Excerpt from Business Line India
Hilton, one of the largest hotel chains in the world, is on a course correction in India. Despite a good start with an ambitious JV with DLF in 2006 (which ended in 2011 with the real estate firm buying out Hilton’s stake), it has floundered here with just 17 properties compared with the 100 that its global rival Marriott has notched up. But recently, Hilton has had a major leadership rejig, bringing in Navjit Ahluwalia, former SVP South Asia for Marriott International as its Country Head, and Jatin Khanna, a former Marriott executive as its Vice-President and Head of Operations for India. Ahluwalia says India can become the third largest lodging market for Hilton globally. Excerpts:
Hilton has lagged behind others in India. What are you doing to catch up?
Hilton is now making significant investments in infrastructure and people in India. We are putting in place a best in-class team. We currently have only 17 hotels. But the infrastructure we are putting in place from the management and commercial perspectives are the same as our competitors who have far more hotels. In effect, we are preparing the ground for what should be our number of hotels five years from now. We are also enhancing our above property sales team. We are not making investments just like that, but with a view to the kind of scale that we could have in India. We view India as the third largest lodging market for Hilton globally, behind the US and China.
What will be Hilton’s new strategy? You have opened two Conrads recently. Are you bringing in more brands?
Our global portfolio has 14 brands. Only five brands are present in India — Conrad, Hilton, Double Tree, Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton. These are like a pyramid. We expect the highest level of Hamptons, the mid-priced brand in a country. That’s what it is like in China. And at the top end there is Waldorf Astoria, which we definitely want to bring to India, as our sixth brand. We are in discussion with a few people and eyeing Mumbai, and resort destinations like Rajasthan. Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore are luxury hotel locations and our strategy is to make sure we have our top brand there. India is also a very big market at the affordable luxury level. We will see at least five or six Conrads in India. Tru by Hilton might be the seventh brand. We might also bring in Curio.
Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.