Tata Group to Rebuild Brand Taj
Indian Hotels set to leverage the ‘Taj’ identity in new brand architecture to highlight premium positioning; two other labels — Gateway & Vivanta — to also use the name or be slowly phased out
Suman Layak & Baiju Kalesh
Mumbai: The Taj does not unite just hearts: India’s iconic monument to love that lent its name to Mumbai’s landmark waterfront hotel in 1903 is now all set to define the brand identity of Tata Group’s hospitality business.
The new brand architecture of the Indian Hotels that owns assets across global business centres and tourist hotspots will likely leverage the ‘Taj’ identity to establish the premier positioning of company properties, the first of which came up on the Mumbai harbor front two decades before the Gateway of India was built. Beyond the existing Taj chain of hotels, two other premium Tata Group brands, Gateway and Vivanta, will likely include the Taj badge in their names or be phased out altogether in favour of the uber brand.
In reply to emailed queries on the exercise, a company spokesperson said that details will only be announced Thursday. The new brand architecture was originally scheduled to be announced on November 10, 2016, but was postponed at the last moment after the exit of Cyrus Mistry as group chairman. New chairman of the Tata Group, N Chandrasekaran, is scheduled to take over from Ratan Tata, the interim chairman, on February 21. “We will move toward a single brand under Taj, with all the hotels branded as Taj Palaces, Taj Hotels, Taj Safari, Taj Resorts and Taj Gateway like the Mercedes, which owns a single brand with multi products,’’ a person close to the development told ET. “But the chain of budget hotels managed under the Ginger brand will be retained.’’
With 108 hotels in 63 locations in India and a further 17 properties overseas, Indian Hotels has a presence across all budget segments in the hospitality business. The company’s overseas properties include beachfront resorts in Asia, and The Pierre on New York’s Fifth Avenue. In the domestic market, the Taj chain competes with locally owned Oberoi group and the Lalit group, and global brands such as JW Marriott and the Hyatt in both high-end leisure and business segments. The person aware of the new brand architecture told ET that an internal study showed a single brand united by the Taj badge appealed to customers more than a fragmented brand strategy. “For us, Taj is the mother of all brands and we are trying to leverage it to our chain of hotels.”
Independent marketing consultant Ashok Lalla, who had formerly worked with Indian Hotels, said that simply changing the brand name was never enough and the company needed to simultaneously change the brand experience.
“The biggest challenge and opportunity of a brand restructuring exercise is to successfully deliver the new, revamped, energised brand experience, and to quickly enable consumers to embrace the new brand without drawing endless comparisons with the earlier brand. Simply changing the brand name on the door is not sufficient,” said Lalla, who advises companies on digital marketing.
Although India lags its Asean peers in supply of quality rooms, significant inventory additions over the past decade have limited the ability of incumbents to charge higher rentals and boost profits.
A company insider told ET that only a select group of top management executives are privy to the details on the planned brand restructuring. Incidentally, the former Tata Group Executive Committee member Nirmalya Kumar had told ET in an interview last year that he thought the branding architecture of Indian Hotels was inefficient and that he had worked with the company on improving it. Kumar exited the Group Executive Council the same day Mistry was removed as chairman.