An alumnus of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and the Indian School of Business (ISB, Hyderabad), Keshav Baljee has played an important role in promoting Royal Orchid Hotels Limited as a hospitality brand across the country. His experience with Royal Orchid Hotels led him to conceptualize Spree Hotels – a hospitality brand designed for the modern, young global traveller, that believes in “doing more” for the guest. Spree will incorporate things Baljee is passionate about – modern decor, a full service-focus, cutting edge technology, and a deep respect for the environment.
Who is your target audience and why?
Spree targets the modern, globally exposed traveller and most of our target audience fall between the ages of 24 and 45. We believe that as travellers in India get younger, the hotels should reflect the needs of this generation.
What is the USP of Spree hotels?
We ensure that the basics that a guest expects – – sleep experience, safety and security, service, shower, breakfast, etc. – are of 5-star quality. All our hotels offer free Wi-Fi, a 24×7 business center and 24×7 dining options to allow for the global business traveller’s needs. Plus, we offer airport shuttles and even limousine pick-ups.
What are your expansion plans?
We are currently at 10 operating properties, and expect to open a further 7 properties in this financial year.
What is your strategy to stay ahead of the competition?
We believe that any new product features can and will be copied by our competition. The only way for us to constantly be ahead of our competition is to provide award-winning service. To achieve this, we invest heavily in our talent, and keep a young, motivated team of Spree employees who are hungry to establish themselves in the hospitality industry.
What’s the hotel’s philosophy or business mantra?
Our philosophy is to “do more”. We want our guests to do more in their stay with us. To enable this we have instituted a Cruise Ship Concierge Service in our Spree branded hotels. We use the word ‘cruise ship’ because typically cruise ships have “something for everyone at any time”. We ensure our business guests can get assistance in sightseeing, shopping, entertainment, relocation and other services when they stay with us. Once they experience this, they won’t go anywhere else!
Is there a focus on the MICE segment? If yes, what are the plans?
We are certainly quite focussed on banqueting and conferences. Each of our hotels has banquet halls and a variety of F&B options to entice the conference and banquet market.
What are the hotel’s tech-friendly features?
Our Wi-Fi systems are state of the art. In our Bangalore hotel we have a 10 MBPS 1:1 leased line, with a 4 MBPS 1:1 backup line. We even have two sets of routers, which enable a fail-safe Wi-Fi service delivery. This service has become even more important than hot water today. We also have iPod docks in most of our rooms, and media hubs to enable the guest to consume his media on a larger screen and with better sound.
Please tell us about the green initiatives the hotel has taken.
We have a host of water and energy conservation initiatives that are consistent with the best practices in our industry – sewage treatment plants, solar water heating plants, rainwater harvesting, LED and CFL lighting instead of halogens, timers and proximity sensors on lighting. Most of these have reduced our energy costs substantially, and have helped us stay competitive in a tough environment.
As A Business Traveller
How many times do you travel in a month?
I travel around 3-4 times a month. Most of my travel is domestic.
What’s your favourite biz destination?
I’d love to have some business to do in New York!
Which has been your best hotel stay experience, besides Spree Hotels?
I really felt pampered and special at the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires. They remembered every little detail that I had told them!
What according to you is a cardinal sin in hospitality service?
Letting a guest sleep unhappy, or leave unhappy! Mistakes happen in our industry. It is a people-oriented business, and so there will be some errors in service delivery here and there – but not to attempt to correct the mistake is a grave sin. It is a sin I don’t tolerate in our chain at all.
Your gadget arsenal includes…?
The usual suspects – Macbook Air, iPhone, Blackberry.
Any unusual requests you have come across as an hotelier?
Recently a guest requested us to collect the payment from his friend, as his friend owed him money. You get some interesting guest requests everyday!