Monday, 30th October 2017

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Atul Bhalla bids adieu to Calcutta

The ITC hotelier's next stop is Mumbai

  • Published 18.02.20, 7:57 PM
  • Updated 18.02.20, 7:57 PM
  • 4 mins read
Atul Bhalla Rashbehari Das

Atul Bhalla, a name that has been synonymous with ITC Sonar and ITC Royal Bengal, is all set to bid goodbye to Calcutta as he is ready to start a new journey in the western part of the country. Atul, who started his ITC Hotels expedition with ITC Kakatiya, Hyderabad, in 1998 and joined the Calcutta property in the end of 2013, will now occupy the post of area manager west and general manager ITC Maratha.

“It’s been a phenomenal experience, especially with The Telegraph. I am carrying back many beautiful memories from here. Calcutta is a city with a soul, I have been to many cities but this place had a very different impression on me and visiting Calcutta is definitely on the yearly calender for me. We made so many friends here, I have become more of a Calcuttan now than anything else,” said Atul Bhalla, area manager, ITC Hotels, during his exit interview to t2. Excerpts...

December 2013 to January 2020. What are your thoughts at the moment?

I just can’t believe how fast the years have flown by. While I am looking forward to my new assignment in the west, at the same time I have mixed feelings as I am leaving this charming city which has over the years become home to me.

What is the first thing you are going to do now?

ITC Royal Bengal and ITC Sonar have a strong legacy, being in the headquarter city of ITC. This will always remain a special assignment. As I move westwards from here, we prepare for the transition and welcome Teji (Tejinder Singh who moves in from ITC Kohenur, Hyderabad) as he takes charge.

You are joining ITC Maratha as the GM and area manager of west... how excited are you about it? What are you looking forward to do in Mumbai?

Mumbai is a dynamic city and has a huge potential. We have two great hotels rooted to the soil offering distinct experiences — ITC Maratha in Sahar and ITC Grand Central in Parel. The other Hotels in west are ITC Grand Goa, a luxury resort and spa, WelcomHotel Aurangabad, WelcomHotel Vadodara, WelcomHotel Khimsar, WelcomHotel Jodhpur and we have ITC Narmada in Ahmedabad opening soon.

I have worked in Mumbai before and like Calcutta it is a city which grows on you and makes you its very own.

What would be your focus of work there?

With well-established brands to nurture, my endeavour would be to grow market share, continue market supremacy and create new benchmarks. The opening of ITC Narmada in Ahmedabad is also scheduled in the next 12 months so the pre-launch preparations will be on full swing.

How would you sum up your years in Calcutta?

It’s been a fulfilling experience. Calcutta is a city of love, city of hidden treasures old as time and young in experience, smiling, loving, pulsating and ever youthful. While it is a laboratory of intellectual acumen, creativity and culture, it is also the bastion of the bhadralok — always gracious. I call it home.

You must have made many memories in this hotel. Any standout memory?

The opening of ITC Royal Bengal. When I arrived in 2013 it was in its early stages of construction. I can relate to every brick of this hotel. Opening of this property was a proud and landmark moment for all of us.

What has been the biggest game-changer for ITC Sonar and now, ITC Royal Bengal?

ITC Royal Bengal and ITC Sonar are world-class offerings complementing each other. ITC Sonar is a luxury business resort themed on the Baganbari concept, ITC Royal Bengal reflects the finest influences of the spirit of Bengal, which has manifested a truly global cosmopolitanism. Accommodation benchmarks have been reset and, of course, there is our unmatched offering in MICE and weddings and F&B. In every way, it is a one-of-a-kind experience that we are very humbled to bring to Bengal. They celebrate the eternal spirit of the land with the warmth of Indian hospitality and the ethos of responsible luxury at their heart.

Any trend you have noticed in the F&B industry in Calcutta?

F&B is thriving! People of Calcutta are adventurous when it comes to exploring new cuisines and they don’t mind spending for the experiences. Dining out is not limited to weekends. The new-age entrepreneurs are coming up who are setting up these places, which is nice to know.

Two distinct trends you’ve noticed in the hospitality industry here...

Calcutta is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of east India. As a destination, too, Bengal appears on the itineraries of the “bleisure traveller” (business and leisure). The state has seen much development. Rooted in tradition, with a progressive outlook, the state is encouraging participation to further give a boost to its economy. The Milan Mela grounds (under renovation, soon to be opened as the Biswa Bangla Exhibition Center), EcoPark, HIDCO Biswa Bangla Convention Centre and others shall emerge as popular destinations for international events.

Expected growth in tourism, proximity to eight North-eastern states and South East Asian countries offers a geographical advantage to Bengal. Given these dynamics, we do see a spurt in demand. ITC Royal Bengal, along with ITC Sonar, is well positioned in this space and endeavours to cater to the new business and markets.

Looking back, what were your major targets and how much have they been achieved?

My foremost target was to ensure that the flag of ITC Hotels fly high in its own city and increase market share. It is overwhelming to note the love with which the city has embraced us.

What will you miss most about Calcutta?

People and the warmth of the city.

Finally, what’s your bye-bye message to Calcutta?

I don’t believe in saying goodbye as it is a small world. But at the same time, I would like to thank the city and its people for accepting me and making me their own.