The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Taj group looks abroad

Calcutta, Sept. 8: The Indian Hotels Company that manages the Taj group of hotels is looking to expand overseas. Raymond . Bickson, managing director of Indian Hotels, said the group was looking to gain a footprint in North America, West Asia, China and Mauritius within the next two years. The Asean region and islands in the Indian Ocean — like Seychelles — are also on the group’s radar.

“What we are looking at is growth through management contract of existing properties. However, we are open to taking small equity stake in hotels that we manage (if their owners insist),” he said. At present, the Taj group manages 56 properties in India and 12 abroad, including those that it does not own.

The group has been restructuring itself over the last two years. It has divested its holding in a number of properties to its partners to turn itself into a “asset-light company”. It has now decided that the ‘Taj’ brand will be the exclusive preserve of the luxury — or the super-deluxe — hotels like the one in Calcutta.

“We do not want to dilute the value of the Taj brand, and hence want it to be associated with luxury properties only. Our brand architecture will be finalised within the next six months,” Bickson said. Landor, an international consultant that offers professional service to a number of leading companies like Hewlett Packard, Seagate and Mazda Motors, is advising the Taj group on brand repositioning.

Speaking on growth at home, Bickson said: “Spa offers great opportunities. A separate division has been created to focus on spas. Another growth engine could be luxury residency like the ones managed by us in London and Dubai.” The Taj group has joined forces with UK-based Raison d’être to refurbish the spas in its properties. “We are going to spend Rs 4-5 crore on each of them. All the properties put together, this would result in an investment of Rs 50-60 crore,” Bickson said.

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