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The man, Taking Forward The 115 years old legacy

02/07/2019

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal, the MD and CEO of The Indian Hotels Company Limited is a man who is the captain of the 115 years old hospitality giant. He has over three decades of experience working in the hospitality industry out of which, a major portion was spent in the international markets. He has spent more than 28 years in Europe.

Mr.Chhatwal has won awards including the prestigious Carlson Fellowship and was rated as one of Europe’s 20 extraordinary minds in sales, marketing and technology-HSMAI European Awards 2014. He was also the first alumni included in the ESSEC-IMHI Hall of Honour 2014.

HospiBuz:- You have worked with different global brands and at present, you are part of one of the most trusted groups in the world. According to you, what makes IHCL(Part of TATA group)the most trusted brand?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:-As a Tata Company, IHCL, since its inception in 1903, has conducted business in an inclusive and transparent manner. The Company focuses on enhancement of long-term value creation for all stakeholders without compromising on integrity and regulatory compliances. As a Company with a strong sense of values and commitment, we believe that profitability must go hand in hand with a sense of responsibility towards all stakeholders. This is an integral part of our Company’s business philosophy.

HospiBuz:- You have enormous experience of working abroad, in which direction Indian hospitality is initiating and what makes Indian hospitality industry apart from other countries?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:- The warmth of Indian hospitality is so well-enshrined in the concept of “atithi devo bhava”taken from Hindu scriptures. Ithas started finding its place in the world hospitality lexicon and is becoming something of a legend. Our frontline people all through IHCL are an embodiment of the same–practiced, polished and perfected over the decades.

HospiBuz:- Apart from General Managers how Partners, owners and other associations play an important role in the progress of the business and help to make hospitality experience unique?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:- I am a firm believer in collaboration for the success of any business. The General Manager is the captain of the ship, but he cannot work alone. He has to work along with the owners, partners and government bodies to make the hospitality experience for the guests unique.

 

HospiBuz:- Why budget hotels like Ginger will experience the most growth in the long term as compared to luxurious hotels? What are the main reasons?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:- Ever since we opened the first Ginger in 2004, it has been a growth story. We have a huge opportunity with Ginger, the company’s brand which is now being repositioned in the lean luxesegment. It offers a greater opportunity to increase room rates than the luxury hotels where prices are already high.Today we have 45 hotels under this brand across 32 locations and we are expanding with 10 hotels under development. We are launching the new Ginger prototype at Panjim in Goa next month.We are delighted to see great partner interest in the reinvigorated Ginger brand. We have signed 6 new ginger hotels in this financial year itself.

HospiBuz:- What is the main difference in establishing a brand and rebranding already established brand?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:- Establishing a new brand takes time but I believe it is easier than rebranding an existing brand. The customers have a preconditioned mindset for an existing brand. It therefore takes longer to make them change that mindset to accept the repositioned brand.

 

HospiBuz:- Hotels provide offers and discounts to their customers, what strategies are being used while planning the offers and discounts?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:- At IHCL, we optimize demand to maximize yield (RevPAR). Our hotels’ pricing strategies are a function of forecasted occupancies, market intelligence and pricing tools.

IHCL is setting benchmarks since 1903, anything new on the cards that will change the trend of Indian hospitality industry.

At IHCL, we want to always ensure that we are setting benchmarks in service quality and product. One of the key aspects of our five year business strategy, Aspiration 2022, is reimagining our brandscape. The refreshed brandscape will enable IHCL to expand its portfolio across different customer segments with various brands to address different price points. The brand portfolio will comprise the iconic Taj hotels which will continue to operate in the luxury segment in key gateway cities, Vivanta will be the growth driver for tier 2 and 3 cities and operate as upscale hotels for the sophisticated traveller. Ginger will have a significant presence in the IHCL portfolio and will address the company’s requirement to be present in the lean luxe segment. We have launched a new brand called SeleQtions – a “named” collection of hotels with its unique identity. Expressions will include all the service retail brands like our signature F&B outlets, Khazana – the lifestyle retail brand, Jiva- our spa brand and the salons with the view to unlock equity of these brands. TajSATS is the market leader in airline catering providing inflight catering at key cities.

