The seasoned hotelier has often said that long distance cycling taught him a thing or two about the importance of positive energy and self-control, attributes that go a long distance as a hotelier. The managing director of Sarovar Hotels & Resorts is responsible for overseeing the operations and development of the group. He has set his sight on expanding the group’s portfolio to 100 hotels by 2020. Founded in 1994, right now the group portfolio includes 75 properties across 50 destinations, under three brands — Sarovar Premiere, Sarovar Portico and Hometel, besides some properties under other brands.
Bakaya has revealed that the group has signed up new hotels in Ajmer, Jhansi, Dibrugarh (Assam), Guhagarh, Junagadh, Gorakhpur, and Dalhousie. Today, Sarovar’s footprint expands across most of India and five countries in the African continent, including Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, Zambia and Ethiopia. They are now looking at expanding to the Middle East. In 2017, European hospitality brand Louvre Hotels bought a majority stake in the chain, infusing it with much-required cash for expansion. And to think that Bakaya stumbled upon the hospitality career quite by accident. The youngest of the four siblings, Bakaya studied in Shimla before moving to Mumbai to study at Hansraj College. He worked as a medical representative for a while after college, before opting for management training at The Oberoi Group. He went on to study hospitality management at Cornell-Essec, France.
Bakaya, who has worked with a very exclusive French kitchen headed by chef Jacky Freon, says he wanted a job in the F&B section when he joined The Oberoi Group. But his first job was actually as banqueting manager at The Oberoi, Mumbai. He went on to work across the globe in senior management positions, from the African continent to countries such as Australia, France and the UK. He began his Sarovar journey in a shared office with a single hotel. Today, Sarovar Hotels is recognised as a tour de force in the mid-market segment. Sarovar operates largely under a managed property model. While 65 per cent of the group’s revenue is generated from the business clientele, the rest 35 per cent is from the leisure segment.
As the next phase of growth, Bakaya is looking at underexplored pilgrim spots such as Katra in Jammu, Ajmer in Rajasthan and Bodh Gaya in Bihar, which has a captive market of international Buddhist pilgrims. In India, where 12 new Sarovar hotels will open by the end of this year, many of them would be in temple towns.