The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) and its subsidiaries are collectively known as Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces and is recognised as one of Asia’s largest and finest hotel company. Incorporated by the founder of the Tata Group, Mr. Jamsetji N. Tata, the company opened its first property, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Bombay in 1903. The Taj, a symbol of Indian hospitality, completed its centenary year in 2003.
Taj Hotels Resort and Palaces comprises more than 60 hotels in 45 locations across India with an additional 15 international hotels in the Malaysia, United Kingdom, United States of America, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Africa, the Middle East and Australia. Spanning the length and breadth of the country, gracing important industrial towns and cities, beaches, hill stations, historical and pilgrim centres and wildlife destinations, each Taj hotel offers the luxury of service, the apogee of Indian hospitality, vantage locations, modern amenities and business facilities.
IHCL operate in the luxury, premium, mid-market and value segments of the market through the following: Taj (luxury full-service hotels, resorts and palaces) is our flagship brand for the world’s most discerning travelers seeking authentic experiences given that luxury is a way of life to which they are accustomed. Spanning world-renowned landmarks, modern business hotels, idyllic beach resorts, authentic Rajput palaces and rustic safari lodges, each Taj hotel reinterprets the tradition of hospitality in a refreshingly modern way to create unique experiences and lifelong memories.
Taj also encompasses a unique set of iconic properties rooted in history and tradition that deliver truly unforgettable experiences. A collection of outstanding properties with strong heritage as hotels or palaces which offer something more than great physical product and exceptional service. This group is defined by the emotional and unique equity of its iconic properties that are authentic, non- replicable with great potential to create memories and stories. Taj Exotica is our resort and spa brand found in the most exotic and relaxing locales of the world. The properties are defined by the privacy and intimacy they provide.
The hotels are clearly differentiated by their product philosophy and service design. They are centered around high end accommodation, intimacy and an environment that allows its guest unrivalled comfort and privacy. They are defined by a sensibility of intimate design and by their varied and eclectic culinary experiences, impeccable service and authentic Indian Spa sanctuaries. Taj Safaris are wildlife lodges that allow travelers to experience the unparalleled beauty of the Indian jungle amidst luxurious surroundings. They offer India’s first and only wildlife luxury lodge circuit.
Taj Safaris provide guests with the ultimate, interpretive, wild life experience based on a proven sustainable ecotourism model. Upper Upscale Hotels (full-service hotels and resorts) provide a new generation of travelers a contemporary and creative hospitality experience that matches their work-hard play-hard lifestyles. Stylish interiors, innovative cuisine, hip bars, and a focus on technology set these properties apart. The Gateway Hotel (upscale/mid-market full service hotels and resorts) is a pan-India network of hotels and resorts that offers business and leisure travelers a hotel designed, keeping the modern nomad in mind.
At the Gateway Hotel, we believe in keeping things simple. This is why, our hotels are divided into 7 simple zones- Stay, Hangout, Meet, Work, Workout, Unwind and Explore. As travel often means more hassle than harmony, more stress than satisfaction, modern travelers are looking for smarter choices. Driven by our passion for perfection, we welcome our customers to a refreshingly enjoyable and hassle-free experience, anytime, everywhere. Offering the highest consistency in quality, service and style we set new standards and take the unwanted surprises out of traveling.
Our warm welcomes make our guests feel at home, away from home and our crisp and courteous service empowers them to get more done with greater effectiveness and control. And through our unrivalled network we provide service that is effortless, simple, never overwhelming, always warm. Ginger (economy hotels) is IHCL’s revolutionary concept in hospitality for the value segment. Intelligently designed facilities, consistency and affordability are hallmarks of this brand targeted at travelers who value simplicity and self-service.
Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is committed to replicate its domestic success onto international shores with plans to build an international network of luxury hotels, which will provide an exemplary product-service combination and in the process create a global brand. The current international portfolio includes luxury resorts in the Indian Ocean, business and resort destinations in the Middle East and Africa, serviced apartments in the UK, the first hotel in Australia and three a top-end luxury hotels in the US.