The Company has signed 15 new hotels, including three Taj hotels, five Vivanta hotels, one SeleQtion and six Ginger hotels in this financial year. This includes a Vivanta at Heathrow in London, a Taj hotel in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, a Taj hotel at the Deira Creek in Dubai and a Vivanta in Kathmandu, Nepal.

IHCL is further poised to open Taj Aravalli Resort & Spa in Udaipur, Taj Rishikesh Resort & Spa in Rishikesh; Taj Theog Resort & Spa In Theog; Vivanta in Katra and the new prototype Ginger at Panaji in Goa. The opening of the Taj Jumeirah Lake Towers and Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, The Palm in Dubai are also scheduled over the next 6 to 12 months.

The future is very exciting for IHCL given the rise in domestic travel and increasing disposable income. The potential to tap the leisure traveller is immense. We have successfully pioneered holiday destinations and some of our recent openings and signings have proved this correct. This momentum will continue.

HospiBuz:-The attack on Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai has completed 10 years. What are the major changes that it witnessed in these years in its hospitality after the attack?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:- It has been 10 years since the devastating attacks on the city of Mumbai. Innocent people lost their lives and their loved ones and many were injured in this act of hatred and destruction. Our thoughts remain with all those who lost their lives during the attacks – our guests, our employees and their families and many other fellow citizens of Mumbai.

Apart from the refreshed and renovated hotel, there is a renewed vigor and infectious energy which commits and binds us together to keep the legacy of the Taj alive for centuries to come.

Service is a way of life at IHCL. We live it every minute of the day. This inimitable level of service is unique to the IHCL DNA. In my view, the service standards of IHCL are well-known. We look at what shapes customer delight and the constituents/ingredients of customer delight.
With the help of an international organization, we have improved our safety and security standards.

HospiBuz:- IHCL is South Asia’s Largest Hospitality Company, What makes it unique and different from other Hospitality groups?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:- We stand out for being a custodian of Indian hospitality – this is reflected in our company name – The Indian Hotels Company Limited. Guests have a strong emotional connect with our brands which is reflected in the Brand Equity surveys that the company does on a regular basis. The reason for this emotional engagement is that all our hotels have the ability to weave Indian heritage and culture into the services and offeringswhether in India or New York, San Francisco, London, Cape Town, Maldives, Dubai and many more such destinations.

We have summed this up as ‘Tajness’. It is this unique feeling and experience, which sets the Company apart from its competitors. Whether it be in a city, resort or living palace, guests experience genuinely warm hospitality, synonymous with Indian culture, a refined luxury rooted in the subcontinent’s heritage and authentic culinary fare, in addition to a world-class level of service and accommodation.

HospiBuz:- TATA group is known for its dedication and commitment towards their staff welfare. What are the facilities IHCL provides to their female staff?

Mr. Puneet Chhatwal:-The Company recently announced two new programs in-line with its commitment to promote equal opportunities for women. The first is an incentive program for referring women candidates. The second is a policy announcement to reimburse expenses for family expansion and overall health treatments which cover various medical procedures including IVF treatments. IHCL also appointed its first woman CEO for Roots Corporation Ltd. (Ginger Hotels).

Other benefits for our women workforce include –

Maternity Leave: All Lady Associates are entitled to 7 months of paid maternity leave, which is above the statutory limit.
Hospitalization Policy: In addition to the current benefits under the policy, we have extended the reimbursement of expenses for Family Expansion and overall health treatments which now also covers IVF treatments.
Day Care: The Day Care Policy enables associates with child-care responsibilities to provide a safe and secure environment for their children for the duration that they are at work by providing on-site, best in class day care facilities at hotels managed by professionals.
Late Night Drops: Associates working in late evening shifts are provided with home drops along with a security personnel.
Adoption Leave: To assist lady associates who wish to adopt a child. Number of days are based on the age of the child varying from 6 months for a child less than one year to 2 months for a child more than 2 years of age.
Sabbatical Policy: While this is not gender specific, a Sabbatical Leave is granted during the career of any permanent associate of the IHCL for a variety of reasons to manage their personal & professional priorities and commitments.

Thank you so much for your prestigious time!!

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