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Bickson rebuilds taj brand architecture

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taj brand architecture

taj brand architecture

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  • 1. Bickson rebuilds Taj brand architectureTNN May 1, 2010, 06.58am ISTMUMBAI: He preferred rustling up delicacies to sweating it out in his fathers workshop.From being an apprentice chef at the Berlin Hilton to heading Asias largest hospitality chain,Taj, the Hawaiian-born Raymond Bickson has come a long way.Now in his eighth year with the 106-year-old hotel chain, the polyglot Bickson has been keptbusy with the chain setting up a new hotel every seven weeks over the last couple of years.Around 48 hotels in India and abroad are at various stages of development. Just prior tomeeting The Times of India on a sultry afternoon, the 55-year-old Taj chief was fine-tuningthe details for a Gateway property at Bekel in southern India. Dressed in a black suit and ayellow tie, he apologised profusely for the delay but more than made up for it during the overtwo-and-a-half hour session, where he discussed various aspects relating to corporate strategyto HR issues.Ads by Google Get 50Lac after 15Years.Invest LIC 3600 p.m Plan PolicyBazaar.com/2012_Investments Cheap Hotel Deals, GoaChain of 3 & 4 star Quality Hotels Best deals, unmatched hospitality! www.desouzahotels.com"Taj is the oldest surviving company in the Tata group. It was close to the heart of founderJamsetji Tata and that is also the case with present chairman Ratan Tata. Taj is one of themost visible brands; it is about luxury and the business is all about touch and feel," saysBickson. However, historically, the chains focus has been on adding rooms and Brand Tajwas present across categories — from luxury, business to four-star properties. This isprecisely why Bickson has put in place the brand architecture for the chain, which was in theworks for five years.In the new format, the chain will have four brands — Taj, Vivanta, Gateway and Ginger.While the Taj name will be exclusive to five-star luxury properties, Vivanta will sit pretty onits upscale portfolio. Gateway will adorn four-star upscale properties and Ginger willcomprise no-frills hotels. To dispel the confusion among guests on what Taj stands for, thechain has designed the brand architecture on the lines of international chains likeInterContinental, Hyatt and Starwood. "Since every hotel, irrespective of its size, had a Tajtag, it was a major challenge for us to differentiate the product in terms of quality and servicestandards," said Bickson, sipping his tea.He adds that some of its properties, for instance, The Pierre in New York, would stay thesame, as it is an icon. "However, properties that dont fit with the brand architecture willeither be sold or management contracts will be snapped."Bickson wants to propel the Taj into the top 15 Ivy League hotel chains in the world. In termsof number of rooms, the big daddy in the hotel industry is the NYSE- listed InterContinental.
  • 2. When he took charge, Taj was ranked at 130 and right now, it is among the top 50. And thegoing only gets tougher from here. So the top 15 may look like a distant dream now, its notan impossible one, as an acquisition of a hotel chain would make it move up on the list. Tilldate, Taj has been purchasing standalone properties and its endeavour to buy Orient ExpressHotels (OEH) hangs in balance. Taj said that it has started to look beyond OEH and is on aprowl for a hotel chain.In fact, Bickson himself was an acquisition for Taj. In the early 2000s, when Taj was lookingto buy the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, Indian Hotels Company (owner of the Taj chain)chairman Ratan Tata and the then MD RK Krishna Kumar were guests at the Mark hotel,where Bickson was the general manager. Their conversations often veered towards Carlyle,which was a stones throw from the Mark. "They were guests at the hotel and they keptasking questions about Carlyle," says Bickson. And during one of those chats, the Tata topbrass offered Bickson the job. Even though the Carlyle deal fell through, Taj managed to getBickson. In fact, his checking into the Taj surprised many, as he was the first outsider andexpatriate to head a Tata group company.Ads by Google IndiaFirst Term InsuranceGet Life Cover of 49 Lakhs For, as Low as Rs 5513 Per Year. Apply Now! IndiaFirstLife.com/Term_Insurance Luxury Hotel And ResortGuaranteed Lowest Rates! Book Now Only From Official Marriott Site. www.marriott.com/Hotel_DealsWhile Bickson had been to India before thrice as a tourist, he was happy to join the Taj as itprovided him with an opportunity to run multiple hotels. In addition, Indias economy wasalso booming at that time. He had no qualms in making Mumbai his second home as he had amulti-cultural upbringing. Also, during the course of his career, he had worked in differentcountries across the world.When he became a part of the Taj group, the chain managed some 62 properties with 8,000rooms. It now has 95 properties with 11,000 rooms. On Bicksons menu are plans for Taj tooperate 193 hotels with 23,000 rooms and achieve a turnover of $2 billion, with one-third ofit coming in from international operations by 2014.Bickson rebuilds Taj brand architectureEmail this articlePrint this article
