palace Hotel in the early 1960s. That's when the story of our entrepreneurship really begins and by the 1980s, the iconic palace-hotels of Udaipur - Shiv Niwas Palace and Fateh Prakash Palace - began setting the trends in heritage hospitality in India.

Every generation gets the benefit of new technologies, new policies and changing world environments. The world of 1980s and 1990s is totally transformed today. Yes, as business leaders, we have to be agile and alert to get the best deals for our business. As a family business organisation, we believe in building on the platforms we inherit. We have the flexibility to innovate and yet remain rooted in our value system. My approach draws upon these strengths of our family and business environments.

In 2017 and the years ahead, we wish to remain committed to this pursuit of excellence in heritage hospitality.


Suhail Kannampilly,
Sr VP – Operations, The Fern Hotels & Resorts

New found charm in hotels
I think the hospitality industry in India is still a little dated in its thinking. This is not going to change overnight. New age entrepreneurs from outside the industry will face resistance, but I'm sure those with sufficient motivation will push through. The industry per se still has a charm. As management company interacting with property developers across India, I can see a lot of their next generation gravitating towards hospitality.

Notwithstanding the generational shift, the fundamentals of business remain the same. The biggest difference would be the appetite for growth. In the last five years, we have grown from six hotels to 41 hotels with 20 hotels in the pipeline.

It has been 16 years now since I joined the company so the challenge here is not introducing new energy but now drawing it from the team. Here technology plays a big role. It helps identify the opportunities for you, pick trends in customer behaviour and give almost real time feedback to each vertical. The challenge is interpreting this and adapting.

Vision
We opened approx 10 hotels each year in 2015 & 16, and 2017 is shaping up on similar lines. Along with aggressive marketing, we will return to our core on environmental friendly practices, work for which has already begun. Other main focus area for FY17 will be the loyalty program which had a significant growth in 2016, but will really start to drive returns for members in the coming year.


Sahib Gulati,
Director, Ellbee Hospitality Worldwide

Keep innovating and changing
Hospitality business is very inspiring for new age entrepreneurs. This is also the reason why we keep on hearing several new players making a mark in the industry, especially in the restaurant business, by offering something innovative and new. However, hospitality business is not as glamorous as it appears from outside. Running a profitable business requires tremendous amount of hard work and discipline.

Being much more exposed to technology than the previous generation, we try to leverage technology to the maximum in order to better manage day to day operations. Our focus in management is to create an open and transparent communication culture within our organisation, which technology helps us achieve very easily. Most of our earlier hotel processes were manual in nature which we were able to streamline and automate with technology.

For instance, in our hotel and restaurant there was a manual procedure of requesting items, approving, ordering and receiving which was very inefficient. We digitised the entire purchasing process by developing our own software solution – Zeffu to increase efficiency.

In order to remain competitive, it is very important to be keep innovating and changing.


Kanika Sharma,
MD, Dyo – The Organic Village Resort (Chevron Hotels)

Focus on growth and quality over quantity
The principal difference between the old and new generation is the ideology. The first generation believes in relentless hard work and focuses on surviving. On the other hand, the second generation believes in growth and quality over quantity. The first generation’s motto was that the client is of supreme importance. But today’s generation believes in equal importance to the client and their own workforce.

Current business environment demands different perspectives, experience levels and skill sets. Therefore, the methodology and art of implementation need to be different. Learning process is extremely important for new generation entrepreneurs. We only learn from our mistakes, but due to the outburst in technology and the digital age, there isn’t much room for any errors. Digital and social media marketing is a complete game changer. It has made people more aware, accepting, and inquisitive and innovation oriented, which works in favour of budding entrepreneurs.

Think out of the box
Over the years, the industry has come to a point of stagnation with its standardised approach and unvarying services. We wish to bring about a colossal change in the quality and standards. We aspire and work towards bringing the joy of organic food to our guests.

We want natural and organic farming to meet high-end hospitality at our Dyo - The Organic Village Resort. It is vision to bring together people from all across the world and share the beauty of the hills.


Tanya Agrawal,
Director, Shri Radha Brij Vsaundhara Resort and Spa (SHRI Group)

Exciting but challenging business
Hotel business is very inspiring since it is full of challenges. In hospitality industry no two days are same. Sometimes there are urgent operational issues to attend and at times there are guest related issues. Then you have to look at right marketing strategies to remain ahead of competition.

Our generation has the advantage of better technology but it has a flip side as we face increased competition too. The guest expectations have also soared and they would not compromise on the standards in any way. Opportunities for our generation are that we can easily update ourselves about the latest trends and standards and adapt it. In terms of negotiation skills, we have to learn a bit from our earlier generation.

Stay updated
My job is to take the legacy forward as I received a self sufficient unit in Shri Radha Brij Vasundhara Resort. I focus on marketing and service part as these are the areas which I felt has lot of scope for improvement.

I have made changes in the recruitment side so that we attract the best talent in the hospitality industry and streamlined the booking system focusing on the current and future requirements. We have a very interesting website with eBooking facility. In room decor has also been changed to provide newer and fresher feel to our regular guests. Major effort has been made to fine tune food and beverage as per guests need. With systematic planning the focus is on trouble shooting and not fire fighting.


Luv Malhotra,
Joint MD, CHL Ltd (The Suryaa New Delhi)

Time for Innovative thinking
Hospitality is rapidly changing from a luxury and niche category to a larger universe of people, as the changing economy and higher purchasing power has expanded the universe of service. This is a very exciting time to be in the hospitality business, as new practices, standards and services are being established almost everyday!

The Suryaa has been Delhi’s favourite hospitality address for over three decades. This is a legacy that I’m honoured to carry forward. My approach is a combination of hospitality industry knowledge that I’ve learnt from my father and an understanding about the evolving customers. The core philosophy of The Suryaa has been service that is memorable. However, in this fast-paced change oriented world, the reasons and occasions for making memories are changing. Memorable events are not just weddings or huge events, even a rejuvenating spa experience, a solid workout or a beautiful terrace top gourmet dinner with the view of the Delhi skyline is an experience to remember. With innovative thinking, we have made sure that we offer all these new experiences that our lifestyles have evolved towards.

The vision for the following year is to create some memorable properties at the Suryaa and to make sure that our hotel caters to any and every need that a customer walking in has. Our heritage and legacy inspires us to truly be a very hospitable experience, with everything taken care of, for you.


 
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