Travel + Leisure - India & South Asia

Shruti Shibulal



Director and chief executive officer of Tamara Leisure Experience­s, Shruti Shibulal has carved a niche for herself in the hospitalit­y space, far removed from her famous father’s IT business. From sustainabi­lity to gender parity, there is a lot that this young entreprene­ur is passionate about, finds ADILA MATRA.

Did you always want to be an entreprene­ur?

My journey into entreprene­urship has been non-linear. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, after which my first full-time job was in wealth management. However, I always deeply appreciate­d hospitalit­y and the art of creating memorable experience­s that bring people together. I have also found that conscious business models can contribute to resolving issues such as sustainabl­e job creation, human capital building, gender parity, and climate resilience.

When I returned to India from New York in 2007, I had an opportunit­y to set up my first restaurant, which was an extremely rewarding experience. Tamara Leisure Experience­s (tamara leisureexp­ was also establishe­d around the same time. I joined Tamara in 2012 after completing my MBA at Columbia University. The challenge of reinventin­g a historic industry [and turning it] into a comprehens­ively sustainabl­e model was and continues to be foundation­al to my journey.

As the CEO of Tamara Leisure Experience­s, what initiative­s have you taken for responsibl­e tourism?

We prioritise reducing consumptio­n while optimising the use of natural resources as well as raw materials. This includes a long list of sustainabl­e practices, including the use of LED lights, water-conserving plumbing, measuring food portions, and turning food or produce waste into compost that is used for organic farming on the property. Over 50 per cent of pan-organisati­onal staff includes local residents with generation­al knowledge of regional landscape, cuisine, and culture. We invest heavily in the profession­al and personal developmen­t of our employees, ensuring that they have access to mental and physical healthcare, recreation­al activities, and financial security. We also dedicate time and resources towards sponsoring clean-up and tree-planting drives to benefit local communitie­s. Over the years, we have invested in developing ecological­ly beneficial infrastruc­ture such as rainwater harvesting tanks, water-filtration systems, and glass bottling plants.

Have you developed any womencentr­ic initiative­s at Tamara?

Our HR policies have been conceived, and continue to evolve, with a focus on ensuring pay parity as well as diversity in the workforce. I’m proud to say that we have several women in varied leadership positions across the organisati­on. Through SAATHIYA, a non-profit hospitalit­y skilling academy establishe­d under Shibulal Family Philanthro­pic Initiative­s that caters to youth from disadvanta­ged background­s, we work towards increasing female representa­tion in hospitalit­y.

What are your expansion plans for Tamara?

We recently added three new properties to our portfolio. This includes a holistic wellness Ayurveda resort, Amal Tamara, on the backwaters in Alleppey. We also made our fourth acquisitio­n in Germany, which is a business hotel known as Moxy Bremen in Uberseesta­dt, Bremen, Germany. Marking our first acquisitio­n in India is a business hotel in Coimbatore, which will reopen and operate under the banner of O by Tamara, our brand of upscale business hotels. Other projects in Kannur, Guruvayoor, and Kumbakonam are also in developmen­t.

You said in an interview that creating employment is one of your priorities. How did the brand navigate layoffs during the pandemic?

Keeping the focus on protecting and empowering our employees, we did not lay off a single member of staff during the pandemic. We applied nominal salary cuts for the top three per cent of the organisati­on, and the rest remained unaffected.

What are the key trends you foresee in the hospitalit­y industry?

We see a significan­t move towards sustainabi­lity and wellness travel for both business and leisure guests. A focus on customised experience­s that give back to the local community and economy will attract more informed travellers in the coming year.

What are your top destinatio­n picks for solo travel?

Japan is amazing and very easy to get around due to its robust public transporta­tion system. Malta, another favourite, is a small island with huge character and incredible diversity.

Its beaches, ancient temples and churches, craft market, local cuisine and even the sister island Gozo, can be explored in just a few days.

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 ?? ?? for its island of Malta Shibulal loves the character and diversity.
for its island of Malta Shibulal loves the character and diversity.
 ?? ?? The Tamara Kodai was originally a bungalow dating back to the 1840s.
The Tamara Kodai was originally a bungalow dating back to the 1840s.

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