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Serving a challenging market

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Designed with careful consideration right from room size, adequate meeting rooms and well equipped banqueting facilities, after considering the market mix, Sanjay Singh, general manager, Radisson Hotel Pune, Kharadi talks about the Pune market and how a positive attitude is the key to success in today’s competitive business environment. By Kahini Chakraborty

Sanjay Singh

From quintessentially being known as a ‘pensioners paradise’ to a vibrant business city base for IT, automotive, BPO and KPO and engineering sectors, Pune in the recent past has witnessed the opening of several luxury hotel brands, and some in the coming months to become operational. Joining the bandwagon has been Radisson Hotel Pune, Kharadi which is strategically located, five km from Pune international airport and close to EON IT park, Magarpatta and Ranjangaon, which is the manufacturing belt of the city. The hotel features 141 guest rooms and suites for discerning business travellers. Ideal for meetings and events of up to 1,200 people, the hotel features 15,000 square feet of meeting facilities, perfect for business meetings, product launches, weddings and events of all kinds. Dining options include all-day dining at Carmine, tempting kababs at The Great Kabab Factory and snacks and wine at Citrine.

During a brief meeting while talking about the evolution of Pune as a city in terms of hotel developments, weekend destination, conferences, Sanjay Singh, general manager, Radisson Hotel, Pune, Kharadi says, “Firstly Pune as a city has almost 95 per cent of corporate segment business for the hotel. Also being in Pune for quite sometime now, I know that food is central to the city’s culture and rich heritage. I strongly feel that the heritage option can be leveraged with the help of local development authorities to develop leisure tourism around Pune city. This will help the hotels more by inducing people to travel on weekends there by developing Pune as a weekend destination. While on the other hand due to large inventory of rooms and elaborate meeting venues Pune has already become most sought after destination for meetings, incentive programmes, wedding functions. It’s still cost effective as compared to Mumbai and has a distinct year round weather advantage over other cities.”

Having a vast experience after working in the hospitality industry for several well established hotel groups such as The Taj, Lotus Downtown Metro Apartments & Spa, Dubai and recently Radisson Hotel, Singh confesses that his journey has been challenging but full filling as well. “Nearing three decades in the industry now and having worked in major cities in India and London, Lusaka, Colombo and Dubai, its been an enriching learning experience and the learning still continues, now in a much bigger play field with more and more players in the market.”

When asked about how the property manages to maintain decent RevPar figures at a time when the travel and hospitality industry has been witnessing a slowdown, Singh says, “Our primary focus in Pune is on RPD and RevPar Index. Business development numbers from the local market have been promising so far and the hotel has an excellent sales support of Carlson regional sales offices in India and global sales support from USA, Europe and APAC region. This way we have managed to tap multiple revenue resources, cover our key accounts across the markets by building synergy in our business efforts.” He further goes on to say, “However Pune has become a challenging market due to excess room inventory. In 1999 during my tenure with Taj Blue Diamond as the general manager, we had 500 plus room inventory for the entire city. Now the city has almost 3000 plus rooms in only the Eastern corridor and will grow by 1000 rooms in 2013 with the addition of new branded hotels. The slowdown in European markets has definitely affected corporate travel since May 2012 as automotive sector in European Union region is directly linked to Pune and we have seen a dip in travel pattern. We hope that the travel will get back to normal post July 2012 and all hotels will do well.”

So what have been the factors that have worked for the property so far. “Looking at this market mix, the hotel was designed with careful consideration right from the room size, adequate meeting rooms and well equipped banqueting facilities. Radisson Hotel Pune’s rooms are one of the largest in the market with 350 sq. ft. The hotel gives you an option to choose between Radisson Standard and Business Class Rooms and Suites with an additional access to Business Lounge for Business Meetings with high speed internet service added free of cost. Radissons globally are known as hotels that love to say “Yes I Can” and that’s our unique service philosophy worldwide. We invest heavily in our training programmes at all levels to develop and retain a multitasked workforce to support our superior product. To sum up – developing a positive and winning attitude is the key to success in today’s competitive business environment,” mentions Singh.

The business philosophy of the company also revolves around three key stakeholders i.e. employees; guests and owners. All business units are at the midpoint of these three factors. “We strongly believe that by exceeding employee expectations at all levels can bring about guest delight which will help us exceeding our owners expectations on all commercial fronts. This mantra has actually made us the ‘most admired hotel company to work for and invest in’ globally. Suppliers/ vendor and community development is also our top most priority,” says Singh.

Giving an overview of the changes and challenges that he has seen in the hospitality industry, he opines, “Hospitality industry especially in India has grown in leaps and bounds. Way back in early 80′ we had two or three leading hotel companies to work for and choice was amongst The Taj, Oberoi, or the ITC. However since 1995 due to opening of markets and a strong support by the Government of India for development of tourism in domestic markets, many international hotel chains have expanded in the Indian market. Today you see multiple brands of any hotel chain in one homogeneous market offering bare basics to up market luxury options to cover all market segments. This has developed more employment opportunities for the skilled work force, has definitely created a new employment avenues for the younger generation. This in my opinion has also brought better changes in the work culture in the hospitality industry. In fact, you will see lot of expat chefs, F&B heads working in India. This definitely is a sign of development and us being a potential market. However the major challenges that I feel that the hospitality industry has to tackle in the long run are shortage of skilled employees and retention of quality work force.”

In the future Radisson Hotel Pune plans to upgrade to Radisson Blu which is a more premium brand under The Carlson Rezidor umbrella. “This will help us to further enhance our offerings from the product, services and brand perspective,” concludes Singh.

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