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