There is good demand for high-quality business hotels and ours will be similar to a 4- or 5-star hotel, says Shruti Shibulal
Bengaluru: Hospitality venture Tamara Leisure Experiences Pvt. Ltd is gearing up to launch its second luxury property, in Kodaikanal, as it looks to diversify into upscale business hotels and expand in the mid-segment hospitality space. In an interview, Shruti Shibulal, director, strategy and development, and daughter of Infosys Ltd co-founder S.D. Shibulal, comments on strategy, competition and the company’s target to reach the 1,000-room mark by 2025. Edited excerpts:
What is Tamara’s growth strategy and which are the focus areas?
Tamara was envisioned as a multi-brand player, which would operate in multiple segments of business. Diversification is key in any business to capture different parts of the market. In the luxury segment, we have The Tamara Coorg and we’re launching a The Tamara Kodai in mid-May. We are expanding our mid-segment hotel portfolio. We are also entering a new segment—upscale business hotels under a new brand. We need to focus on these three lines of business and make the brand stronger. We are on track and halfway through to reach the 1,000 keys-mark by 2025.
Why did you decide to venture into premium business hotels?
There is good demand for high-quality business hotels and ours will be similar to a 4- or 5-star hotel, with large conference and banquet facilities. Our first business hotel, with 154 rooms, will be in Thiruvananthapuram and we are aiming to launch in 2018-19. We want to expand this segment and looking for acquisitions, though the latter hasn’t really worked for us (in India) since we are a very compliance-driven organization.
You have two hotels in Germany. What’s the larger plan for your offshore hotel portfolio?
We recently acquired a third hotel property, in Wolfsburg, Germany. We took ownership of this Courtyard by Marriott hotel, with 152 rooms which is a beach property and typically caters to the business crowd. All the three hotels are owned but not operated by us and run on lease. Our offshore expansion is also in line with our diversification strategy. There is tremendous risk in focusing on only one segment which is why we wanted to go outside the country as well. Germany is a safe, easy place to do business. We built a fantastic team of people who work there and it’s worked for us.
In the luxury space, how different will the Kodaikanal resort be from The Tamara Coorg?
The Tamara Kodai will be open for business in mid-May. Conceptually, it is very different from the Coorg property though both are in the luxury, leisure segment. This is a heritage property, with 53 cottages. The original building, which was called La Providence and was a 160-year old monastic retreat for the Jesuit priests who settled in that area, has been restored and new construction added to it.
Kodai is not known as a luxury destination and this will be the first luxury property there.
We have a couple of more projects in the luxury segment we are thinking of but nothing is decided right now.
How important is it to be present in the mid-segment hospitality today with so many entrants? How do you view competition?
Like Tamara Coorg, we need to create products that will achieve that kind of excellence. Our mid-segment brand, Lilac, is an excellent product.
We have one operational hotel in Bengaluru and two more in construction - in Bengaluru and Guruvayur. I always believed that mid-segment is a really good area to play in because there is a dearth of good hotels in the country and certainly in Bengaluru. So if it’s affordable and when you price it right, they will do well.
We should never underestimate our competition whether it’s Airbnb or a few others.
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