In expansion mode

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Y Rajeev Reddy, Chairman and Managing Director, Country Club India speaks to OER about the company’s performance and future plans. 

How is Country Club been doing and how was the company’s performance in 2011?
We are doing pretty well in India, our turnover increased to around INR378 crore (RO262.13mn), with a INR46 crore (RO31.88mn) profit, which is an increase of over 10 per cent over the previous year. We are looking at the European markets now and are working on acquiring a property in London.

Europe is going through a financial crisis. Given this scenario isn’t it a bit strange that Country Club is looking at expanding there?
The recession is an opportunity for us, as properties in Europe are available at a much more reasonable price and a number of people would love to visit Europe from the Indian and Middle Eastern markets. We want to use the global recession as an opportunity.

How many properties and members does Country Club have right now?
We have 55 properties out of which three are in Dubai, Sri Lanka and Bangkok. We have 300,000 members and 12,000 people working for the company.

Country Club has been a pioneer in the timesharing space, how did the whole idea come to you?
I started the first club in Hyderabad in March 1989. The property was the palace of the prime minister of Hyderabad. Prior to that I was a builder and we had a strong name in the industry. The club was started by the British for the British; when they left it was being used only by the army and royalty. These former clubs were still following the British ideology with ballroom dances, a formal atmosphere and with children not being allowed. It was totally alien to Indian culture. When I became a corporate member of the regimental clubs, I realised the need to form a club that had an Indian fabric. We wanted to use the rich energies of the Indian culture. So when we started we took members from different parts of India. We celebrated Indian festivals like Navratri, Baisakhi, Lori, Christmas, New Year’s eve and events became a big part of our brand Country Club. The brand grew into different states in India. Now we are in a big way in Bangalore, Chennai, Kerala, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Surat and Poona.

How has the brand Country Club progressed over the years?
From a modest beginning of 400 members in the first year, we are today at 300,000 families. All the top banks in India, today fund the membership of Country club, because it is a win-win situation for both members and the company.

Why should someone come and become a member of Country club?
You pay only once, and you are entitled for a holiday for upto 30 years. RCI is our global exchange provider, so our members can visit their properties and vice versa. In areas where we have our clubs, people visit us on a regular basis. A membership provides you various options like holidays, clubbing facilities, entertainment etc. We have recently started the great Birthday’s Thumbs Up revolution. As a part of this initiative we call each member on their birthdays and celebrate the occasion and their photographs are put in the newspapers along with their telephone numbers, so that others can call and wish them. Thus we are building a lot of trust like a family.

What is the entry level fee for a membership?
In India the average fee is one and a half lakh rupees (RO1041), and an annual fee of around INR 8,000 (RO55).

What kind of competition do you face in the Indian market?
In clubbing there is absolutely no competition. In timesharing our offerings are the same as Mahindra Club Holidays and Sterling Holiday Resorts. Our membership base is huge and the number of our properties are two to three times that of our closest competitor; moreover we are economical. We are undoubtedly the leaders in the timesharing segment.

India is going through a slowdown; has this affected your business?
There is a slowdown in the aviation industry worldwide but in India the travel industry is booming. I travel at least 20 days in a month and I find that our airports are as crowded as railway stations. Our occupancies have gone up in the last few years. We have taken two new properties in Goa recently, due to the growing demand. We are increasing 100 rooms in Bandipur, especially to cater to the growing number of visitors from the Middle East. We have 180 affiliate properties and people using our affiliate properties especially in the North and the East.

How do you choose the location of your properties and clubs?
We look into how easy it is for members to access it; that is of prime importance. Most of the clubs are in the heart of the city. Resorts can be anywhere, for example Bandipur is four hours away from Bangalore.

What are your business model and revenue streams?
We have three revenue streams – monthly subscriptions, food and beverages and membership revenues. All these add to our revenues. In some places we have given direct sales associates (DSAs) especially in Delhi, Mumbai and Poona, for marketing and this is proving to be a successful business model.

What are your plans in the next one or two years?
We want to expand in Europe and the Middle East and we are scouting for properties. Once we have finalised something we will announce our plans. We are not just a timesharing company, as these companies serve the customer only once in a year, but we are there for our customers on 365 days a year. For example all our health clubs are packed since the morning, in the evening people come for a swim, play tennis, squash etc. and have food.

Is there a new generation that is getting involved with the business from your family?
Both my children are involved in the business. Y Siddharth Reddy, the joint managing director is a professional finance graduate from Texas and he looks after finances of the company. Varun Reddy is the chief operating officer and he has a major in communications. Our entire company is driven by technology and customers can just go online and do the necessary bookings.

How closely are you involved with the business?
I am involved with the business on a minute to minute basis. In the morning the first thing I do is to open my laptop and see the messages that my secretary has sent me and I see all the Birthday party pictures that have come from different locations.

How do you feel when you look back?
I feel very thrilled.

What is your managerial style?
I am on the top of things and I interact closely with all my people. I go to various places. I am involved with branding, takeovers, marketing, new concepts, strategy etc. On the operations side, we have professionals, so my involvement there is limited to interacting with the various heads. I am also the brand ambassador of the company so I have to go out and promote the company.

What made you become the brand ambassador of the company?
All the famous Khans were asking for a fortune and I thought that I should save some money for the company. I love adventure sports, swim 365 days a year. I went scuba diving in Maldives, hired a Japanese diver who is also a photographer and a Swiss diver, they shot my pictures and that’s where it all started.


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