  • 3. Share on Reditt NewsvineGoogle BookmarksLive Bookmarks TechnoratiYahoo Bookmarks BlogmarksDel.icio.us ApnaCircleThe author has posted comments on this articleReeba Zachariah, TNN | May 1, 2010,06.58AM ISTMUMBAI: He preferred rustling up delicacies to sweating it out in his fathers workshop.From being an apprentice chef at the Berlin Hilton to heading Asias largest hospitality chain,Taj, the Hawaiian-born Raymond Bickson has come a long way.Now in his eighth year with the 106-year-old hotel chain, the polyglot Bickson has been keptbusy with the chain setting up a new hotel every seven weeks over the last couple of years.Around 48 hotels in India and abroad are at various stages of development. Just prior tomeeting The Times of India on a sultry afternoon, the 55-year-old Taj chief was fine-tuningthe details for a Gateway property at Bekel in southern India. Dressed in a black suit and ayellow tie, he apologised profusely for the delay but more than made up for it during the overtwo-and-a-half hour session, where he discussed various aspects relating to corporate strategyto HR issues."Taj is the oldest surviving company in the Tata group. It was close to the heart of founderJamsetji Tata and that is also the case with present chairman Ratan Tata. Taj is one of themost visible brands; it is about luxury and the business is all about touch and feel," saysBickson. However, historically, the chains focus has been on adding rooms and Brand Tajwas present across categories - from luxury, business to four-star properties. This is preciselywhy Bickson has put in place the brand architecture for the chain, which was in the works forfive years.In the new format, the chain will have four brands - Taj, Vivanta, Gateway and Ginger. Whilethe Taj name will be exclusive to five-star luxury properties, Vivanta will sit pretty on itsupscale portfolio. Gateway will adorn four-star upscale properties and Ginger will compriseno-frills hotels. To dispel the confusion among guests on what Taj stands for, the chain hasdesigned the brand architecture on the lines of international chains like InterContinental,Hyatt and Starwood. "Since every hotel, irrespective of its size, had a Taj tag, it was a majorchallenge for us to differentiate the product in terms of quality and service standards," saidBickson, sipping his tea.He adds that some of its properties, for instance, The Pierre in New York, would stay thesame, as it is an icon. "However, properties that dont fit with the brand architecture willeither be sold or management contracts will be snapped."Bickson wants to propel the Taj into the top 15 Ivy League hotel chains in the world. In termsof number of rooms, the big daddy in the hotel industry is the NYSE- listed InterContinental.When he took charge, Taj was ranked at 130 and right now, it is among the top 50. And thegoing only gets tougher from here. So the top 15 may look like a distant dream now, its notan impossible one, as an acquisition of a hotel chain would make it move up on the list. Till
  • 4. date, Taj has been purchasing standalone properties and its endeavour to buy Orient ExpressHotels (OEH) hangs in balance. Taj said that it has started to look beyond OEH and is on aprowl for a hotel chain.In fact, Bickson himself was an acquisition for Taj. In the early 2000s, when Taj was lookingto buy the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, Indian Hotels Company (owner of the Taj chain)chairman Ratan Tata and the then MD RK Krishna Kumar were guests at the Mark hotel,where Bickson was the general manager. Their conversations often veered towards Carlyle,which was a stones throw from the Mark. "They were guests at the hotel and they keptasking questions about Carlyle," says Bickson. And during one of those chats, the Tata topbrass offered Bickson the job. Even though the Carlyle deal fell through, Taj managed to getBickson. In fact, his checking into the Taj surprised many, as he was the first outsider andexpatriate