BTN Interview: Kapil Chopra, Senior Vice President, The Oberoi Group

Since opening its doors just 6 months ago, the Oberoi Gurgaon has caused quite a stir in India’s New Delhi. Despite a challenging economic climate, the stunning property has maintained an average 80% occupancy level with room rates of close to $400 USD. Kapil Chopra, SVP of the Oberoi Group speaks to BTN about India’s hottest new hotel.

BTN: Having opened earlier this year, what kind of an impact did the property have in Delhi where there is already fierce competition from leading luxury hotel groups?

KC: While there are other luxury brands including several international chains opening new hotels in Delhi and Gurgaon, The Oberoi Group has grown from strength to strength.

The Oberoi, Gurgaon is the group’s latest offering which has set new benchmarks in design and hospitality experience. The hotel is an architectural masterpiece with a design philosophy of height, light and space. It also offers the highest standards of personalised service. Even in a competitive market, this combination is hard to beat.

The Oberoi, Gurgaon is a hotel with many firsts- it has the largest room size for city hotels around the world (Rooms start at 620 square feet). 3 of its suites have full-length, cantilevered heated private pools and decks, the hotel’s spa and fitness centre is open round-the-clock. In its design and facilities, The Oberoi, Gurgaon, offers a distinct hospitality experience to the city of Delhi. In fact the hotel is not competing on home turf but is counted amongst the best in Asia and the world. This is substantiated by our financial performance with average rates of over USD $400.

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The magnificent Oberoi Gurgaon which opened its doors in April

BTN: How has the opening of the Oberoi Gurgaon affected hotel prices in the area – in terms of competition? How do you stay competitive?

KC: The Oberoi, Gurgaon brings a unique hospitality experience to the city of Delhi and Gurgaon. It has been the most successful opening of 2011 in the city. It has led the city in ARR and has bagged the city’s top hotel and restaurant awards this year. Our guests appreciate our design and service philosophy and choose to pay a premium to stay with us. Guests see us as a value product and not just as an ‘expensive hotel’. They see us as a new distinct experience.

The Oberoi, Gurgaon has also helped market Gurgaon as a ‘city destination’ for top corporates looking for ‘city experiences’ for their strategy meets. Having said that, we ensure our pricing strategy is competitive and rational in the market we operate in. We take cognisance of the supply and demand factors as well as seasonal trends and define our pricing strategy accordingly.

Travellers today look for efficient, flawless service and distinct experiences. The Oberoi, Gurgaon has become a preferred hotel for many who would otherwise travel to the heart of New Delhi. This is evident in our revenue figures. In just 6 months since opening, the hotel has already clocked a monthly average rate of USD$ 400 at an occupancy of about 80%.

BTN:  What differentiates The Oberoi Gurgaon from its competitors? What do you remain focused on?

KC: The Oberoi, Gurgaon is a first-of-its-kind, both in its design and service. built over 9 acres, it features a forested driveaway, vast reflection pools and amongst the world’s largest vertical gardens. Even the arrival experience through a winding forested driveway is grand and distinct from any other hotel in the city.

The hotel has many firsts that sets it apart from its peers. It has the most spacious accommodations in the city with rooms starting at 620 square feet. . 3 suites have private, cantilevered outdoor heated pools. The bath areas of each room have large picture windows that provide natural light and stunning views of the reflection pools and the garden.

The hotel has the city’s first 24-hour spa and fitness centre. Other facilities include one of the largest restaurants in the country and the first ever exclusive cigar lounge in a hotel. 

Our coastal Indian restaurant, Amaranta, is a unique offering to the city of Delhi. We fly fresh seafood every day from the ports along India’s coastline and offer a ‘bay-to-palte-in-8-hours’ experience to the guests, never done before in the city. The menu has dishes from nine coastal regions. So logistically and in terms of research, Amaranta has been rated a culinary success by leading food critics and our guests.

In addition to our grand product, our focus remains ‘guest delight’- to provide guests an enhanced and distinct hospitality experience. Be it the 24-hour butler service or a spa treatment at 3 am, we make it possible. 

