IHCL: Treasure trove of her­itage

Puneet Ch­hat­wal re­turns to In­dia af­ter 30 years, to join IHCL as its new Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer. Here are ex­cerpts from his speech at the Global Hos­pi­tal­ity Con­clave held at The Leela, Gurugram, where he talks about his jour­ney and


QHow does it feel to come back? What changes have you ob­served in the coun­try in the last few years?

I would say not much has changed be­cause we still have a rich her­itage and cul­ture, and our val­ues have be­come stronger. From an ‘ev­ery­thing has changed’ per­spec­tive, there was no ho­tel beyond Cen­taur, there was no Ae­roc­ity, and the air­port ter­mi­nal was not like it is now. The same story is rel­e­vant for Ben­galuru, Mum­bai and other places as well. That said, things have changed in the rest of the world as well, so it’s not that the world has stayed sta­tion­ary and only In­dia has changed.

QWhere do you place the In­dian mar­ket on the global map? Is there more op­por­tu­nity here or do we need to catch up?

The money is still made in five to six key mar­kets in In­dia that in­clude Mum­bai, Delhi-NCR, Chen­nai, Ben­galuru, Goa, and Kolkata. I think there will be phe­nom­e­nal growth in pri­mary and ter­tiary mar­kets. The op­por­tu­nity is huge not only in In­dia but the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent as well, more so be­cause do­mes­tic de­mand is very strong in In­dia. I don’t think the In­dian mar­ket is de­pen­dent on the 10 mil­lion for­eign ar­rivals. Though that is nice to have, do­mes­tic de­mand is very im­por­tant. I do feel there is a very strong do­mes­tic base, a huge pop­u­la­tion of young­sters, lot of FMCGs, and au­to­mo­biles are be­ing sold like never be­fore; I don’t think that is go­ing to stop.

QWhat will be your role and pri­or­ity at Taj for the brand?

One thing is clear, IHCL stands for dif­fer­ent busi­ness and in some of them, we are mar­ket lead­ers. Talk­ing about Taj SATS, our in-flight kitchen op­er­a­tion, we have 38 per cent of the mar­ket share of the to­tal flight kitchen busi­ness. We must take that to the next level. We have a very good op­por­tu­nity with Roots Cor­po­ra­tion, a joint ven­ture be­tween us and Tata Cap­i­tal. With the Gin­ger brand, the op­por­tu­nity in the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent is huge. If we get ap­proval from the Board, we will take this for­ward very strongly.

QAre you pos­i­tive about global ex­pan­sion? We are not short of re­sources, we have ac­cess to a lot of cap­i­tal. It’s just about putting the right dots in the right spots and tak­ing cal­cu­la­tive risks, if we are tak­ing risks at all. I don’t be­lieve in the phi­los­o­phy of be­ing as­set-light only. Growth must be de­fined as ‘SMART’, where ‘S’ means Strate­gic, ‘M’ stands for Mar­gin En­hanc­ing, ‘A’ stands for As­set Man­age­ment, ‘R’ is for Re­la­tion­ship, and ‘T’ is for Track­ing. The op­por­tu­nity is huge, the en­gage­ment is huge, so I don’t see a big block com­ing our way.

I think there will be phe­nom­e­nal growth in pri­mary and ter­tiary mar­kets.The op­por­tu­nity is huge both in In­dia and the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent, due to strong do­mes­tic de­mand

Puneet Ch­hat­wal Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and

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