Throughout the Company’s expansion, its mandate has been twofold: to infuse a sense of Indian heritage and culture within each diverse property, while also anticipating the needs and desires of the sophisticated traveller. Over the years, the Taj has won international acclaim for its quality hotels and its excellence in business facilities, services, cuisine and interiors. The Taj strengthened its presence in the Indian Ocean rim with the Exotica Brand. The Taj Exotica was evolved as part of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces intent to position it as a brand that is clearly differentiated by its product philosophy and service design.
The Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, in Maldives is centered on high-end accommodation, intimacy and an environment that allows its guest’s unrivalled comfort and privacy. Taj Hotels further expanded its global footprint by securing management contracts at Palm Island, Jumeirah in Dubai, Saraya Islands in Ras Al Khaimah, Aldar Group in Abu Dhabi, UAE Langkawi in Malaysia and Thimpu in Bhutan. The most significant additions to the portfolio have been The Pierre, the iconic landmark hotel on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Taj Boston and Blue, Sydney.
The presence of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces internationally has been developed through a network of Taj regional sales and PR offices in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Dubai, Singapore, Australia, Japan, Russia and the United States of America. At the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces luxurious living and fine dining find common ground. Whether it is introducing exotic world cuisines to India or taking authentic Indian fare to the world, the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is renowned for the eclectic culinary experiences it brings to its guests.
Through a vast repertoire of award-winning restaurants, legendary recipes from royal kitchens and celebrated food festivals, the Taj has pioneered innovation in fine dining across the world. Taj Hotels also promise a whole new experience of tranquillity and total ‘wellness’, through Jiva Spas a unique concept, which brings together the wisdom and heritage of the Asian and Indian Philosophy of Wellness and Well-being. Rooted in ancient Indian healing knowledge, Jiva Spas derive inspiration and spirit from the holistic concept of living.
There is a rich basket of fresh and unique experiences under the Jiva Spa umbrella of offering, Yoga and Meditation, mastered and disseminated by accomplished practitioners, authentic Ayurveda, and unique Taj signature treatments. Royal traditions of wellness in service experiences, holistic treatments involving body therapies, enlivening and meaningful rituals and ceremonies and unique natural products blended by hand, come together to offer a truly calming experience.
IHCL operates Taj Air, a luxury private jet operation with state-of-the-art Falcon 2000 aircrafts designed by Dassault Aviation, France; and Taj Yachts, two 3-bedroom luxury yachts which can be used by guests in Mumbai and Kochi, in Kerala. IHCL also operates Taj Sats Air Catering Ltd. , the largest airline catering service in South Asia, as a joint venture with Singapore Airport Terminal Services, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. Additionally, it operates the Indian Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad since 1993.
The institute offers a three-year diploma, designed with the help of international faculty and has affiliations with several American and European programmes. CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY AND SOCIAL RESPONSBILITY As a part of Tatas; India’s premier business house; we; at Taj Hotels, have always believed in society and environment being integral stakeholders in our business along with our shareholders, customers, vendors and others. Over the last decade, the movement towards ecologically sound tourism has gained urgency and importance across the globe and we recognize that responsible practices in vogue are as diverse as the geographies.
We promote corporate citizenship through our strategic public-private partnerships which encourage building livelihoods of less-advantaged youth and women. The causes we promote include reducing malnutrition, promoting indigenous artisans and craftsmen and enhancing employability of identified target groups by sharing our core competencies as a leading hospitality company. We encourage training and development of differently abled youth. We at Taj have the unique scope and opportunity to develop raw potential into a skilled workforce that is immediately employable by various players in the industry.
A majority of our community projects are focused around extending our key strengths in food production, kitchen management, housekeeping, customer service and spas to promote economic empowerment of candidates from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds. We are fully committed to the cause of building a sustainable environment by reducing the impact of our daily operations on the environment and improving operational efficiencies, resource conservation, reuse and recycling of key resources. A glimpse of indicative projects undertaken by Taj group
Our sixth Corporate Sustainability Report was submitted to the United Nations Global Compact society in August, 2009. The United Nations Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, safety & security, environment and anti-corruption. This Corporate Sustainability report also serves as our GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) as well as Triple Bottom Line report.
The report focuses on identified priorities at IHCL and responds to key stakeholder needs. We plan to continue and further strengthen our commitment to the environment and societies in which we operate. We believe in continuous learning and sharing and would be delighted to have your thoughts and suggestions. EARTH In an endeavour to reinstate its vision and efforts to boost sustainable tourism, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces presented EARTH (Environment Awareness & Renewal at Taj Hotels) this year.