BTN: How have occupancy levels been since the property opened and how are forward bookings?

KC: The Oberoi, Gurgaon opened in April, 2011 which is the beginning of summer in India. Summer season is considered ‘off-peak’ and business is relatively lean. However,

The Oberoi, Gurgaon has clocked an average occupancy of 60-65% over the summer period. Since September, 2011, our occupancy has been about 80% and going into the peak winter months, our business on books indicates an occupancy of 80%

BTN: Which markets are you mainly targeting and how?

KC: The Oberoi Gurgaon is located just 15 minutes from Delhi’s International airport and is in the heart of the commercial district of Gurgaon. The city houses Indian headquarters of top Fortune 500 companies. Due to its location and facilities for the discerning business traveller, The Oberoi Gurgaon is already the preferred hotel for top companies in Gurgaon. Most of these companies have high volumes of inbound travel and have special ‘corporate partner’ status with us.

We have hosted top CEOs, worldwide heads, large investor forums and global boards of several multinational corporations. While the corporate segment remains our key focus, we also command a significant share of the leisure market. This is due to our luxurious suites and facilities as well as connectivity to Delhi’s sightseeing destinations and the cities of Agra and Jaipur, which are at easy driving distance.  With our fine banqueting facilities overlooking a water body, we are also making inroads into the luxury convention market.

BTN: What type of technological innovations can tech savvy travellers enjoy at the hotel?

KC: The Oberoi, Gurgaon caters to the needs of the business traveller. The hotel offers the highest internet speed of 40 mbps. Each room is well equipped with multiple sockets and a media hub. Video conferencing facilities can also be made available in the rooms. There are nearly 14-15 meeting venues, including the business centre and banquets- all are well equipped to handle the most demanding presentations.

BTN: Will you be rolling out any new developments / products in coming months?

KC: The hotel features over 50,000 square feet of luxury retail, which offers a complete lifestyle experience for guests. It has 8 boutiques operational at present. These include top international brands (Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta, Canali and Burberry), an international salon featuring hair spa by Italian hairstylist Rossano Ferretti and Pedicures by

French podiatrist, Bastien Gonzalez.  Gallery Nature Morte, housed in the arcade offers guests to browse at Indian contemporary art while The Oberoi Patisserie and delicatessen offers some gourmet delights. We are in talks with some more brands who are interested in opening in the retail space. This is an area which will see some more luxury store openings in the next few months.

BTN: What does it mean be named Asia’s Leading Luxury Hotel and India’s Leading Luxury Hotel at the World Travel Awards 2011?

KC: Since its opening in April, 2011, The Oberoi, Gurgaon has received an overwhelming response from key corporates, travel partners and positive reviews from the media. It has been one of the most successful openings in the Indian hospitality sector. In just 6 months, the hotel has clocked average room rates of close to $400 USD average 80% occupancy.

Being chosen as Asia’s Leading Luxury Hotel and India’s leading luxury hotel by WTA is a real honour. These awards recognise outstanding hotels. It is a great privilege to be voted as the best by over 200,000 travel experts worldwide who are opinion leaders in the industry.

BTN: What commercial benefits if any have the titles Asia’s Leading Luxury Hotel and India’s Leading Luxury Hotel brought to the property?

KC: The award is recognition from Industry peers and partners who are also significant business partners for us. Hence the awards definitely help in ‘influencing’ business and benefit us. 

BTN: Can you comment on the significance of hosting the World Travel Awards next year? Are events a big focus for the property?

KC: The World Travel Awards bring together travel experts and opinion makers from around the world. To host this event is a privilege and an opportunity for us to showcase our exceptional property to the crème-de-la-crème of the international travel industry.

International events such as these are a key focus for the hotel given its exquisite convention facilities. Luxury banqueting and conventions is a growing market segment for us too. We are looking forward to playing hosts for the 2012 awards.

Top end events like International board and strategy meets by Fortune 500 companies are a key focus area and contribute nearly 25% to our business.