WANT TO POSITION TAJ KRISHNA AS THE No. 1 HOTEL
Taj Group's entry onto the Hyderabad hotel
scene has changed things for the best and quite
considerably. The mighty group has not only made its presence
stronger in the city by acquiring three properties, but
has also brought on the magical Taj touch to the hospitality
industry in Hyderabad. Hyderabad-best.com conducted
an exclusive interview with the General Manager of Taj
Krishna, Vir Vijay Singh and spoke to him about the
new look of the hotel and the Taj Group's strategies for
the city. Vijay Singh is also the Area Director of the
Taj Group of hotels.
The Taj group is one of the
finest hotel chains in the world. How has the entry of
the group affected the hotel industry in Hyderabad?
I appreciate your statement. It is of course one of the
best in Asia and definitely one of the best in
India. The Taj had its presence in Hyderabad since
1988, when it opened the Taj Banjara. Now on account
of the merger with the GVK Group, its presence
is stronger than before. It now has three properties in
the city. When you ask me if the entry of Taj has benefited
the hotel industry in Hyderabad, the answer is yes it
has. One major thing that the group has achieved is that
we have been able to increase the ARR (average room rates)
in the city which unfortunately in the past were less
compared to big cities like Chennai, Pune, Bangalore
and even smaller cities like Indore, Ahmedabad
and Jaipur. When the ARR is less, the hotels make
less profits and the customer in turn suffers as the quality
of the product is less. We have been able to increase
the ARR in the city by 40 to 50 per cent since our arrival.
This holds good to not only the Taj hotels but also to
the other hotels in the city. This has been a very encouraging
What are the special features of
the Taj Group that make it a force to reckon with?
Taj Group is all along known for its hospitality. Right
since inception it has had its excellent hospitality as
its outstanding feature. The staff are very proactive
and always willing and eager to perform their duties.
They treat the customer as God. There has been a change
in the style of functioning too over the years. We have
shifted our focus from a personality based to a process
driven organization. As you know we are a Tata venture
and the Tatas are known for their quality and
excellence. We have a Tata business excellence model
which is based on the Malcolm Woldrige award that
was instituted in the US to counter Japanese competition.
This award not only encourages quality but also concentrates
on leadership, strategic planning and customer focus.
It is basically driven by customer satisfaction. We strive
to give what the customer wants and not what we think
is right. This model ensures that we give a high quality
product as desired by the customer.
You have recently organized the
CII partnership summit, which is one of the biggest
such summits to have happened in Hyderabad. How is it
like conducting such a huge event?
It was an extremely prestigious event and we are really
honoured to have organized it. We were very happy to interact
with the Chief Minister and the state and Indian governments
and the various heads of state who attended the meet.
The preparations took a lot of efforts, time and planning
on our part. All the guests had a lot of praise and positive
comments about our food, hospitality and the rooms. I
can say that we were able to razzle dazzle the guests..
The highlight of the summit was of course the Falaknuma
dinner. All the guests were highly impressed by this
event. The way this state is going, I am very sure that
we will have many more such events happening in the future.
How do you feel about conducting
exhibitions and fairs? What is the plan behind such events
and what kind of an image do you think such events will
give to the Group?
the past this hotel had a lot of exhibitions like jewellery,
sarees and home appliances. But now, I do not think we
want to be closely associated with such exhibitions. We
want to change the image of the hotel completely. We want
to position the hotel as a true 5 star luxury hotel. This
will now be for the Crème a la crème, the real elite of
the city. We will have certain fairs but of very high
quality, which are attended by people who match the image
and the profile of the hotel. We want to develop the cellar
area, which is spread over 18,000 sq ft into an exclusive
area for such fairs with a separate entry and lobby without
interfering with the daily activities of the hotel.
What place do art and culture occupy
in your plans?
We are very interested to promote art and culture. Though
it is an expensive proposition we constantly endeavor
to get good artists from India and abroad and hold artistic
events. Apart from making money, we feel that it is our
duty to promote art and culture. In this connection, we
held the artists camp recently featuring 12 artists from
across the country and it was well received by the Hyderabadis.
We had western theatre by Lillette Dubey. Her plays
like Dance like a man and Silent City had
the audience enraptured. This way we exposed the hitherto
unexposed Hyderabadis to good Western theatre. We also
sponsored the recently released movie Castaway.
We will try our level best to to bring good musical, art
and cultural events to the city whenever the oppurtunity
Can you tell us about the newly
opened lobby and the reasons behind the move?
