Q. Are you looking at a uniform umbrella branding, or will you operate with different brands?
The Tamara is the company, and also the name of our first luxury brand. In the future I see a good chance of bringing other brands under the The Tamara umbrella. For now, the property coming up in Guruvayur will not be under the The Tamara brand while the Kodaikanal project will be.
Q. Room rates (Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per night) at The Tamara, Coorg, are on a par with those of well-established luxury hotels such as Oberoi and Taj. How does the pricing work?
Our pricing is different from other luxury properties because our room rates are all-inclusive [includes food]. That said, I feel our customers are not necessarily looking for a cookie-cutter sort of property. Today, people are looking for offbeat, boutique resorts and I don’t think there is unwillingness to pay for it. We certainly designed The Tamara Coorg to be an upscale luxury property, and we have been rewarded with good occupancy. From an operations standpoint, we broke even more than a year ago. [The company did not share revenue figures.]
Q. There are many domestic and foreign hotel chains that already have the scale that you aim to achieve. Then there are disruptors like OYO Rooms. Is the road ahead challenging?
Yes, you have huge disruptors such as Airbnb and OYO Rooms coming into the space. Today, Airbnb’s valuation is much higher than any of the major hotel chains in the world and with good reason.
In India, too, there are massive changes happening in the industry. In the present context, we have an advantage compared to the established larger players.
We are agile and nimble, and not restricted by boundaries. We can change according to the industry demand, if required.
Initially, the challenge was to get the word out for a new brand like us. The internet has helped us reach out to the right customers. And we have been able to distinguish ourselves from the rest by focusing on sustainability and the environment.
Honeymooners love us; celebrities like us because our properties offer privacy. And this is how we like to be. We don’t want to be overexposed and mass market. Going back to the earlier point, I think our pricing is also at that range where we can position ourselves as aspirational.
Q. What is your father’s scope of influence on the operations of The Tamara. Is there any guidance from him?
He is on our board [as chairman]. He is quite involved from a governance point of view. I’m very focussed on operations, and I do get perspective from him once in a while on a variety of things. He was heading operations at Infosys for a long time, so on anything to do with operations, I take his advice. He is a great sounding board for that. Besides, he sits just across the hall, so I can get to him anytime. On the development side, I have a great team which has helped me learn over the last couple of years.
Q. What are your involvements outside of The Tamara?
I have joined the boards of two non-profits. One is the Women’s Education Project (WEP); it is an NGO based out of New York, but all its activities are in India. I have also joined the board of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, a research institution that focuses on biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability. Both deal with issues I’m passionate about, such as women’s education, sustainability and conservation.
At Innovations, I have an active executive role and look into every portfolio. I’m aware of what is going on at Innovations, but 70 percent of my time is spent on The Tamara.
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(This story appears in the 16 September, 2016 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)