Power List 2018: Ajay Bakaya, MD, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts

Ajay Bakaya, a pragmatic, erudite and market-savvy business leader has played an integral part in the growth of the company.

Managing Director of one of India’s fastest-growing hotel management companies, Bakaya, with over 20 years of experience, is on an overdrive. The journey that began in a shared office with leadership of a single hotel, has ensured tremendous growth with a current portfolio of 80 hotels in 50 destinations, with brands such as Sarovar Premiere, Sarovar Portico, and Hometel.

Under his stewardship Sarovar Hotels and Resorts have implemented several initiatives, from energy efficiency to a reduce-plastic policy in all hotels. The company has achieved consistent growth, with the Sarovar Hotels’ footprint moving into Africa.
Constantly striving to ensure a healthy bottom-line, Bakaya implements strong revenue engagement and a thrift approach to controlling costs. He quips, “We have 12 regional sales offices across India ensuring prospective business. At all our hotels we appoint local sales resource for better market understanding and user-friendly approach, and this is generating good direct business for us.”

Known for his integrity and forthrightness, Bakaya steadfastly practices what he preaches as an operator in his interaction with owners and his team. “At Sarovar Hotels, we keep our team motivated and encourage them to participate in cultural and fun activities. We have introduced a mobile application for employee rewards and recognition — ‘Well done App’ and an employee empowerment matrix — ‘Empower your employees’ at Sarovar Hotel, Hyderabad. We also allow employees to work from home every Saturday as a part of an employee-retention initiative,” he reveals.

Armed with tremendous insight about the industry, Bakaya is quick to spot the challenges. Energy costs, he feels, are hurting hotels as they spend a large part of their running costs on energy bills.

He also opines that the need of the hour for the hotel industry is sustainability. Channelising food waste, general waste, water consumption and adapting an eco-friendly approach are the mantras for long-term sustainability. “Every hotel guest expects good customer service but today’s hoteliers must exceed expectations by being more than just good — they need to be personalised.”

According to Bakaya, the demand for cleanliness should not be a surprise within the service industry. “Efficient housekeeping teams are still critical for brand reputation management and to drive loyalty amongst guests.”

He is upbeat about the hospitality industry and its growth pattern. “The revenue growth for Indian hotel industry is expected to increase by 6-7%. The supply pipeline across several markets coupled with steady demand will be the drivers for the next cycle. With steady occupancy across markets, we are expecting a healthier growth and higher movement of business as well as leisure travellers.”

Long hours at work don’t bother him as he has learnt to prioritise. He avers, “One needs to focus on work-life balance. I schedule carefully and prioritise good health above my work.”

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