Power List 2017, Raj Rana, CEO, South Asia, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

Having spent 25 years at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Raj Rana can easily be termed as a veteran in the organisation. After graduating from Delhi University, this Delhi-born US national did his hotel management from Pusa and later completed his MBA from New York’s Dowling College before joining Carlson Rezidor, where he held many positions.

Rana joined the company’s South Asian team three years ago and worked alongside KB Kachchru, chairman emeritus, South Asia, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group to help the company navigate changes taking place in the hospitality industry. And rather than taking an ivory-tower approach and deciding to implement strategies that had worked in other regions, he decided to start with a clean slate.

“We began by monitoring evolving guest expectations through focus groups, direct customer feedback and industry trends. We used these inputs to localise and customise our amenities and services and orient our products to guest requirements on an ongoing basis. An example of this is Radisson RED, which was announced in India in 2016 to cater to the ever-changing needs of digital age and millennial guests and will resonate with customers through its lifestyle oriented aspects like art, music and fashion,” he stated.

The first Radisson RED is coming up in Mohali, Punjab and will be in operation by next year. Excited by the renewed momentum, the company is finalising firm timelines for Radisson RED in Gurgaon.

Rana is always prepared to find different ways to do business in the over-cluttered Indian market; and where there are no ways, he does not shy from building one. Realising that a strong local connect always resonates best with domestic and international travellers, he worked closely with his entire team to get cracking on this one. “While ensuring no compromise with our global standards, we continue bring about localisation in the hotel’s design, uniform, menu planning and service style to align the property closely with local guest expectations and provide it a strong connect with local culture,” he stated.

Of course, he always has his eye firmly on driving value to owners, guests and employees. And hence, he has helped Carlson Rezidor strengthen its capabilities to assist owners and act as a one-stop-shop from the pre-opening stage to launch stage and beyond by providing valuable counsel on market understanding and feasibility, building the hotel to brand specifications, driving business results and supporting its hotels to realise their full potential. “It is on the back of these efforts that we have achieved 100% renewal rate with our current owners which is a testimony to our time-tested relationships,” Rana proudly claimed.

So far, the company has had an impressive run rate of signing a new hotel every four weeks and opening a hotel every six weeks. It already achieved 10 new signings in 2017 and hopes to take the tally to 14 signings by the end of this year.
“We have a target to achieve 170 hotels in operations and under development by 2020 from the current number of 140 hotels in operation and under development. We pursue growth opportunities via managed, franchised, manchised and conversion models. We choose selective franchising as we find many owners these days have vast experience, qualifications and necessary acumen to self-manage and run efficient hotel operations especially in the mid-scale segment,” Rana revealed.

Juggling these official duties can get taxing, so Rana relaxes with meditation and goes for a digital detox once in a while. Earlier this year, he checked into a Vipasana retreat, and whenever he can, he visits national parks around the world with his wife. As a master of improvisation, he has realised that these techniques have to be applied not just in the professional domain, but the personal one too.
By Vinita Bhatia

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