It is About the Pleasure of Serving

Piyush Shah, MD of Jindal Hotels speaks to BW Hotelier on the occasion of the relaunch of his iconic Surya Palace in Vadodara as AccorHotels latest Grand Mercure.

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PASSION FOR food, joy of serving, and contentment of material life are the three different element to my whole family I would say," according to Piyush Shah, Managing Director, Jindal Hotels Ltd, who along with Jean-Michel Casse, Chief Operating Officer, India & South Asia, AccorHotels announced the partnership and launch of the Grand Mercure Vadodara Surya Palace, which has been part of Shah's company as Surya Palace, Vadodara since its opening in 1987. 

"We are passionate about creating food. We understand food and then we would love to serve it to people, and when we see the satisfaction on the face of people, gives us immense pleasure. Business and money is important, but more important is the satisfaction of the people who we are serving," says the man who is carrying forward a hospitality heritage begun four generations ago by his great grand father. 

Shah added that he could easily have build a hundred hotels, but instead didn't prefer to add the two zeros (after one) because his family culture was one of contentment and commitment, so he stayed committed to his single hotel, while being content about his material expansion. "We could have been busy and bogged down, engrossed in the problems of expansion and would have lost the focus and the pleasure and joy that we have got out of running one (hotel)," he said.

"Trust me, my friend the late Homi Aibara and I, met each and every operator in hospitality industry and we realised that culturally, AccorHotels is the brand which suits our kind of requirement in two aspects. In the infrastructure aspect, the kind of size of the room mix that we have--210 to 350 square feet--which doesn't meet brand standards of many chains who need 250 square feet minimum. We have equal inventory and we cannot change all those rooms to meet a brand standard. AccorHotels Grand Mercure had two advantages for us. They were open to both sizes of rooms and like us, they were willing to stay thoroughly and culturally Indian while also meeting to international standards," Shah told us when asked why he chose the Grand Mercure brand.

While the AccorHotels brand standards for Grand Mercure were stringent, and it has taken more than four years for the property to reach the brand standards, Shah added that he was fortunate that during that time he was doing more than 75 percent occupancy thorough out that time (with empty weekends, that adds up to around 85 to 90 percent occupancy on weekdays). Executing civil work and do refurbishing and changes were not easy, particularly since AccorHotels wasn't ready to compromise fire safety standards and hygiene standards. 

"We had done upgradation work in 2000, but then we pushed back our 15 year cycle and invested properly for the next 15 years. So, we took up the complete upgradation with Indian ethos in mind," Shah added saying the total expenditure was around Rs 55 crore till date.

Since Shah was himself the operator of the property for the last 30 years, for him, it was like giving his daughter away, he was emotional about his view. "I am a father who has already married off his daughter and also have a daughter in law at home. Emotionally I understand what the connect or disconnect from the hotel is," he said. 

He added that like any father, he would always be there whenever his hotel would need him. "The hotel was run by its own professional team before. I have never interfered in their decision making. I am required only when I see that there is a cultural compromise," he added.

Shah, though is sensitive about his existing team, people who have given 25 years or more to the hotel. "Somebody who has joined me at the age of 20, is still 45 and has 15 years of service left. There is a commitment that they have and I am responsible to them. Whatever they are, they need to be spruced up and be polished and shaped. I think with AccorHotels, this could be possible," he added.

The other thing that Shah pointed out was his customers. "Today, Surya Palace is a local brand, a city hotel and people love it. We want those loyal customers to be recognised when they walk in," he said.

As far as expectations go, Shah wants his team of employees to be taken forward from where they are. The customer connect with AccorHotels has to be better. As far as finance was concerned, Shah felt there was going to be increase in overheads. "We are looking at a 100 year story and in that one or two years doesn't matter. With AccorHotels its a relationship of 10 years and then another," he said in conclusion. 


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