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‘We will now focus on increasing our presence in the social segment’

Thursday, December 21, 2017, 17:25 Hrs  [IST]

At a time Sheraton brand is celebrating its 80th anniversary globally with ‘Go Beyond’ campaign, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, the first newly built and managed Sheraton in India, and the first among the 10 Sheratons in Asia to be crowned the ‘Grand’ tag – a new premier tier of Sheraton, is all geared to offer curated experiences to guests in tune with the brand concepts. Sujeet Kumar, who recently took over as the General Manager of the flagship Sheraton in India in an interview to Hospitality Biz shares the market sentiments in the cyber city, and various other aspects of hoteliering in the highly competitive market place.

Q How do you view the evolvement of hospitality market in the city into different micro-markets and how has it impacted the business demand in the more city-centered hotels?
Bangalore has evolved at a phenomenal pace over the last few years, with an influx of companies setting up offices in the city. The hospitality segment, in turn, has kept up with the demand with a continuous upsurge of new hotels in the area.

The city further developed into a well-defined micro market segments, with clear distinctions amongst hotels and their respective catchment areas, primarily owing to the traffic situation and limited office space in the city centre.

Q Being the flagship Sheraton ‘Grand’ hotel in India, how has Sheraton Grand Bengaluru maintained its niche and able to ward off the increasing competition for business in the market?
Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway is the first newly built and managed Sheraton in India and thus promoting the Sheraton brand in its true sense has been of primary importance to the hotel since the very beginning by highlighting our brand concepts and getting experiences curated for guests. The endeavour led to us

being chosen amongst the first ten Sheraton in Asia to be crowned Grand – a new premier tier of Sheraton.

To stand out and create a niche for ourselves in the fiercely competitive market, we not only strive to be the best in terms of product by constant evolvement, but also to provide extraordinary service consistently as well as offer great value for money.

This year also saw the Sheraton brand celebrating its 80th anniversary globally, with launch of the ‘Go Beyond’ campaign showcasing our associates and the heart they bring to service. The campaign particularly resonates with our guests and associates with the service culture being an intrinsic part of our hospitality, giving us our core USP in market.

Our latest addition towards this endeavour is the Mobile Guest Services, where we have launched and successfully executed the Mobile check-in/check-out experience for our SPG members.

Q What are new demand drivers in the market as Bengaluru was one market where supply is reported to have overshot demand? Did you see any impact in room and other business due to meltdown in the IT industry?
Primary demand drivers of the Bangalore market are the tech-savvy populace, who drive the segment with reviews and content sharing, requiring the hotels to constantly innovate and update their offerings, particularly in terms of good tech-support.

The market is also very influenced by the food & beverage offerings, with the city boasting of some of the best restaurant & bar concepts in the country.

Overall, the hotel has not witnessed any negative impact on business due to meltdown in IT industry as the city is still witnessing a boom with MNCs and start-ups setting up offices on a daily basis.

Q As a General Manager what exactly is your biggest challenge in a location like Bengaluru? How do you try to overcome that through your long years of industry experience?
The hospitality industry is driven by the services provided by the people. In my opinion, a hotel may have the best of product, but without the right people, it may not garner the reputation it aspires to. The biggest challenge in the industry is to find the right talent, who provide differentiated and elevated service to set the product apart and constantly deliver on the brand promise.

The best way to counter the challenge is hiring the correct talent for the role, subsequently supported with a constant attentiveness towards their training and development. We also invest in personalised and driven associate engagement activities to gauge the associates’ thought process to identify and further hone skill-sets to mould the future leaders of the industry.

Our ‘Go Beyond’ motto is driven by our associates in its true essence and hence empowering them with the necessary equipment and knowledge not only contributes to the growth of the associates but also, by extension, to the growth of the business.

Q As a General Manager what are your strategies to unbundle various components of the hotel like F&B, Health Club, Spa, etc. and make each one self sustaining so as to reduce the dependence on room business?
Each department – F&B, Health Club, Spa, etc. – is a profit center and hence it is very important for each vertical of the hotel to be self-sustainable and profit making its own right. A distinct brand identity of individual venues are maintained and highlighted through our marketing endeavours, where we curate food & beverage events for specialty cuisines, organise experiences like culinary academy & master classes with our Chefs and promote wellness mantra at our fitness centre & spa by organising experiences for Media FAM.

In continuation with creating repute in individual market segments, further to having established our presence in the corporate segment, we will now focus to increase our presence in the social segment, with a special emphasis on weddings, further capitalising on the brand – “Shaadi by Marriott”.

Q At a time customer is always looking for newer and newer experiences, how do you try to be in sync with that ever changing demand? What kind of upgradation, new offerings are you planning in the immediate future?
Being aware of the latest developments in the industry is the first step to be able to anticipate the guest requirements and deliver them a customised & personalised service experience.

We are working on multiple soft refurbishments across the property alongside plans to further expand our dining options with the launch of our newest F&B venue, Alfresco by Bene (AbB) planned this month, with a focus on creating unique dining experience with an indulgence in the concept & culture of the cuisine, to cater to a wider clientele base.

AbB flaunts a casual and contemporary interior providing the perfect ambiance to enjoy the Garden city’s salubrious climate over an inspired Italian menu of aperitif, pizzas and indigenous cocktails. The outlet features upbeat, lively, contemporary music, ideal for millennials and also offers space for live band performances, for the culture-rich, cosmopolitan city for periodic events where guests can truly experience a relaxed atmosphere.

With a foothold already in the outdoor catering segment, we plan to strengthen our presence in the market with a more organised approach towards the sector.
We have also initiated procedures to enhance our in-room technology to further improve our guest experience. Sheraton has enjoyed the reputation of being the Brand Innovators in the industry, and we will continue with endeavours to merit the reputation.

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