Pullman to be Driven by Bespoke MICE, Vibrant F&B
Pullman-Novotel's new cluster GM, Biswajit Chakraborty, is no stranger to the culture of AcoorHotels, nor to the market dynamics that await him
FOR BISWAJIT Chakraborty, Delhi is home once again after 17 eventful years, which saw him travelling to Kathmandu (Yak and Yeti), Kovalam (The Leela), Mumbai (The Leela), Bangalore (Movenpick), his home city, and Mumbai again, where he was last heading Sofitel BKC for a little less than six years. Firmly ensconced now at the Pullman Novotel, New Delhi Aerocity, where he took over as General Manager Delegate (Cluster Head) less than two months ago, thus overseeing perhaps the largest inventory of rooms in the city (670 in all), Chakraborty did not have to work hard to get Delhi wanting to know him better. Given the consummate ease with which he makes friends and becomes an inseparable part of the professional and social life of the city he works in, it was to be expected.
When Chakraborty left Mumbai last month after spending nine years in it, there was no one who was someone who didn’t host a farewell party for him. Martial arts instructor, archery enthusiast, cigar aficionado and automobile junkie (his favourite possession is his Jag), the Bangalore University alumnus brings to his job his trademark flair and panache, and years of expertise in sales and marketing and in operations as well. And he knows very well that he has busy days ahead because, as he puts it, AccorHotels India and South Asia Chief Operating Officer Jean-Michel Casse has “fast-tracked” the company into a formidable brand with 50-plus properties (and counting including India’s first Raffles in Udaipur) across the country.
In the 17 years he has been away from the national capital, Chakraborty says, “Delhi and Mumbai have morphed into one corridor both cities speak the language of startups, mergers and acquisitions, artificial intelligence, and electronic business, and Generation Z is the same everywhere. Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are much closer than ever before.”
The old style of doing business, therefore, isn’t going to work. “The new version of Delhi nimble and far more focused,” Chakraborty adds, “is sending out the right signals”. Taking a more industry-focused view, he says people in the industry are working more closely together than before. “Our industry colleagues are showing greater magnanimity and a lot of respect and camaraderie for each other. They have become more inclusive,” Chakraborty says. More importantly, industry professionals are “getting savvier in the design, food and beverage, and e-commerce spaces and they are eliminating practices that are no longer relevant.”
Focusing on Pullman and Novotel, which appear to have finally entered the phase (like the other Aerocity hotels) when the supply has become static and demand is rising steadily at 5 to 7.5 per cent, Chakraborty promises he will capitalise on the advantage the hotel cluster already has in the MICE segment with its 15,000 sq. ft. banqueting space and 15 co-meeting rooms. The latter, in fact, have made Pullman-Novotel a hub for corporate meetings, encourage outstation executives to book co-meeting rooms, fly in early, meet the people they want to without checking into a hotel, and fly out by the evening.
A lot more R&D will go into banqueting and the buzz word will be ‘bespoke’. The offerings are to be branded on the lines of Weddings by Pullman, Conferences by Pullman and Exhibitions by Pullman to emphasise their uniqueness. “We have definitely raised the luxury quotient in the banqueting business,” Chakraborty says. “What we offer is bespoke planning or MICE with detailing.” He does sound excited about F&B, which is a tad unusual for a lifelong sales and marketing guy, but he has a sound rationale for it. “Vibrant F&B drives in locals,” says Chakraborty, “and they are the ones who give hotels their room business.” He’s also aware of the challenge of the Aerocity restaurants, which have dramatically altered the neighbourhood’s dining landscape.
Outlining his F&B plans, Chakraborty says the all-day restaurant Pluck, also famous for its Indo-Modern European fusion cuisine, will have its own hydroponic garden growing 25-30 different herbs and vegetables. Cafe Pluck in the lower ground floor will emerge as a supper theatre venue and a vibrant creative space with its own calendar of art and photography exhibitions. Pling, the sprawling bar outside Pluck, will have a railway carriage rekindling memories of the time when Pullman was a leading manufacturer of railroad cars in America. And of course, it helps to have Honk, which has become “one of the busiest Asian restaurants in the city”. It also helps to have the Accor dining card, which, Chakraborty says, is “globally very powerful” and the app, Chakraborty adds, is “being made simpler and more nimble”.
AccorHotels has been on a firm wicket at the Aerocity the Ibis is universally acknowledged as a phenomenal success; Novotel dominates the midscale segment, and Pullman has notched up occupancies from the 70s up to the 90s, and its ADRs have stayed steady in the range of Rs 7,000 to Rs 9,000. Chakraborty is confident that the Pullman-Novotel is now well-positioned, like the other Aerocity hotels, to grasp the massive additional demand that will be created by the Aerocity Convention Centre, which is expected to become operational in another two years.
Chakraborty understands his market and going by his past record, it won’t take much time for the market the city he has come back to after 17 busy years to warm up to him.
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