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‘For now Leela will confine to luxury segment’, Kaul

Rajiv Kaul, President, Leela Palaces Hotels & Resorts, in a conversation with T3

How do you plan to grow The Leela brand in the coming years?

Leela Hotels currently operates eight luxury properties in key gateway cities and holiday destinations including New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Goa, Udaipur and Kovalam. I would like to see that this portfolio doubles in the next five years. However, our future growth will be driven through asset light strategies. We needed to build a brand and then grow from there. Today, Leela is a name synonymous with opulent luxury, and this is the way we are known and will grow.

We opened The Leela New Delhi in April 2011, followed by The Leela Palace Chennai in the early 2013. Going forward, we are readying our next hotel, a resort property in Jaipur, later this year. The property is expected to open doors around October. This will be followed by a business hotel at Bhartiya City, Bengaluru in 2016. It is strategically located in close proximity to the airport and will redefine the hotel industry in the region. We may also have Agra, a palace hotel, opening doors by the end of 2016.

Are there plans to venture into the budget or mid-market segment?

For now we are confined to the luxury segment. We still see that there is tremendous scope to grow in this segment and hence will continue to do so. There is no plan to enter the budget market. There has to be clarity about our core competencies, and our core competency is luxury. Our emphasis is quality, quality and quality and not quantity.

What brought the end of two and half decades of association with Kempinski?

We have had 25 long years of mutually rewarding association with Kempinski in India. And both of us have benefitted from it. However, now is the time to further build and strengthen Leela as a standalone luxury brand on its own. Today brand Leela is well known and recognised for its unsurpassed luxury, services and an all-encompassing hospitality experiences in India as well as internationally. Besides, we already have a marketing alliance with Preferred Hotel Group.

What are the new markets Leela would like to have a presence in?

First, we would definitely want to complete the North India circuit. We already have a significant presence in Delhi and NCR. Jaipur opens later this year and Agra, hopefully, by 2016. Noida and Kolkata are other markets we would like have a presence in. We are also looking closely at markets such as Dubai, Maldives and Sri Lanka to make our international foray in due course.

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