Implementing schemes such as the Gangroti Glacier Clean-Up Expedition, as well as designated Earth rooms, which minimise environmental impact, Taj is one of Asia’s largest group of hotels to commit to energy conservation and environmental management. EARTH has received certification from Green Globe, the only worldwide environmental certification program for travel and tourism. The Taj began a century ago with a single landmark – The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai. Today, the various Taj hotels, in all their variety and historical richness, are recognised internationally as the symbols of true Indian hospitality.
The Company’s history is integral to India’s emergence into the global business and leisure travel community; and looking to the future, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is well positioned to meet the increase in travel activity with the rapid expansion of the Indian economy. The story of one of India’s biggest brands – the Taj November 24, 2006 tags: Brands by Nita Some brands die a quiet death, others are swallowed by bigger, more powerful brands. Some, however, withstand the test of time. Like the Taj. Our Taj. However, the hotel has faced some rough times.
The Indian Hotel Industry went through a recession in the nineties but the Taj survived it better than most hotels. Their investment plans continued unabated, share prices remained buoyant and dividend payment kept up. How did the Taj manage to achieve this? Let’s go back to the beginning The Taj was built at a time when Indians were not allowed entry into most of the prestigious hotels and clubs in British ruled India. Legend has it that this was one of the reasons why Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata, the first Indian industrialist built India’s first luxury hotel.
He went ahead with the project although he was busy with plans to industrialise India. The first Taj Hotel, the flagship of the Group was born in 1903 and stood alone for almost half a century. Initially it was smooth sailing, even though the original hotel was conceived and built when the hotel business was not even considered an industry. Right from the beginning, the Taj stood for class and comfort. It was a place where the viceroys of the Empire arrived and departed amidst scenes of splendour. Scenes which were typical of the Raj.
In fact, it soon became one of the wonders of the Orient. Singapore’s Raffles or Hong Kong’s Peninsula did not come up to the level of the Taj inspite of their rich ancestry. Notably, there was hardly any advertising directly to the consumer. In fact, this element of the marketing mix was not visible until the late nineties! Advertising was not considered necessary. Secondly the company was conservative and media shy for many years. The reason the hotel towered above the rest was because of the amazing attention to detail that was paid by it’s founder Jamshetji Tata.
As far back as 1900, he made sure that the Taj would have it’s own laundry, an aerated water bottling plant, electroplating for it’s silverware, a Mora sliver burnishing machine, a crockery washing plant and elevators. The hotel was built completely at a cost of 500,000 pounds in 1903. Their vision Says Managing Director, R. K. Krishnakumar, ‘The vision for the Taj Group is for it to be a select chain, present globally. Asian, perhaps in character, but absolutely international in terms of systems and processes and with a strong West European focus.
The way forward was to make sure that the entire Taj team is imbued with the missionary zeal to sell the brand. ’ Their customers International travelers from the bulk of the market for the Taj, particularly in the metros. Even the profile of the Indian customer was changing. But overall, the Taj has a higher dollar rate of revenue – approximately 70 per cent comes from international guests. Expansion The chain started expansion only in the 1970’s under the leadership of Ajit Kerkar. Kerkar had a big role to play in the rapid expansion of the Taj. The Taj Intercontinental (the new wing) was built in 1971.
Pioneers In the early seventies came the Lake Palace in Jaipur. The company pioneered the concept of conversion of century-old palaces into hotels. Today this has become an USP of the Taj group. In the mid 1970’s the chain expanded to Chennai (Taj Coromandel and the Fisherman’s Cove) and Fort Aguada at Goa. Here too, Taj scored over the others with it’s timing. At that time, Goa was not as much of a tourist’s paradise that I it became later on. Around the same time it set up the Taj Ganges in Benares and started international flight kitchens too. More hotels
In the 1980’s, two more hotels were built in Delhi, two in Bangalore, and one each in Chennai, Ooty and Agra. Next came the Jaimahal Palace Hotel in Jaipur as well as the New Delhi Flight Kitchen. The new hotels were build taking the original Taj as the model hotel. The end of the decade saw the coming up of the Taj at Delhi. The last marked the start of an ethnic style in hotels with international standards. By this time, it appeared that nothing could held the phenomenal growth of the Taj. Turbulent times However, cracks had become evident as the recession loomed large over the Indian economy.
