‘Pandemic forced us to adopt Technology’

Harshavardhan Neotia, Chairman, Ambuja Neotia Group, says that touchless solutions based on AI technology are likely to be the new normal

The Neotias have always been an integral part of the business circle in Kolkata. Though the family originally hails from Rajasthan, the City of Joy has been their home since the 1890s. At the helm of affairs of the family’s cement business at present is Harshavardhan Neotia who, as the Chairman of Ambuja Neotia Group, ensures the ethics, work culture and principles of business laid down by their forefathers are followed till date at all costs. 

The family’s foray into the hospitality sector happened quite organically, shares Harshavardhan Neotia. “Back in the late 80s, The Conclave was my first entrepreneurial venture in the hospitality space and was the first-of-its-kind business club. The Ffort at Raichak-on-Ganges, our maiden stride into the hotel business, started as a luxury riverside resort with 112 tastefully appointed rooms and suites, having extensive conferencing and banqueting facilities. Ganga Kutir, also at Raichak, is an idyllic getaway designed in a more luxurious manner. Today, Raichak-on-Ganges is one of eastern India’s most versatile leisure destinations,” says Neotia proudly.

The hospitality vertical has added hotels and resorts, country homes, clubs, fine-dining, QSR and banquets to the portfolio. “Recently, we added Altair in Salt Lake City, Kolkata, Group’s four-star boutique hotel and Raajkutir in Swabhumi, a luxury boutique hotel. The Group’s latest offering is Taj Chia Kutir Resort & Spa, developed in Makaibari Tea Estate in Darjeeling,” puts in Neotia, adding that in the F&B space, there are restaurant brands like Sonar Tori which focusses on Bengali food, The Orient on Oriental delicacies and Afraa on international cuisines. “We recently introduced the American casual dining brand, UNO Chicago Bar & Grill, in Kolkata,” he says.

Operational Hotels with keys per property
Taj Chia Kutir Resort & Spa, Darjeeling
72 keys
Ganga Kutir & Ffort Raichak
144 keys
33 keys
23 keys
Montana Vista
39 keys

Neotia says that as he had grown up in a joint family with many house guests and was surrounded by food, art and culture, he likes these influences to be a part of his work culture. “Hospitality and restaurants allow me to engage with a range of creative pursuits. Within restaurants, you are designing experiences too,” he says.

Ganga Kutir, Raichak

On his association with IHCL, Neotia says that they chose the hospitality company as their new partner due to the Group’s strong presence in both domestic and international markets. “Since IHCL’s ‘Taj’ brand is globally renowned and was looking to strengthen their footprint in some of the most commercially and culturally important cities in the East, we entered into a partnership with them to bring their legendary hospitality to all our hotels. Additionally, the two organisations’ business philosophy, ethics and principles complement each other too,” shares Neotia.

To begin with, they had a management contract with IHCL for two other hotels in the East – Taj Chia Kutir, Darjeeling (West Bengal) and Taj Guras Kutir in Gangtok (Sikkim). The partnership was then extended by bringing in three more hotels under the ‘Taj’ brand. “Our partnership, I feel, will give a fillip to tourism in eastern India,” he feels.

Taj Chia Kutir Resort & Spa, Darjeeling

Last year, when the hospitality sector was struggling to stay afloat, the Neotias partnered with the Taj Group to launch more hotels. “We launched five new hotels. IHCL will operate Ambuja City Centre II as well as Eco Park in Kolkata and Ambuja City Centre at Patna. One in Makaibari Tea Estate, Darjeeling and another in Gangtok, Sikkim. All our businesses were impacted and there was a lot of pressure but that is not unique only to us. The lockdown and the consequent fear made it difficult for workers to restart because of logistical reasons. We should have opened Taj Chia Kutir, Darjeeling, in April 2020 but it happened in December. It became expensive but we managed to finish it. I hope business would come back over time as there would always be the urge to meet people socially. Vaccination rollout will play an important role in revival of the market,” Neotia tells us.

Anaya, Raichak

Talking about the role of smart technology in the future of hospitality and F&B business, the Chairman of Ambuja Neotia Group says, “The pandemic has undeniably forced the hospitality and F&B sector to innovate, accelerate the adoption of technology and challenge the hotels and restaurants to be creative in getting their products out amidst quarantine restrictions.” While these temporary modifications may not have started out as a choice, Neotia says that moulding the implementations into a profitable long-term strategy is. “Touchless solutions based on artificial intelligence technology including facial recognition (which enables guests to self-check-in, unlock rooms and activate elevators through face scan), are likely to be the new normal for the hospitality sector,” he says.

Projects in Pipeline
Taj Taalkutir79 keysConvention part opening: Sep 2021, Room part opening: Q1, 2023
Taj City Centre, New Town, Kolkata147 keys. Erstwhile Swissotel, being thoroughly renovatedExpected opening Q4, 2021
Taj Guras Kutir, Pangthang, Sikkim74 keys Expected Opening Q4, 2022Expected Opening Q1, 2022
Taj Patna126 keysExpected Opening Q1, 2023
Digha      60 keysExpected Opening Q2, 2023

Ghoom, Darjeeling

Under planning stage

Ravangla, Sikkim

Under planning stage


Under planning stage

Lataguri, Dooars

Under planning stage


Each member of my family is an art aficionado. I had artists, scholars and musicians walking in and out of my house as I grew up. The symbiotic assimilation of all these influences came to me involuntarily. Considering my growing up years, design comes naturally to me. I am a proponent of arts in all its forms and try to incorporate it in the projects I build.

The Ffort, Raichak

Hospitality projects give me an opportunity to create more spaces that would celebrate the rich diversity of Indian heritage and culture while showcasing some of the most modern nuances of architecture. “I try to use unique and aesthetically appealing architecture and designs to add value and for better urbanism. Our hospitality projects pay obeisance to Nature. If you look at the Taj properties we have constructed in Sikkim and Darjeeling, you will see the effort to make the projects compatible to their surroundings,” shares Neotia.

Raajkutir, Swabhumi, Kolkata

Neotia’s father, Vinod Kumar Neotia and his uncles, Suresh Neotia and Narottam Sekhsaria, had nurtured the family’s cement business before he took over. “I was a part of the team and led the operations in the eastern region. However, after we divested our stake to Holcim in 2006, I began focussing my efforts on building the Ambuja Neotia Group. I wanted to try my hand at building homes as it excited me because it requires design-related creative skills. The strong influence and guidance of my family helped me learn business principles and practices and develop leadership competencies,” puts in Neotia.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'SMART MANTRAS ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 4'

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Harshavardhan Neotia Ambuja Neotia Group


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