Power List 2017, Kabir Kevalramani, MD, Berggruen Holdings

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Globally, and in India, the hospitality industry is seeing a fundamental change. As the definition about luxury evolves, the action has moved to the even mid-market segment, where the emerging middle-class clientele and business traveller is showing an increasing affinity to shift. At the same time, their service expectations remain high, which means that players in this space have to continually innovate to reach these benchmarks.
Berggruen Hotels has been striving to achieve this balance in the mid-market hospitality space in India. The company owns and manages assets and has three distinct offerings under the ‘Keys’ brand, ranging from affordable luxury hotels to full service- value hotels.
Talking about the systematic change that he has been stage-managing in the company, Kabir Kewalramani said that the last couple of years have been characterised by ‘change’ in this company – be it in the leadership team, enhanced focus on technology, investment towards building Keys brand presence or pivoting the business to focus on the asset-light model. “The above initiatives will result in improved performances in our existing properties and also help us achieve scale, which I believe is one of the biggest challenges faced by all industry players,” he noted.
Under the current management team, led by CEO Anshu Sarin, these initiatives have shown encouraging result. Kewalramani said that the hotel chain recorded the same ‘store’ revenue growth of 23-27% last year as against industry growth rate of 12-14%. It also expanded its geographical presence, and currently operates 21 hotels across 18 cities and has around 1900 rooms. “As part of our expansion plan we will add close to 400 rooms within this calendar year,” he added.
“Operationally, our focus is to continue to improve and enhance our distribution and revenue management capabilities. We have recently committed an additional investment of $30 million, taking our total investment into the venture in excess of $100 million,” he added.
He is also unfazed by the growing competition in the mid-market segment, especially from international players. According to him, competition is a reality in any business and cannot be escaped.
“We have been around for over a decade in India and understand the various hospitality segments well. Our focus is to ensure that we run an efficient company and all business aspects are being delivered and executed,” he reiterated.
At the same time, Kewalramani has ensured that Keys Hotels continually invests into technology, especially focusing on increased reach due to diversified distribution capabilities; improved experience for the guest from booking to check out and emphasising on analytics to better control the various business functions. The company is also actively seeking partners who can assist it to increase its distribution and customer service capabilities.
An avid golfer, Kewalramani knows that in golf, choosing the right club goes a long way in hitting the perfect shot. The same logic applies in the hospitality business too; choosing the right person and the right technology solution goes a long way to make your brand ready for the long haul.
Hence, over the past few years, Keys Hotels invested heavily into its manpower (identifying the right candidates, extensive training) and internal infrastructure (technology, distribution, etc.) business. “We believe this puts us in a good position to capitalise on growth opportunities over the next few years,” Kewalramani stated.
By Vinita Bhatia

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