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Lemon Tree Hotels is considered a pioneer in the midscale hospitality market in India. And the man behind its success is Patanjali Keswani, popularly known as Patu Keswani. Keswani quit as the senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Taj Group of Hotels to create an asset for his sunset years. Seventeen years later, Lemon Tree Hotels is one of the biggest players in the hospitality industry and is soon entering the upscale market. The Mumbai property is scheduled to launch in 2021 and it is slated to be the biggest upscale hotel in India under the Aurika Hotels & Resorts. The hotelier obviously does not believe in half measures. Lemon Tree is also building a state-of-art resort in Udaipur, its first resort property, on the banks of the picturesque Lake Pichola.
Keswani, who has often been called a disruptor by his competitors, says with Lemon Tree, they created a category. “The bottom of the cycle, I have always believed, had more equity and less debt.” When Keswani opened a mid-market or a budget hotel, the customer expected all the services of a five star, though he was paying a very low price. “The customer was expecting the earth and the moon and maybe one or two stars. We had to educate them.”
As a vision for the future, Keswani is looking at investing in stand-alone hotels and standardizing them to bring them into the branded space. “I would like Lemon Tree to be the default choice for mid-market hotels in India. People use the word ‘xeroxes’ as a generic term. When a brand becomes a generic name for a product, you have achieved success. I would love for people to say, ‘Book me a Lemon Tree’."Among the turning points he mentions, was Warburg Pincus’s investment with the group in 2006. “Then APG invested a thousand crores. I think one big turning point was when I felt I had the responsibility to meet the career aspirations of so many people who are joining Lemon Tree and I could not let it not grow.”