Renovation of the hotel was always on the cards. We did
a SWAT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, attitudes
and trends). People were of the opinion that the earlier
lobby was cold and that it lacked a sense of warmth. Based
on the analysis and the customer comments, we hired Wilson
Associates for the renovation of the hotel. There
is a fusion of Indian and western styles in the design
of the new lobby. It has mother of pearl work on the pillars,
which is very Indianised and the floors have Italian
marble with French carpeting. The artifacts are
European and the furniture is again French. These
give the lobby a very contemporary look. The lovely fountain
in the centre is Italian. The statues too made of Italian
marble are exquisite. The emphasis again being on fusion
of styles. There is a sense of opulence in the entire
design. We took great care of course not to make it too
opulent and gaudy.
renovation is on the lines of some of the best hotels
in the world, like The Savoy in the UK,
Oriental in Bangkok, World of Astoria in New
York, Peninsula in Hong Kong. These are very
traditional hotels with ethnic but modern designs and
interiors. This hotel has been designed keeping in mind
the palaces of India. So the grandeur of palaces is reflected
in the new lobby. The new look porch has granite flooring
and the ceiling has been hand painted by Rajasthani
artists. The designer of the hotel visited heritage buildings,
palaces and Nawab's houses and built the hotel
on these lines. It is a palatial hotel. Hence the renovation
and the design of the new lobby is in sync with the overall
design of the hotel. One of the complaints of the guests
was that the coffee shop was too far from the lobby and
that the corridors were too long and cold. Now we have
brought the coffee shop right next to the lobby and we
have also shortened the corridors. We have also made the
garden user friendly. In total we have taken the guests
comments and have acted accordingly.
Have you reached a decision to reopen
the Tunnel discotheque? If so, what plans do you have
in store for it?
The govt due to various reasons has declined to give permission
for drink and dance to go together. The police too have
supported the decision. We respect the decision but feel
that it should be relooked at. I feel that drink and dance
can co-exist as long as the crowd coming into such places
is regulated. People only above 18 years of age should
be allowed and the timings can be restricted. The tunnel
was running successfully in the past and we are in the
future thinking in terms of making the tunnel into an
exclusive disco with entry restricted to members only.
Can you just tell us about some
of your high profile guests?
Kofi Annan, KN Singh, Deputy PM of Thailand, Shimon
Peres. They all visited the hotel in the near past.
Especially after the CII summit, the number of high profile
guests is steadily on the increase.
What are the strategies that you
are planning to increase your market share in Hyderabad?
We want to give the people of Hyderabad and those who
visit it the best the hotel industry has to offer. To
do this we have to offer the best product. We analysed
all the three hotels and made the necessary changes to
all the three to improve the product. We don't want to
just say that we have three hotels here and increase the
price based on this. For Taj Banjara, our assessment
was that it needed more life. For this we opened the Under
Deck pub. Taj Residency is a good business
hotel comparable to any of the best in India. Here we
focused on further improving the quality of food and services.
The assessment for Taj Krishna was that it is a
good property on a 9-acre plot but in a rundown condition.
We have spent 40 crores in renovating and beautifying
the place. Front of the house apart from the lobby, the
porch, bar, lawn, the business centre and the health club
have been renovated. Back of the house or behind the scene
we have installed a UV water treatment plant for absolutely
safe and purified water. We have improved the AC system.
We are going to get sound proof and have silent Mitsubishi
elevators and BMW cars in the near future.
25 inches color TVs and Electrolux mini bars have been
supplied to all the rooms. Lucent telephone exchange,
the best in the world has been installed.
Our strategy to increase our market share is very clear.
We want to give the people the best product and a choice
of 10 to 12 restaurants among the 3 hotels. We want to
position Taj Krishna as the No 1 hotel, followed by Taj
Residency as the business hotel and Taj Banjara as the
budget hotel. Training the staff too is part of our strategy.
We have been sending them to other Taj hotels and giving
them a lot of exposure. We will also continue with the
food festivals that we have been organising from time
Do you feel that the IT boom has
helped the hotel industry?
the software industry has benefited the hotel industry.
During the period 1992 to 1998, out of the total of 2000
rooms on offer only about 600- 700 were occupied. This
is only about 30 to 40 per cent. In the past 2 to 3 years
there has been a 12 to 14 per cent growth in the occupancy.
The profile of the customer who is now coming is of a
different kind. He has more to spend and wants the best
in services and quality comparable to international standards.
There has been a major shift in the type of people coming
earlier and the type coming now. This I feel is on account
of the IT boom. However on this I would also like to say
that the media hype has been more than the actual growth.
You have taken up Falaknuma Palace
for converting it into a hotel. What are the reasons behind
This has been a passion with Taj. Since 1970, we have
shown converting palaces and heritage buildings into very
fine hotels. Our interest towards restoration, preservation
of such buildings and heritage places has prompted us
to take this decision. The kind of beauty and the expanse
and the artifacts that we find in palaces is something
that we cannot get today. They are unique in this respect.
Besides taking care of the restoration of the palace,
the maintenance and security of the artifacts will be
assured of. On the whole the palace will be in good hands.
We are planning to invest an amount of Rs 130 crores on
this venture. Falaknuma is an exquisite palace on a hilltop
with lovely artifacts. We want to target it towards tourists
both foreign and Indian.
|- Shobhanadri Rao
Photo Courtesy - Taj Krishna