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Last year, under Navjit Ahluwalia’s leadership, Hilton opened two important hotels in India — DoubleTree hotels in Ahmedabad and Goa. Before that, just towards the end of the year, the group opened its doors to the country’s second Conrad in Bengaluru. “We are looking forward to a big-box Hilton. We are also looking to expand our entire portfolio of brands across different markets.” But Ahluwalia’s biggest win would be to bring in the marque brand, Waldorf to India, which he often speaks about. Ahluwalia compares his journey with Hilton to climbing a mountain — it is exciting and challenging, but there is a long way to go. “It keeps me on my toes. It is important to build good quality assets at the right location and then create a cycle of constant growth. I think we are laying the foundation of something that will last for the next 30, 40 or 50 years.”
The focus, Ahluwalia insists, is not just on increasing Hilton’s presence. “We believe expansion has to be based on market need, business returns.” A proponent of transparent workplaces, Ahluwalia asserts that a working environment needs to have a DNA based on openness, transparency and honest feedback. Ahluwalia’s 30-years in the hospitality industry has seen him work for global majors including, most recently, an over decade-long stint at Marriott International where he was senior vice president, hotel development.
“Being in a business of serving people, we have so many opportunities each day to touch lives in more ways than we can imagine. With that privilege comes great responsibility. Our duty to uphold the highest standards of hospitality is not just for guests who walk through our hotel doors but also to the communities where we live, work and travel in.” Right now, Ahluwalia is headlining an initiative to make Hilton more sustainable by eliminating the use of single-use plastic from all hotels. Over the next three years, Hilton, under Ahluwalia’s leadership, aims to double the number of hotels. “We want this number to be a hundred. We want to expand at a much faster pace than we have been doing,” said Ahluwalia.