A Tech-savvy Reception
The fifth edition of Hotel Build India Forum witnessed experts decoding the latest trends and practices that drive the hospitality business today
With the presence of some of the most eminent CEOs, managing directors, architects, PMCs, and consultants of the hospitality industry at the fifth edition of Hotel Build India Forum 2017 at The Westin Gurugram on 18th May, 2017, the forum addressed several critical topics relevant for the sector. These topics were dedicated to explore latest solutions, efficient processes and emerging practices from experts across the globe.
S Saikumar, deputy managing director, and Bibhor Srivastava, group publishing director, ITP Media Group India, delivered the welcome address which set the agenda for the sessions to come. Vivek Yadav, vice president, and Manishi Sengar, business head, automation and control, Havells, presented the opening address by showcasing the high points of the brand and their initiatives for the community as a whole.
In a special address that was titled ‘Luxury without compromising sustainability’, Andrew Saldanha, general manager, pre-opening, ITC Hotels, provided an insight into the company’s best practices. He stated, “For a hospitality group inspired by history and armed with an unique premise of ‘Nobody gives you India like we do’, to embrace sustainability in the face of two extremes – providing indulgence associated with our industry and the reality of our society – made an intuitive business sense to us.” He took the audience through a visual journey of ITC’s growth and shed light of some of the landmark measures taken up by the company that embodies the values engrained in its DNA.
The special address was then followed by a note on the latest trends in the HVAC segments that was delivered by Sunil Khatwani, vice president and business head of system air-conditioning division at LG Electronics India, who introduced the crowd to LG’s visions, products and achievements in his detailed presentation.
The first session of the day, the CEO panel discussion focussed on the best means for effective interworking that can aid rapid, cost-effective and sustainable project development. Premal Zaveri, associate director – hospitality and leisure, CBRE, who moderated the session, questioned the speakers about the profitability of the business, development, efficiency and coping up with technology. He asked the panel members to highlight key drivers that help grow business into a chain and the practices that promote stress-free operations.
Raj Rana, CEO, South Asia, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, stressed, “Revenue is one of the biggest driving forces. India is a messed market, where 80% of the travellers originate from within the country. To raise our standard of services, we need to accept and implement changing technology that is preferred by consumer of today and tomorrow. This constant upgradation needs to be done while maintaining our rates and provide the best facilities. On the other hand, with the changing scenarios, hoteliers also need to provide community, employment and developmental facilities to the society.”
When the discussion treaded into the topic about consolidation of luxury retreats, homeaways, apartment rentals and OTAs with hotels, Ajay Bakaya, MD of Sarovar Hotels, noted, “OTAs have been a major game changer in the mid-scale segment, but not as much in the luxury segment. It is important for asset owners to understand that their royalty is purely based on commission. OTAs are here to stay and they are not monsters for us hoteliers.”
Elaborating on the same thought, Rahul Pandit, MD & CEO, Ginger Hotels, further said, “OTAs are part of the new ecosystem. We need to look at them as a new channel for sales and distribution. Homestays have also entered the market as an alternative accommodation. But in India, people prefer brands.”
Taking about the new design trends that influence hoteliers, Sanjay Sethi, MD and CEO, Chalet Hotels, informed, “Designers are adopting various changes in design like introduction of connected and social spaces, lounges within the guestroom and restaurants. The staff, who are directly involved in the servicing sector, have also accepted the new informal spaces that induce higher interaction with guests.”
With technology seeping into the core of every segment, new trends develop each day; Vilas Pawar, CEO, Choice Hotels, illustrates this with an example of his company that emphasises on energy efficiency through upcoming innovation. He said, “Across all hotel projects about 9-10% of the revenue is spent on energy. Hence, we are focussed at conserving as much as possible, especially for HVAC systems, by applying passive and active solar techniques. This measure has helped us reduce appliances and energy costs by great levels.”
In the light of the new government regulations that have been put in place, Saeed Shervani, MD, Shervani Hotels, disheartenedly added, “Though, we provide a huge chunk of revenue to the government and provide employment across various cities, we are still not in the priority list, except for making announcements. New considerations and regulations are taking away what we had earlier.” The first panel discussion ended with several similar opinions raised by the speakers on this regard.
GROWTH BY SYNERGY
The first session of the day was succeeded by a presentation made by Khozema Chitalwala, principal architect, Designers Group and Ray Chuang, vice president and design director of Hong Kong-based firm, CCD, who represented the design philosophies and a few prestigious projects of their respective firms in the launch presentation of their newly established collaboration. Post lunch, Arundhati Seigell, head, corporate communications, S&T Interiors & Contracting, elaborated on the company’s goals and achievements to the audience in her partner presentation.
The next panel delved into the theme ‘Profit by Design’, which consisted of conversations with the architects, design directors, operating officers and technical consultants, who synergise together to establish a common platform for conceptualising, planning and designing a hotel.
