Amruda Nair, Joint Managing Director and CEO, Aiana Hotels & Resorts replies to a written questionnaire from OER on the launch and differentiation of Aiana Hotels and Resorts
Aiana Hotels & Resorts has recently signed up a joint venture agreement with Al Sawari Holding to create Aiana Hotels & Resorts. In what ways is Aiana Hotels & Resorts different from existing offerings in the market?
The joint venture to form Aiana Hotels & Resorts is the result of a focused and proactive strategy to create a niche in the hospitality market. As a distinguished business leader, HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani has steered his business to become a major corporation with over 40 diverse commercial and industrial companies, operating under the Al Faisal Holding Group.
The accessible, understated experiences we offer resonate with our guests’ values and cater to their diverse interests. Aiana Hotels & Resorts caters to the growing demand for value added offerings in the upper upscale hospitality segment.
Our USPs will be our Indian service ethos, commitment to the environment and community, signature Indian specialty restaurant and spa concept based on the five elements of Ayurveda. Blending HE Sheikh Faisal’s vision and history of nurturing talent with my experience, Aiana Hotels & Resorts will define Hospitality 2.0 with the best of Indian service ethos.
Does Aiana Hotels & Resorts have a property presently and are you looking at signing up new properties in the near future? Please specify the regions/countries that you are exploring?
We have a property in Doha currently under construction and are exploring more opportunities in the GCC. We envisage more Aiana branded properties in Doha, as this will be our flagship market in the Middle East.
Oman is of great interest due to the diversity of tourist destinations and experiences as well as a historical relationship with India. We believe that there is a strong synergy between our brands’ core beliefs and that of Oman’s tourism mandate, which aims to preserve its cultural heritage and natural environment. With its landscapes ranging from mountains to wadis, and breathtaking costal stretches along the Indian Ocean, Oman offers the perfect backdrop for the Aiana experience which focuses on local immersion.
In the press release you mention about ‘exceeding the expectations of a new generation of savvy travellers’ and offering ‘Hospitality 2.0’. What do the new generation of savvy travelers expect and how would you define ‘Hospitality 2.0’?
The accessible, understated experiences we offer, resonate with our guests’ values and cater to their diverse interests. Our guests have travelled around the world. They are smart users of technology. Environmentally and socially conscious, they expect exceptional value. We aim to cater to the evolving demands of this segment for value added offerings in the upper upscale hospitality segment.
We will achieve our vision by innovating fresh service, design, and operating concepts, creating smart, stimulating places in tune with our environmental and social values as well as delivering an intuitive hotel management model that resonates with the next generation of travellers – this is what we call Hospitality 2.0.
You are a part of the family what owns Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts. Why did you feel the need to create a new brand in the hospitality space?
I am a third generation hotelier from a family of entrepreneurs and I was keen to create a brand that resonates with the traveller of today. My generation believes in being independent, taking risks and being proud of their roots. Aiana is about being authentic, intuitive and proud of being Indian. Aiana Hotels will be very different from The Leela in terms of service philosophy, positioning and signature elements.
I was fortunate to find a partner in Sheikh Faisal who shared my passion for hospitality and supported my dreams and ambitions of creating an Indian brand with a global presence. I am a member of the Nair family, the promoters of the Leela, and it shall remain my legacy, heritage and continual source of inspiration.
You are involved with social causes related to women through the ‘Sahachari Foundation’ and ‘Apne Aap Women’s Collective’. Why do you think that the causes espoused by these organisations are important and given your business commitments are you in a position to devote enough time and effort to them?
I have been involved with Sahachari Foundation right from the beginning as my mother is a founding member and plays an active role on the committee. My role as an associate member has been mostly related to branding, public relations and organising events such as celebrity fashion shows and designer exhibitions as well as selecting upcoming designers for the foundations’ design platform ‘Design One’, in order to raise awareness about their different projects and causes.
Apne Aap Women’s Collective (AAWC) is a joint effort with a school classmate and a cause that I am particularly passionate about. AAWC is an NGO engaged in working for the underprivileged classes and in providing education and shelter for the daughters of women in prostitution. The NGO is professionally run by a trained management under the guidance of a CEO and has a very hand’s on board of trustees. My role at AAWC is limited to fund-raising, however, to show my continuous support, I have run 22 and a half km marathons twice in the last two years at the Mumbai Marathon.
My association with both the ‘Sahachari Foundation’ and ‘Apne Aap’ gives me an opportunity to contribute to society in my own capacity. The causes espoused by both entities are very relevant and it gives me immense satisfaction to be part of their efforts to bring about real change. This sentiment is the key driving force for me to devote time for these activities.
The All India Association of industries bestowed you with the ‘Generation Next Awards’ in 2011. You are also a recipient of the ‘Young FICCI Ladies Organisation Women Achiever’s Award in 2012. What has enabled you to win such accolades at a young age?
I have been blessed to have hoteliers as parents (both attended the Hotel School at Cornell University) and my grandfather was a true entrepreneur who believed in taking risks. Coming from this background, hospitality has always been my true passion, and so I further pursued it.
I am honoured to have received the ‘Generation Next Award’ and the ‘Young FICCI Ladies Organisation Women Achiever’s Award’, the jury for which comprised key industry leaders. These recognitions have encouraged me to contribute more to the regional and international hospitality industry, which is also being reflected in my current endeavour.
While the number of women in the corporate sector is going up steadily, there still seems to be a glass ceiling at the highest levels. How can more women rise/do well in companies and business?
Fortunately in hospitality there have been many examples of role models for women in executive positions at leading brands such as Four Seasons, Fairmont and Raffles. I believe that women should begin by being confident of their skills and qualifications and not ask for preferential treatment because of their gender. It is only when we level the playing field that we will be respected and treated as equals.