Power List 2017, Rahul Pandit, MD & CEO, Ginger Hotels
Sometimes, life comes full circle! And that is the feeling feels gets on looking at Rahul Pandit’s career graph. Starting as a management trainee with Choice Hotels, he moved to join the Taj Group of Hotels as a resort manager. Subsequently, he worked at Spectramind, a technology company, before his stint at the Intercontinental Hotels Group. wHe then joined the founding team of Lemon Tree Hotels and later led that business as president and executive director. This life-changing moment change in 2015, when Pandit was appointed as CEO of Roots Corporation, which operates Ginger Hotels, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Group controlled Indian Hotels Company Limited.
The first thing he did on taking charge was understand the budget brand’s customers, partners and employees and their aspirations. This was to gain strategic insights as his team propelled the brand forward but also helped tweaked the business model to ensure Ginger delivered better returns.
“The impact of these insights is today reflected across the brand’s touchpoints – from a holistic approach to development including green fields, leases and management contracts. It has helped accelerate our development pipeline, focus on strengthening our B2C market share and delivering a superior customer service experience. These results have been made possible by the team’s constant engagement with associates and an ongoing dialogue with our service partners across the country,” Pandit stated.
When Ginger Hotels started operations in 2003, few chains, like Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, were tapping the economy and budget market. Seeing this segment’s potential, other brands like The Lemon Tree Hotels, Four Points by Sheraton, ibis, etc, jumped into the fray. Did Ginger did get left behind?
Pandit disagreed. He pointed out that the brand pioneered budget lodging in India and was born of Ratan Tata’s vision of creating superior value experience to consumers. “Though the brand has maintained a relatively low retail profile, its constant focus is on the consumer, its national footprint, low development costs and consistent delivery of assured essentials. This has ensured that it is today the country’s largest budget brand,” he emphasised.
Additionally, he added that different brands have varied approaches towards growth and many that came in had to fold up within few years or are currently on the block. “Instead of targeting the fashionable ‘asset-light’ approach, we maintained a disciplined and well-rounded investment strategy across owning, leasing and management contracts. We also stayed true to the budget model and not opportunistically strayed into other categories. This has helped us create a tight operating structure which gives our partners hotels with very healthy bottom-lines. Our growth over the last couple of years and the forward pipeline exhibit this strength,” he pointed out.
At the same time Pandit has realised that improvising is critical in the hospitality business. Hence, to win over new-age travellers, last year, a new 2.0 design template was created for Ginger Hotels and launched in July at its new 142-room hotel in Mumbai. It also opened a new Ginger Hotel at Gurgaon, besides two in Ahmedabad and is set to launch Ginger Lucknow soon. This would be followed by new launches later this year in Aurangabad, Baroda and Surat.
Leveraging his IT background and Tata’s technology arm, TCS, Ginger Hotels has an IT partnership with the latter to support and maintain its technology infrastructure including the data centre. “We are connected across the country on cloud-hosted SAP enterprise besides serving customers thorough an MPLS PMS. Our partners and employees are connected on their smartphones through the secure FB@Work (WorkPlace) platform,” noted Pandit. The company is now working towards paper-free processes like check-in and check-out to drive guest satisfaction. After all, Pandit strongly believes that great brands are built by consistently delivering superior customer experience and not by mouthing platitudes.
By Vinita Bhatia