Old World Hospitality Through Smart Hotels is the Way Cygnett wants to Draw its Road Map: Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder and Managing Director, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts

Sarbendra Sarkar talks to BW Hotelier about the growth strategy of the hotel group

RAPID GROWTH coupled with a focus on delivering value and experiences, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts looks to spread its wings fast. From Jammu to Bongaigaon, Lucknow to Visakhapatnam, Cygnett’s presence is spread across India. It has even made its presence felt in areas that are underserved by erstwhile leading brands. They have therefore been able to extend their presence in far-flung destinations such as Itanagar, Gangtok, Mangaldoi, and Tinsukia. Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder and Managing Director, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts talks to BW Hotelier about the growth strategy of the hotel group.

What has your journey as a hotelier been like? Take me through the journey of Cygnett Hotels.

My journey has been swift. My passion for traveling and exploring new places and cultures lead me to this industry. Working with international brands for over 24 years has acted as a catalyst in my decision to start my own hotel chain. I learned about various facets of hospitality and how catering to guests is the core motto always. All the knowledge I acquired during my career as a professional has helped me in laying the founding stones of Cygnett. Since inception, Cygnett is on a constant growth trajectory. With 35 alliances and 20 operational with 15 at various stages of pre-opening says it all. We gradually started by penetrating Tier II & tier III markets and now we are entering leisure destinations. We are planning international expansion as well.

How do Indian hospitality brands like yours compete in a market where global brands such as Accor or Marriott and Hyatt are aggressively expanding? What would Cygnett’s USP be that they don’t offer?

You can’t reinvent the wheel, but we can certainly do things differently. We are running a hotel management company like other competitors. But we are stepping it up by a clear differentiate of our offerings from the competitors. Cygnett, provides a wide range of hospitality solutions, Upscale, Midscale, Budget and Economy. Cygnett is responsive to the demands of a rapidly changing world without compromising on the founding tenets of hospitality – quality, comfort and outstanding service. These three are our major focus areas followed by Technology. Since we deal in all segments of properties – Conversion, greenfield & Brownfield, we carefully craft our execution and development strategies. For greenfield & brownfield projects we do ADR mapping, development cost analysis, and value engineering to build the facility at competitive costs. For conversation hotels, we do a facelift and cosmetic changes are per the brand standards.

You are expanding quite aggressively internationally. What sort of opportunities does the global market offer Indian hoteliers? Which countries present the best markets for hoteliers like you? Where are you planning to invest?

The hospitality industry is rushing to increase their global footprint like no other, and we are no different. We are in motion to introduce new hospitality concepts to maximize value for customers and investors. Cygnett is already operating in 2 countries now (India & Nepal) and is eyeing to enter territories in the South & Southeast Asian regions. We are planning to put remote offices in a few countries to initiate development namely, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar & Indonesia. In accordance with the same line, we are identifying the markets in Northern Africa.

What are your India expansion plans? How many keys by the end of this year?

Cygnett is the brand who is rapidly expanding presence in India. Our majority of operations are in Tier II & III cities. We focus on this segment because these markets miss the presence of the Branded chain. Our plan is to capture as many cities in this segment. Parallelly we are increasing our presence in Tier I & Metro cities. Since we have already evaluated the market, we are all set to develop business. We at Cygnett acknowledge the untouched beauty of the Northeast. We have a presence in 3 of the 7 sisters of India, by having operations running in Bongaigaon, Guwahati, and Gangtok. Tinsukia, Dibrugarh & Yang Yang are also in our pipeline. We are targeting to operate 1500+ keys by the end of this year. Development of boutique wellness luxury resorts in also in our pipeline.

You have said in some interview that you are more of a “smart hotel” rather than a luxury hotel. What is your view defines a smart hotel?

We believe in old-world hospitality and new era technology, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts in using the latest technology to support our value. Our all software is cloud-based as we acknowledge that cloud is enabling business growth and through its holistic approach impacting operations and profitability. We also make sure to provide high-speed wifi connectivity to our guests as they travel with their tech toys because wifi is no longer a perk. To make a hotel or a room “smart’ one should also consider using in-room automation and tailor-made mobile apps as they provide seamless information which in turn increases the guest experience.

You have also said in the past that you follow an asset-light model and you have no plans to invest in building hotels in India in the future…what are the challenges of the Indian market?

Going asset-light accelerate growth. It's not like that we don’t have investment plans, but rather our plans are a bit long term. We are planning to own and build our own boutique wellness resorts. The Indian tourism industry should focus on single-window clearances to ease getting statutory compliances.

You are in upscale, mid-segment and budget. Of the three, which shows the most promise?

Mid-Segment & budget are the most promising segments. With a rise in disposable income, people are travelling more. These segments are perfect to cater to this segment of our guests. 60% of our properties are mid-market.

You have a category called Select Service Hotels. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Over the course of two decades or so, the grey area between full-service and limited-service hotel establishments has given rise to this select-service segment. From its name, you can infer that the hotels which fall under the select-service segment provide fundamentals characteristic of limited-service properties alongside a selection of the amenities, facilities, and servicestypical of full-service hotels. Such hotels are perfect to cater to Indian guest are they look for maximum services at friendly cost options. An incisive look at the industry itself shows that select-service hotels come in a huge variety, with particular offerings varying from one property to another.

Tell me a little bit about three of your top properties – in terms of offerings/experience/design that puts them apart in the Indian market.

Cygnet Resort Mountain Breeze, Nainital – Situated Jeolikot is an untouched jewel in the Nainital, district which is also known as the gateway to Naini Lake. It’s an ideal place to spend the holidays in a calm, secluded and cool environment, and is a haven for nature lovers. The resort offers a perfect stay and an admirable location to the visitors with the joy of both the summer comforts of a hill station and the moderate coolness of winter in the plains. Cygnett Resort Mountain Breeze offers the guest an awesome panoramic view of the surroundings and star-lit wintry nights. It is a perfect place, away from the concrete jungle to relieve from day to day routines and relax in the magnificent paradise in the lap of Mother Nature.

Cygnet Inn Repose, Guwahati - The hotel is known for its impeccable comfort, premium service and budget accommodation which adds to the charm of this hilly terrain. The central location of the hotel, combined with its focus on quality and services makes it one of the most preferred hotels in North East India.

Cygnett Hotel, Kolkata - Cygnett hotels are partaking in a bit of the joy in Kolkata. It is close to many of Kolkata’s famous landmarks, the shopping hubs, and business hubs. Business and leisure travellers alike will enjoy the advantages of its location complemented by the finest menus, the unmatched comfort of the accommodation, made possible by the exacting attention to the quality of every guest’s experience. The hotel not just serves traditional Indian foods, but also takes food lovers on a tasty journey of worldwide cuisines. Popularly known as K2K among frequent visitors, the GT ROUTE is famous for its fine cuisines whose roots are associated with centuries-old foods from Kabul to Kolkata. The delightful menus of the restaurant have a variety of unique, yet delicious dishes to taste and explore their history. GT ROUTE offers barbequed delights of Peshawar, the succulent kebabs of the Afghanistan and Awadh region to a sublime vegetarian repast of Varanasi & Punjab and ambrosial sweets of Bengal.

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