to head a Tata group company.While Bickson had been to India before thrice as a tourist, he was happy to join the Taj as itprovided him with an opportunity to run multiple hotels. In addition, Indias economy wasalso booming at that time. He had no qualms in making Mumbai his second home as he had amulti-cultural upbringing. Also, during the course of his career, he had worked in differentcountries across the world.When he became a part of the Taj group, the chain managed some 62 properties with 8,000rooms. It now has 95 properties with 11,000 rooms. On Bicksons menu are plans for Taj tooperate 193 hotels with 23,000 rooms and achieve a turnover of $2 billion, with one-third ofit coming in from international operations by 2014.With the chain adding new properties and to meet the growing demand, it plans to addanother 15,000 employees on its payroll. The staff strength at Taj currently is approximately20,000 as against 7,540 when Bickson became MD. For the first time this year, Taj won theinternationally recognised Gallup Great Workplace Award 2010. However, with some 37more international brands planning to enter the country, retaining talent is a major challengeon Bicksons plate."The hospitality sector has been a poaching ground for IT, airline and credit card companies,"he says. To counter this, Bickson has put in place a strategy: "We have increased our overallengagement with employees. Younger talent, especially, is being encouraged to play a biggerrole in the company. Now, we have 689 first-time general managers and 240 departmentalheads." Having spent more than three-and-a-half decades in the hotel industry, Bickson is thequintessential hotelier with a smile always hovering on his lips. Hailing from a family whichran car rentals and travel business, it was almost inevitable that he would take an interest thehospitality. Though Bickson, the eldest of four siblings, assisted his dad in the car rentalsbusiness for a while, he wanted more out of life. "It wasnt sexy washing, oiling or sellingcars."02 February 2010By Patrick MayockNews Editor-International
  • 5. patrick@hotelnewsnow.comMUMBAI—2009 was a year that Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces would just as soonforget. The tumultuous 12-month span began with the wounds of the November 2008Taj Mahal Palace & Tower terrorist bombings still fresh, and continued to trudge alongamid one of the worst downturns in the global industry’s history. But with a new year comes new optimism, and the Mumbai-based hotel company—comprised of the Indian Hotels Company Limited and its subsidiaries—is rolling on with development while incorporating a new brand architecture designed to strengthen its existing portfolio of more than 75 hotels throughout the world. “The Taj has undertaken a brand architecture exercise, whereby brand guidelines have been clarified,” said Ajoy Misra, senior VP of sales and marketing. The Vivanta by Taj, Whitefield Bangalore The existing collection of properties is composed ofsix different brands ranging from high-end to value segments. Under the newarchitecture, there will be a more-focused offering of four: Taj Luxury Hotels: luxury-tier properties that boast a credo of “redefining tradition;” Vivanta by Taj: the more stylish, design-focused boutique collection; The Gateway Hotel: full-service upscale and midscale hotels that serve business and leisure travelers; and Ginger: Taj’s economy brand.Building from the ground upTaj has 12 hotels in the pipeline, including two luxury properties, the Taj Cape Town(South Africa) and the Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad. The group plans to add to itssingle Vivanta location in Bangalore with an additional eight hotels. It also will open twohotels under The Gateway Hotel brand, according to Misra. Additionally, Taj will reopen in May the palace wing of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, which has undergone significant renovations since the terrorist bombing in 2008. Not surprisingly, most of this development will take place in India, where the company has its most felt presence. Taj The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotels, Resorts and Palaces comprises more than 60 hotels in 45 locationsthroughout the country.
  • 6. Misra said that while yields still remain challenging, the region is showing buoyancy asoccupancies bounce back—a trend he expects to continue into 2010.“Hotel room occupancies over the last quarter have seen a healthy increase over lastyear,” he said. “There is buoyancy in the market and we expect the same trend tocontinue in next the next quarter.”

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