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Home > City Resources > Travel and Accommodation > GM of Taj Krishna


Elegant CorridorThe 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. 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 factor.

What are the special features of the Taj Group that make it a force to reckon with?

Vir Vijay SinghThe 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?

New look lobbyIn 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 arises.

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.

Deluxe suiteThe 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 to time.

Do you feel that the IT boom has helped the hotel industry?

the ornate lobby roof Yes, 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 decision?

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

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