When asked about the upcoming trends in the hotel industry and means to accommodate them at the actual site, Ritu Bhatia Kler, MD, Total Integrated Design Consultants expressed, “Disruption and socialising are two big trends in the market now. Hence, we make sure that aesthetics, space planning, operations and technicalities, all come together to accommodate these trends, while creating a holistic experience for guests.” Adding onto this Vibhav Tomar, VP and chief program manager – hospitality, Prestige Group, added, “Design should always lead execution. The vice versa creates last moment alterations, which is never a good sight and causes several hindrances in the operation.”
An insightful point was raised by Dhruv Hoon, senior director, hotel development, South Asia & Indonesia, Marriott International, when he said, “All the stakeholders – designers, chief engineers and consultants, etc. – should be brought on to the discussion table from day one. This ensures the design includes every stakeholders inputs and saves a lot of time later as each is a of master their own domain in the hotel’s lifecycle.” Chuang shared, “For us, designers, inputs from the owners and operators, both are important. However, many a times, when their decisions are not in line, finalising the drafts become very difficult for us.”
Amitabh Tyagi, VP and head – technical services, Taj Hotels & Resorts, shed light on Taj’s purpose and design philosophy saying, “Our purpose is to grow. We want to go back to our core competencies, and be known for luxury and quality. While aiming for this, we ensure that we get the entire team together from the beginning. It’s a myth that this escalates cost; getting them onboard from the start, helps, not only in improvising cost efficiency but also aids operational efficiency.”
“Design is not only about what consumers see. It should also cater to the services and facilities of the hotel. The interiors can be redesigned but replacing services is not an easy job. The equipments should be carefully considered and selected in the design stage itself,” opined Atul Jain, COO, Best Western India.
Neeraj Jain, DGM, InterGlobe Hotels, concluded that, “Profit by design needs a much deeper understanding. We are undertaking mixed use developments with ancillary spaces. In the making of these ancillary services in hotels, we need to loop in all the verticals in place to make sure it works out well in generating revenue.”
Mitesh Kaul, regional director (North & East) IFM, Jones Lang LaSalle moderated the third panel of the day, which revolved around leveraging the learnings and expertise of consultants across various verticals.
The discussion started off with how consultants should systematically be involved in the various decisions making process related to the structures. Given his extensive experience working with the hospitality industry, Khatwani from LG Electronics, mentioned that, “Any large project is process driven. Once the design is ready by the architect, there must be a process-oriented individual to head the execution.” To this, Rajat Rialch, principal consultant, HPG Consulting, added that, “The concerned individual should also be competent in drafting a proper contract with the consultants, which is one major drawback. It ultimately leads to a better design coordination.”
“It is important that every expert is educated well because there is a whole team that is involved. Even the client deserves to understand and know what to expect,” shared Ram Vittal Rao, director, VITAL Concept Design. Prassana Sarambale, vice president, Sterling and Wilson mentioned that, “As a company we give a lot of weightage to sustainability and cost-effectiveness. Proper utilisation of latest technology helps deliver better guest experience and thereby, creating a successful project.”
Despite the fact that, every vertical has its own expert, who come together to create a single process from the numerous deliverables, professionals in India are not given the due importance. “Specialisation is the need of the hour. And its high time the industry establishes this synergy and the right attitude to tackle various road blocks,” strongly announced Linus Lopez, director, Lirio Lopez Lighting Consultants.
Shedding light on some of the hindrances in project execution, Chitalwala said, “Appointment of consultants, designing and execution are the three substantial leads. Post-designing, opinions from external parties and financial closures also delay the whole process. This should be avoided.”
Subsequent to the third panel, Debashis Das, CEO, Milagrow offered an informational presentation about how robots are changing the world of cleaning in hospitality.
THE ROLE OF ENGINEERS
The fifth edition of Hotel Build also celebrated the completion of 10 years by industry association, AWESOME. Sunil Relia, VP, technical, JLL and Shankar Eswar from RFM put forward the ideas and aims behind AWESOME and its upcoming certification program. The fourth and final panel of the day was exclusively dedicated to the chief engineers and the challenges faced by the fraternity during pre-opening and renovations.
“The chief engineer should be hired from the very beginning of the project. As any defect and mistake made while designing the various system within a building – be it the MEP layout, selection of equipments, installation errors, etc. – are borne by the facility managers at the end,” believes Relia. To this, Rahul Prabhakar, chief engineer, ITC Hotels, added, “Micro-detailing is the key. It is all about comprehending and forecasting before executing. And we can play a major role in that aspect.” Padma Charan, director of engineering, JW Marriott (New Delhi, Aerocity), also explained, “Intensive training of the technicians can directly contribute in cost savings through efficient equipments too. It is a tried and tested aspect.”
The day drew to an end with the felicitation of AWESOME members, who were presented with a certificate of appreciation by Ankush Agarwal, director at Harman. A hearty exchange of experiences, knowledge and ideas marked a full-day event, equally successful to that of the previous years and the many to come.