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Glocalising Indian hotel & restaurant design

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The concluding day of the three-day long 39th edition of EF&H Expo in Mumbai saw leading architects and interior designers speaking about the importance of glocalisation of design in the Indian hospitality industry

The design panel discussion on topic “Glocalising Indian hotel & restaurant design” was graced by the presence of the esteemed panelists including Prem Nath, principal architect, Prem Nath & Associates; Paulomi Shah, partner, Bobby Mukherji & Associates and Saniya Kantawala, lead designer, Saniya Kantawala Design. Being in the industry for more than 50 years, Nath opened the panel discussion by giving a timeline of the changes that the hospitality industry underwent in terms of design and architecture. “I have noticed that back then, though international brands like InterContinental were here, they assured that the design had an Indianness to it. Now if you see the chain of hotels that are coming to India and are on an expansion spree, the design is influenced by international design elements to bring the global experiential touch to the product. This has seen the architecture industry in India too taking a turn and evolving from designing Indian heritage-rich hotels to catering to international tastes. Standardisation of brand value has further influenced the design element of chain of hotels, wherein they like to keep the offerings similar across a brand irrespective of the destination. Today we see glocalisation with soft touches of Indian elements to it, when it comes to designing hotels.”
Shah too pointed out that the design aspect in the Indian hospitality industry has certainly evolved in the last 50 years. Back in that time, hospitality was only synonymous to select brands like the Taj, Oberoi, Holiday Inn or a Le Meridien at most. The common notion then was hotels being fantasy spaces for their design influence drawn from the colonial and Victorian styles. “In that sense, I feel we have broken the mould, wherein today contemporary design has taken centrestage, as it is a good path to take, for it is not cutting edge and also not heavily classic, hence the design becomes timeless. It has a longer shelf life than a theme/ concept based hotel. With the phenomenal influence of experience, hotels are going a long way to provide the guest with more personalised elements. In order to create the brand recall, design plays an integral role in it. Functionality is key. Also, you could play with local materials, as the land prices have hit the roof, it becomes difficult for clients to make business sense for products. Spaces now have become a lot more compact, and the experiences have become very intimate and personal, “ she opined.
Kantawala also spoke on the similar lines, saying, “About a decade ago, when I used to go to restaurants, I noticed that we just entered the restaurant and enjoyed good food, but particularly missed out on having the vibe and ambience for celebrations. Interiors for that time were really fine, but as time passes, we start seeing progress in everything when it comes to hospitality. With the patrons now active on social media, they always want to show the ‘where and why’ aspect to their post. Now restaurants are judged by the patrons on not just food but the vibe and ambience that they offer. It also goes for hotels and boutique hotels. It is an experience that one wants to enjoy and because of digitisation, it has opened many gates for new-age designers.”

Importance of glocalisation in hospitality design
Elucidating the importance of glocalisation in hospitality industry, Nath said that as the industry is very vast with food outlets in malls too carrying an attractive design aspect, you have to ensure that the canvas remains basic but the artefacts local, as the guests now travel for thousands of kilometers to learn about their foreign destination’s culture which is heavily ingrained in food and the architecture of the place. He voiced, “That is how glocalisation is playing an important role here. There is no permanent design that lasts for 100 years now, but something that can be changed over 5-7 years now. People no more buy but rent places, so the design of the space too keeps changing with the passing of time and a new restaurateur coming into that place again changes the overall look.”
Shah pointed out that, “Talking of today, glocalisation plays an important role. A large part of our expense goes into travelling and seeing what the world has to offer in terms of materials and what people are doing. During one of our international visits, we came across a small village in Thailand where we saw a material that grows in sea moss. The local artisans there make furniture using that material. The furniture initially retailed only in Thailand but is world renowned now. We use the furniture extensively in our resort projects which has increased employment to the local artisans there. In India, we are so steeped in culture through arts and crafts. We had a project in Rajasthan where we revived the Tikri work with local artisans there. So glocalisation adds to the employment avenues for locals, which is also very important today.”
Kantawala agreed with Shah on the importance of glocalisation in promoting employment to the local artisans and uplifting them socio-economically. “Many Indian companies are hiring local artists as our country is so rich in depicting culture through arts and crafts, probably the best in the world. We used to take it for granted earlier but now everyone has started to realise the value that local artwork holds. Even companies like Jaipur Rugs for that matter employ only local artisans from Rajasthan. All their yarns and weavers come from the villages, so it is a source of income for them and at the end of the day they have customers who value the essence that the product carries, not just in India but internationally too. This is how glocalisation works,” she expressed.

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