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Monday, 10 April, 2017, 10 : 15 AM [IST]

‘We are exploring opportunities to introduce more brands from our portfolio’

Q. What is Hyatt Hotels’ current footprint in the region and what are your expansion plans?
A. My responsibility is for the North and the West of India where we have two hotels in Ahmedabad, and in the North we have hotels in Ludhiana, Amritsar, Chandigarh, two hotels in Gurgaon and the recently opened Andaz by Hyatt in Aerocity Delhi, besides Hyatt Regency Delhi for which I am the GM.

We have plans obviously to expand in the region. We have a property coming up in Lucknow soon. We have also plans to do something in Guwahati and few other destinations as well in future.

This hotel we are sitting now is the flagship Hyatt property in India opened in 1983. Till 2001, we only had this one hotel in India. Now we have 25 hotels in India. For us it is not about numbers, it is more about where we want to be and the brand potential in that particular destination.

As a hotel operator, we also enhanced our brand portfolio in the market in the last few years. Earlier, our portfolio was limited to three brands – Grand Hyatt, Park Hyatt and Hyatt Regency. But, now we have Hyatt Place, Andaz, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt House, and The Unbound Collection, the new brand that we have launched recently. This helps us to approach prospective owners with host of brands to choose from.

Q. You have added so many new features into Hyatt Regency Delhi, your flagship property. Could you throw some light on it?
A. This is our flagship property in India. In recent years, we have added so many new aspects to the property. In 2013, we opened a Serviced Apartment. Then we opened Mansion, completely revamped event space. In the peak of the industry in 2006 and 2007 when lot of hotel owners were actually working on their restaurant concepts, our owners and we sat down and decided to do something on the event space. From a conventional banqueting space, we redefined the space completely looking at the customer experience. Same thing we did with our living rooms on top of the Oval Room. We split the Oval space into seven different rooms, all inter-connected, with a big kitchen outside. That was a marked shift from how things have been done traditionally.

While innovation is very important for hotels, we tried to bring in those innovations ahead of the curve with focus on the consumer. We follow certain process for that. The club that we are opening soon – HouseA – we initially planned to do an ‘unfinished, industrial’ look and feel in the lines of a hi-street lounge. Later we decided to do a ‘design thinking’ by taking inputs from our customers on key things that they look for in a club lounge. While analysing the customer preferences, we found that they are looking at different elements like security, exclusivity, etc. Hence, we have decided to change our earlier plans and make it an invitation only Club. We will invite people to be members of this club. We have a structured way of doing innovations.

Q. The Aerocity Hospitality district has brought a major change in the business landscape of Delhi NCR. How do you see it is playing out for other city hotels?
A. Business landscape has changed dramatically. While supply has grown many folds, luckily demand has also kept pace with it. Aerocity being at the heart of the city has its own advantage. However, over a period of time city hotels have been able to create a captive market in the 5 to 10 kms radius. For us as well, we have been able to find our niche in an area where we are in. We are fortunate to be located in an upmarket residential and diplomatic area. We cater to their food and beverage demand on a regular basis.

Whilst virtue of being together, Aerocity Hotels have the advantage of catering to large groups and split it among them. But, meanwhile, to counter that consolidation everyone else has to understand each one’s strength and prepare strategies to pull the businesses favouring them. Right now, everybody is in the phase of trying to find out where this ideal segmentation lies, but in the next one year or so everybody will be able to adjust and settle down, especially with demand coming through in the market. This is my assessment.

Q. Hyatt Regency Delhi has an array of F&B outlets very well established in the market. However, you cannot deny the competition from standalone restaurants outside. What are you doing differently to hold your loyal customers together amidst tough competition?
A. Actually, the F&B demand has outpaced the room demand for hotels in the city. Lot more people are dining out today than before. Culture of eating out with friends and families are on the rise. Everybody is benefiting from it, including hotels. However, it is important that restaurants build a loyal customer base. We were one of the pioneers in launching a loyalty programme for F&B in our hotel way back in 1996. We have guests who have been renewing the loyalty membership year-on-year for the last 20 years.

Whether it is food, service or ambience, consistency is very important in the F&B space. We have seen in our midst great restaurants opening and closing down after six months to a year. Ones who do well are those who stay to their brand promise. For example, we have started a Sunday Brunch concept at our La Piazza outlet in 1995 and still continuing the same concept, which is highly popular. We keep on bringing innovations, but the core concept remains the same. I think the success lies in sticking to one concept, do not waver, don’t get desperate and do things which are not true to your brand.

Q. What are your plans in terms of bringing new brands from your international portfolio into India? What about brand conversion opportunities?
A. There are talks on bringing new brands into India, apart from the existing ones. We have already introduced Hyatt Place and Andaz in the India market besides our established brands like Regency, Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt. We are currently exploring opportunities to bring Hyatt Centric and Hyatt House, a long-stay brand into the market. In the coming years you will see few more brands joining our India portfolio if we are able to find right properties in the right location.

As far as brand conversion opportunities are concerned, we had acquired Ista Hotels in India few years ago. We have five hotels under that in Amritsar, Hyderabad, Pune, Bengaluru, etc. and rebranded them into Hyatt. Our development team is always in the lookout for such opportunities based on the feasibility. There are series of approvals required at different levels at the regional and the global levels.
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