Excess capacity made some of the ventures unprofitable, specially overseas ones. Lack of transparency The new management also realised, to its dismay that there was a clear lack of transparency. The organisational structure had become almost feudal with 49 general managers reporting directly to the chief executive, without any interaction amongst themselves. The Taj had to change the way it viewed the world – if it wanted to remain a market leader. Research As far back as the early nineties, it was realised that formal market research was a must to help understand the consumer better.
It did not think that data from research agencies such as the airline and the travel industry were enough. The Group carried out extensive research to understand current lifestyles. The research attempted to discover whether the future customer would be more egalitarian, more democratic or would she want to be pampered? The findings revealed that she would like exclusivity more than anything else. On the other, research also indicated that the company’s existing customers base of traditionalists – those who liked the Taj because it was understated yet classy – was shrinking. Something had to done to keep up the growth graph.
Positioning The Taj marked out three separate entities for the Taj Group: Business, Leisure and Luxury. Though the concept of these sub-brands had come into existence earlier, in the mid nineties, it was in 1999-2000, that the hotels became operationally different. Which meant that though the heads of these three divisions sat at head office, their ‘territory’ is scattered geographically, according to which type of hotel they look after. Strategy A higher emphasis was placed on the business segment as the profits are higher (this market being less price-sensitive) as compared to the luxury segment).
There was a proliferation of the Taj Presidency hotels not only in new cities, but also smaller towns. The group also kept looking at new opportunities. ‘The action plan is more opportunities, adding to and complementing the brand,’ says Krishnakumar. More changes There were other changes. Consolidation. Unprofitable ventures were hived of. The sales and marketing functions were separated. The HRD department modernized, with an emphasis on performance and career and succession planning. The organisation was made to flatter and more compact.
Moreover, a continual benchmarking against international standards was made part and parcel of the culture of the Taj. Major renovation By the mid 1990’s, renovation was in full swing. Units across the country were refurbished. It meant ripping out entire floors. Rooms were revamped, business centres rebuilt. More than a hundred million dollars were reportedly spend for renovation – just in the lifestyle (luxury segment)! Since the business segment was slated to be become big (and those using it were likely to be non-traditionalists), the Taj went ostentatious with it’s new business floors.
It meant putting in optic fiber cabling, remote control systems and giving the business guy a lounge where he could relax and even have breakfast. It included a min-business centre. In the process, some mistakes did happen. For instance it was thought a mini-gym on the floor would be a convenience. But this had to be dropped after a few years due to disuse. Initially, fax machines ere installed in the room. They had to go with the advent of the internet and laptops. Other innovations have happened too. It was found that telephone usage was dropping because of the advent of mobile phones.
Not only were mobiles provided on hire, the Taj also dropped communication charges by 33 per cent. Advertising It was only when the product was ready, was a major advertising campaign developed. Earlier, advertising had been restricted to the major feeder markets: the US, UK, Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong. And the advertising emphasised the hardware aspect of the hotel. The new campaign developed a specific brand identity for the hotel. Though the Taj had high unaided recall, it launched a corporate campaign to reinforce this new identity.
The ad (made by Rediffusion) shows the enigmatic woman who stands for both hospitality and efficiency. The identity was developed after extensive research on the consumer’s attitudes towards the Taj. Over 60 in-depth interviews were conducted by client and agency. The parameters? Not quantity, but quality. The things done right. The quality of check-in, the smile, the greeting or the welcome drink. The insights gathered were analysed and a clear slot, which the Taj could occupy when global competition arrived, emerged. This was translated into creating a distinct personality of the Taj as caring, efficient and enigmatic.
The line went: ‘She is the Taj,’ The base line was ‘Nobody cares as much. ’ Success Other hotels’ room occupancies plunged to as low as 37 % during the recession and average room occupany rates across all hotels were approximately 50 per cent. The Taj maintained a far higher average and continued to grow and expand. Slowly the hotel became more profitable than it had ever been. The reason is clear. It never slept. (This article was published in the Advertising and Marketing (A&M) Magazine under the title: The Crown’s Subjects. The photograph is taken by me and copyrighted)