Growth Of The Orchid

Vithal V Kamat, executive chairman and managing director of Kamat Hotels (India) Ltd, that owns The Orchid hotel among others, talks to EXEC about his vision for the hotel group.

With a focus on positioning its hotels in the business segment, in the mid to up-market category, and consciously following the policy of environment conservation in the operation of its hotels, the Kamat Group has its strategy in place. And going by the steady yearly growth of 15-20 percent, the distinct environment positioning seems to have resulted in a win-win situation for the company- great marketing and low cost of operation.

Vithal Kamat, the hotel industry’s ‘green crusader’, couldn’t be happier with the scheme of things.

With The Orchid’s strong presence in the five-star segment having been segment cemented and the steady growth of VITS- the luxury business hotels, the unassuming hotelier’s simple policy of ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ has worked out perfectly. He talks to EXEC about the Kamat brand.

The mantra:

Atithi Devo Bhava is what we follow- we delight in a delighted guest.

Properties across segments:

We have five brands under Kamat Group. The Orchid– An Ecotel Hotel, in the five-star segment, is our biggest brand and the first hotel in Asia to receive Ecotel certification. VITS Luxury Business Hotels, in the four-star segment, is aimed at two and three-tier cities. Our heritage property is Gadh Hotels; Fort Jadhavgadh is the first museum hotel in the world. Lotus Resorts are spread across destinations that are close to water bodies. Then, we have Vithal Kamat vegetarian restaurants to cater to families seeking quality food. Each of these properties has been set up based on location, demand and client profile.

The growth:

We have seen a consistent 15-20 percent growth every year. And, we’re now also into the management of hotels. We have our own training centre, catering institute and skill training programmes to create a specialised work force for our properties. Wherever we have a hotel, we make sure we have a training centre where locals are equipped with the necessary skills to be in the industry. We want to provide opportunities for able youngsters all over the country.

USP of the hotel group:

We are friendly and eco-friendly. Our staff is among the most courteous in the country and we thrive on repeat guests. We ensure we recognise, anticipate, remember and meet the needs of our repeat guests. The idea is to make the guest feel a sense of involvement with the hotel. Then, we have a number of unique loyalty programmes. For example, at The Orchid, if guests choose to press the ‘eco button’, they get a certificate sent home. Also, the number of points they save in electricity or water will be given back to them as a cash reward. This creates a connection between the guest and the environment

For the business traveller:

There are a few important things to keep in mind when catering to the business traveller. Meeting rooms have to be state-of-the-art and functional, wake-up calls are appreciated, fast Internet connection is a must and courtesy/secretarial services ensure customer satisfaction. Our role is to take away a businessman’s everyday burdens so he can concentrate on his work. Also, we have services wherein family members of the businessmen are kept engaged and entertained during work hours.

The needs of a young businessman:

The young executive traveller of today is particular about the smaller things. He wants a breakfast that is tailored to suit his needs, he requires fitness facilities that are in keeping with international standards, and the hotel has to be technologically equipped to meet his every need.

The POA:

We have no expansion plans for now. The POA is to consolidate what we have, coach our staff better, evaluate and re-evaluate our brand and create a loyal staff and clientele. We are concentrating on taking The Orchid and VITS to greater heights. There’s a great need for business and four-star hotels in two and three-tier cities. It is the golden age for business hotels. MICE is going to get bigger than ever and domestic business is set to soar.

My creed:

Environment is my passion, heritage is my creed, hospitality is my life.

Green crusader

Kamat recently got a doctorate in Environmental Hospitality- the first from the hospitality business to win a doctorate. This rare honour was bestowed on him at the sixth annual convocation of the Padmashree D Y Patil University. “The hospitality industry is all about wastage and extravagance. But we have proved that luxury cannot be insensitive. Deluxe need not disturb. I would be happy if this award changes the attitude and mindset of my industry towards a greener tomorrow,” said Kamat. “Orchid was the first hotel in Asia to start the Zero Garbage system. We believe in the three R’s (reuse, reduce, recycle) and implement it in every aspect. Promoting sustainable tourism is our goal. We may have our own businesses, but we have no business polluting Mother Earth.”

Kamat has planted 80,000 trees so far and is also busy promoting his bird feeder and the turtle conservation project.

If not a hotelier…

I would have taken up teaching. I believe teachers are lifelong learners as they learn so much from their students.

Other passions

I have India’s largest antique art collection and own two museums, the proceeds of which go towards Eyesight Foundation. All my pieces have been collected over 49 years, and I want to show youngsters, through them, that our ancestors were great innovators and entrepreneurs. I also want to encourage them to save the planet.

Write way

Kamat has written books that are now part of the curriculum in MBA colleges and schools and his books Idli, Orchid and Will Power and Udyojak Honarch Mee are bestsellers.

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