At the Top End of Luxury
Ankur Bhatia speaks with BW Hotelier on his new hospitality brand named after the roseate bird. The fledgling brand already has several properties across the globe and is looking at carefully curating properties with 'a tilt towards design and personalisation', as Bhatia puts it.
Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma,
WHEN WE first spoke to Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director of Bird Group, he had just opened his first hotel, christened Dusit Devarana. Since then, Bhatia has stuck to what he had said in his interview, of exploring and acquiring hotels, but only those which he thought were the right product. This interview with Bhatia, was just after the opening of the very impressive Roseate House hotel, which also saw him break away from the Dusit brand (with whom he still has a contact, he told us) and the launch of his new brand, Roseate Hotels.
The impressive new property is going to be a harbinger of a most unique collection of hotels which will carve out a name for themselves. The future for the Roseate brand looks good as Bhatia spoke to BW Hotelier with cautious optimism of what the future held for this ultra luxury hotel chain.
BW Hotelier: What is the Roseate brand all about? What is it that you are looking at as the brand vision?
Ankur Bhatia: We had a great history with Dusit and the continuity was there as well but overall the plan for the group came in because we were doing more additions and acquisitions internationally as well. When we went out for trade shows, like Arabian Travel Mart for instance, we had to represent four different brands. Dusit, Devarana, D2 and the Royal Park Forbury. We are firm and committed that we want to grow in hospitality. We want the best end of luxury hotels across the growth. We said that we can’t continue and brand the new hotels are Dusit, because they don’t fit the market we were catering to. When we started this hotel, at that point of time, even D2 as a brand was on paper. When the brand developed and some other properties became D2, we felt there was a gap in the way we made this hotel and what was in existence in the D2 brand. We took a consensus call and told our partners and said we were going ahead and doing our own particular brand.
We still have a JV with them. Why did we choose the name Roseate? Because the parent group was the Bird group and we looked at various birds and chose the name Roseate. We have two sub brands as well, The Roseate, which is the resorts, which has two hotels, the Roseate in New Delhi and the sister hotel in the UK called the Forbury Roseate. The other brand is the Roseate House, which is more of a city hotel, like the one in New Delhi Aerocity and the Royal Park Roseate House Hotel. In addition to that, we are developing The Roseate Rishikesh and then we have other developments and acquisitions. Whatever we do will fit in within these two realms.
BWH: What does the Roseate brand stand for?
AB: The brand is luxury on the top end. It’s a younger approach to luxury with a tilt towards design and personalisation. That is the brand ethic and brand standard. The detailing is on art, its on decor and on how it’s interactive with the design, functionality, straight lines. We have a very art sense. The London Hotel, which is on Hyde Park, has a very strong country house feel. The Forbury is an old property with 23 rooms and seven apartments, it has elements like Swarovski chandeliers, Dior vases, Bang and Olufsen TVs and nearly three million pounds worth of art in it. These are things which are very important for us, in terms of design and the brand sense. When we look at a property for acquisition, we study how it belongs to the Roseate brand. Any new development we do has this brand ethics. How long will the brand take? Brand development has started right now, with this hotel. The brand will get focussed and tweaked, presented. The journey has just begun.
BWH: What are the destinations that you are looking at in India?
AB: We already have land in Goa, Rishikesh and Jaipur. Internationally, we are looking at more expansion in the UK and also in Europe as well, but since those acquisitions will be done on existing properties, it is very important to get the right brand fix before we move forward.
BWH: One of the very important ways in which the brand is a differentiator is through training. What have you done to make the experience at the Roseate Hotels different?
AB: Last few months have been training and standard operating practices (SOP). Kush, who is our head of operations in India and Lawrence, the head of operations in the UK. We have defined our standards across the hotel, in terms of customer delight. We have very strong brand ethics. We want to be recognised as India’s finest 5 star lifestyle hotel having unique, innovative and personalized service by a young and Passionate team who redefine the hotel experience by exceeding team, guest and management expectation. We want to be recognised for our transparency, ethical work practices, empowerment and for nurturing and developing the future leaders of an earth friendly hotel. Those are the things that we are consistently looking at and the SOPs around that.
BWH: How would you compare yourself with the competition?
AB: Within India, if I were to position this particular hotel (Roseate House, New Delhi Aerocity), I don’t think there’s a comparison. I want to give an international experience with a little bit of Indianness. We don’t want to be intricate. You won’t see the kind of opulence feel some of the luxury five star properties in India present to guests. While this is set up like a city hotel, it offers everything that any luxury hotel across the globe has to offer. We have a lot of USPs in our property. For example, we have a cinema in this property, which is unique. I have a four bedroom villa within the hotel as well. Rishikesh for instance, will have a similar feel to the Roseate fabric, but it will be unique.
BWH: Do you want your hotel chain to be individual or uniform?
AB: You will not see a hotel like this one (Roseate House in New Delhi’s Aerocity) anywhere else in the world. I would not want to repeat it. The tweaks will happen in the area where the hotel is.
BWH: Now that you’ve established the brand, how much are you spending on publicity and developing the brand?
AB: It’s an ongoing exercise . It’s PR related, it’s social media related. The way social media is right now, its easier to do now than it was 10 years ago. That’s what our focus is right now.
BWH: Are you now going to expand the chain with larger hotels or keep to the small and individual
AB: I don’t think that I am looking for a 300 or 400 room hotel. This hotel will probably remain the largest hotel in our inventory for sometime. I don’t think that the intention is to play the number game and get into the large convention business deal. I don’t think that kind of room inventories are affordable at the price standards and service standards that we are looking at.
BWH: Let’s talk about sales and how you plan to deal with it.
AB: In India, with Amedeus and our IT business, we have a good grip on distribution with 60 percent of market share. Obviously we will use that channel and on top of that we have offices in UK as well. I think a lot of emphasis for us would be through social media.
BWH: Do you want to be known as an Indian luxury hotel brand or as a luxury hotel brand?
AB: We want to be a luxury hotel brand that originates from India. After the Oberoi group set up a hotel in Bali, around 30 years ago, we are the next one to actually be an Indian ethic brand to open abroad. People know what our brand origins are. We don’t want to be identified as a Sanskrit brand going abroad. There is an internationalism about us.
BWH: As a hotel brand are you going to own all your hotels, do management contracts or have franchisee options?
AB: In India, it will be essentially build from scratch. In Europe, because we don’t have the bandwidth to build from bottom up, it will be essentially existing products which we will buy and upgrade for brand standards. For the time being we will focus on owned and managed hotels so that the brand will grow. After a few years, when we have everything in place, we will look at third party management as well.
BWH: What is the legacy that you’re building through Roseate Hotels?
AB: I’ve just started the brand and I’m lucky that at my age, I have been able to do it. Most owners, when they begin their first foray into hospitality as owners, are already older. The focus will obviously continue to be to strive to be the best luxury brand within the space which we are operating in. The intent will be to have the best designed and serviced hotels across the globe.
This article was published in BW Businessworld issue dated '' with cover story titled 'Green Issue'
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