Sarbendra Sarkar, Managing Director & Founder, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts, talks about the group’s plan and how the future looks for the group!
- Please tell us about your expansion plans in India?
Cygnett is extremely ambitious in expanding hotels. In fact, we have already opened six properties this year and expect to have 35 properties in our bouquet by the end of this financial year. We are constantly evaluating the market as we are constantly spreading our presence across the country. We at Cygnett acknowledge the untouched beauty of the Northeast, which is an extremely attractive market. We have a presence in 2 of the 7 sisters of India, by having operations running in Bongaigaon and Guwahati. Cygnett also covered a milestone by launching a hotel in Gangtok (Sikkim) & Tinsukia this year. We are targeting to operate 1500+ keys by the end of this year. The brand is also in the process of developing boutique wellness resorts. Soon we will be launching hotels in Mcleodganj, Siliguri, Dibrugarh and Jim Corbett.
- Will you also grow in TIER-2 and 3 cities?
Our majority of operation are in Tier II & III cities. We focus on this segment because these markets miss the presence of Branded chain. Our plan is capture as many cities in this segment. Parallelly, we are increasing our presence in Tier I & Metro cities. Since we have brand is well recognized in the market, we are all set to develop business. Cygnett provides a wide range of hospitality solutions— Upscale, 5-star to Midscale, Budget and Economy. Our idea is to bring similar services as of an upscale hotel to tier II & III markets.
- How important F&B is for you in the business?
Like any other hospitality outfit, F&B is always crucial for hospitality. It is not only a good stream of business but an experience. All hotels under our umbrella boast “Cygnett Pavilion” which is a “All day dining” facility catering to the discerning food lover with an eclectic global fare (both a-la-carte and buffet) comprising classics and innovative dishes, luscious food platters and exotic beverages. A spirited menu, stylish ambiance and warm service makes this perfect for power lunches, elegant dinners, light occasion, business events and social celebrations alike. Some units also have specialty restaurants serving versatile cuisines as per the market such as K2K (Kabul to Kolkata – A signature restaurant, tracing the route from Kabul to Kolkata in its culinary delights, and bringing the best to your taste buds panning The Grand Trunk Route from Awadhi cuisine to sweets of Bengal); Kebab Sutra ( A delicately balanced celebration of flavours, aroma and spices as our live kitchens bring you melt-in-the-mouth kebabs. You may also prepare your own kebab on grills at your table with ‘Bawarchis’) & Mystic East ( An Oriental Cuisine restaurant which takes you to a mystical journey as our chefs bring you the truest taste of the orient – from the Far East to South East Asia and all in between, in our interactive kitchens)
- How much revenue is coming from the MICE? Can you elaborate on the MICE hotels in India?
In the current scenario, hotels are trying to host more long-term guests. Similarly, units with large banquet and conference facilities are looking for MICE business to promote residential conferences. We generate a good business via hosting conferences and weddings at some of our leisure properties such as Nainital and Jim Corbett, in terms of metros, Cygnett Park Hotels in Jammu & Lucknow are doing extremely well. It has even made its presence felt in areas that are under served by erstwhile leading brands like Bongaigaon, Sonipat and Digha. Hence, the MICE segment becomes an important category for us, which commands a significant share of the total revenue throughout the country.
- What kind of challenges do you face?
Our challenges are what the industry is facing as a whole, like—
Shortage of skilled employees: One of the greatest challenges plaguing the hospitality industry is the unavailability of quality workforce in different skill levels. The hospitality industry has failed to retain good professionals.
Retention of quality workforce: Retention of the workforce through training and development in the hotel industry is a challenge due to high attrition levels. One of the reasons for this is unattractive wage packages. Though there is boom in the service sector, most of the hotel management graduates are joining other sectors like retail and aviation.
Intense competition and image of India: The industry is witnessing heightened competition with the arrival of new players, new products and new systems. The competition from neighboring countries and negative perceptions about Indian tourism product constrains the growth of tourism. The image of India as a country overrun by poverty, political instability, safety concerns and diseases which are vigorously marketed across social media. Though the government is coming with a lot of initiatives to make India a popular destination for the inbound market.
Customer expectations: As India is emerging as a destination on the global travel map, expectations of customers are rising. The companies have to focus on customer loyalty and repeat purchases.
- What’s your take on the competition?
There are companies which are creating turbulence by concentrating on homestays and budget accommodations. Furthermore, there are companies like us who are sailing their boats in harsh waters. Companies catering to this segment are indirect competition with us. One way to perceive is that hospitality companies are people-based industry. These companies focus on technology more on the service, but we at Cygnett do the opposite. Despite the fact that our USP is technology, the core will always be the warmth of service and we sell the true ‘Cygnetture experience’. All our business decisions and strategies are based on blue ocean philosophy and we have specially designed services to cater to this niche segment of the audience with our Cygnett Lite and Cygnett Style brand. Here we lay emphasis on budget accommodations without compromising the service quality. It’s like getting the service of a midscale hotel at the price of a homestay.