‘We want to keep expanding our footprint’
Neemrana Hotels’ CEO Sonavi Kaicker’s vision is to ensure the historical properties continue to serve as unique accommodations for travellers and living examples of India’s rich heritage
Sonavi Kaicker formally joined Neemrana Hotels in 2010 which she says by then was already an established brand, internationally and domestically. “I think that in itself was a huge advantage as we weren’t starting out afresh. But I felt there was this need to strike a balance between the local workforces running the show on a day-to-day basis and all the think tanks in our Delhi corporate office because at times what may seem like a very fantastic or a path-breaking idea may not actually be one,” says Kaicker who has had a childhood association with Neemrana since Nath is her maternal uncle.
What Kaicker feels has changed over the last decade or so at Neemrana is that there are so many different properties now with each having its own aspect and its own USP. “To make these properties feasible through the year is where we come in. Whether it is dealing with the traditional travel agents who still deal offline or communicating with modern-day OTAs, we’ve done a lot to make ourselves travel-friendly and ensure we have price parity like all the other hotels,” she explains.
Reminiscing last year’s participation at the World Travel Market in London, the Group’s first, the CEO of Neemrana says it was a fascinating experience. “We had this huge photograph of the flagship property along with all other hotels which are a part of our portfolio at the venue. Now, it was very interesting when people came up and said, ‘I swam in that swimming pool in 2015’ and another one said, ‘I’ve stayed here. Tell me, what’s new at Neemrana’,” shares Kaicker excitedly.
Kaicker was working with a ‘traditional’ hotel chain but she says Neemrana helped her grow better, both personally and professionally. “I think one needs to keep evolving as one goes along, both from the sales and marketing perspectives as well as from the infrastructure angle because people are now looking for comfort as well as unique experiences. That’s where I step in,” feels Kaicker, adding that over the years, Neemrana Hotels has functioned in a very modern way behind-the-scene manner. “We’ve compartmentalised different aspects of day-to-day operations. We did not have a sales team earlier as one didn’t need to go out and get business as people came naturally. Now, that’s something we’ve changed. Along with the reservations team, we have a sales team as well. Likewise, we delved into online reputation management and social media more than a decade back. And we’re all involved personally in terms of any purchase and choosing every single thing you will find in a Neemrana property. I think that’s where the difference lies,” she avers.
Kaicker also draws attention towards the team at Neemrana Hotels. “We are completely dedicated to our people and try to assess things from their perspective. More than a decade ago, we introduced education reimbursement, something other hotel chains probably hadn’t even thought about and then we offer interest-free loans. Then, there is a facility where, in the times of need, Neemrana stands with them. It could be a medical emergency, marriage of a child or even the purchase of a home. All this is finance and people management, linked to each other intrinsically,” she shares, adding that as Neemrana Hotels is a very conservative company, it keeps investing back to try and improve the infrastructure. “We have a very humanitarian approach towards hospitality,” says Kaicker.
With eyes on the Rs 100 crore revenue mark, Kaicker says there is a very clear vision on where they are at present and where they want to be in future. “Of course, Rs 100 crore is a mark that we’re looking at and we’re constantly working on different projects as well. We recently launched Neemrana’s Three Waters in Goa and a few projects are in the pipeline. But the main thing is that we haven’t deviated from our USP – to restore India’s dilapidated ruins and ensure we generate local employment. These two are the main ethos points in our portfolio and branding. We have to keep looking at restoring India’s heritage but they have to be viable projects. As we go along, we want to keep expanding our footprint. Unlike some other brands, we’re not in a hurry to cross the borders and go international. There are plenty of projects waiting to be discovered in India and we’re absolutely committed to them. Neemrana is going to continue to prosper and we’re going to continue to grow,” she shares optimistically.
Looking ahead, the Group CEO feels she has great responsibility on her shoulders and wants to continue working hard and keep understanding on what other people are doing right or wrong. “As long as we keep our head on our shoulders and continue to grow in a steady and sustainable way, that’s really where we have plenty of projects ahead of us. And the most important factor, like I said, is the people,” she concludes.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER THE PEOPLE SPECIAL'
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