Arun Nanda completed his five-decade long innings with the Mahindra group, addressing shareholders of Mahindra Holiday and Resorts India Ltd (Club Mahindra) for the last time on Tuesday. Under Nanda’s watch the vacation ownership company became India’s largest with over 100 properties in India and overseas. Nanda shared his thoughts in an interview with businessline:
Club Mahindra was not the pioneer in vacation ownership in India but is now the largest and most successful company in this segment. How did you achieve it?
The most important factor for our success is the value system of the Mahindra group. A vacation ownership company can be successful only if there is trust. Along with trust, the second factor is our product. The idea has been to create a destination where families can bond. My biggest reward is not to see the rise in share price but to see four generations of families holidaying together at our resorts. All our resorts are designed for families and that is our uniqueness.
What have been the hits and misses of Club Mahindra?
The high point is customer satisfaction and a growing trend of members opting for upgrades. The other is the company’s focus on sustainability.
I had a certain target in mind for memberships and resorts but could not achieve due to Covid-19. I regard that as a miss. The pandemic coupled with the geopolitical situation led to high inflation, an increase in oil prices and airfares.
What are your regrets?
I don’t have any regrets. I was always given a free hand by the Mahindra group.
For a vacation ownership company, the challenge is always to add members and increase the number of rooms. Has Club Mahindra achieved the right balance?
We are in a good state now. We are developing six projects that will add 750 rooms. Our desire is to add 5,000 rooms by FY 2030.
How much capex will it require. Isn’t adding 5,000 rooms in seven years a challenge?
It is not an easy task but is not impossible either. We are a debt-free company. We have ₹1,136 crore of fresh cash and investments. We also have ₹1,250 crore of receivables. Plus we have a future cash flow as we are adding members. Capital is not an issue for us but time taken in securing approvals is a problem.
In the future, our growth will come from a combination of both asset acquisitions and self-developed properties. We are currently in the advanced stage of acquiring a 200-room property in India. The majority of our new properties would be in India, but we are also looking in neighbouring countries especially Sri Lanka.
Is Club Mahindra looking at acquiring resort companies overseas?
The Holiday Club Resort acquisition in Finland has worked well. The company made an operating profit last year and repaid around €40 million of debt from its internal resources. But the geopolitical situation in Europe has been a challenge. We will not consider any company acquisitions in the short term till geo-political situation improves in Europe.
Vacation ownership business doesn’t have high entry barriers. Why are there so few companies in this space?
Our membership base and number of resorts are the biggest entry barrier for somebody else. Anyone wanting to enter business can’t build a hundred resorts in one day. This is not an easy business to start with. Also, for us our difficult period is behind us and we are now in a growth phase.
You have worked with both Keshub and Anand Mahindra. How has it been working with them?
Both come from two different generations. With the late Mr Keshub, it was a paternal relation. I have been blessed to have a relationship with Anand where he treated us as an equal. Keshub and Anand always introduced me as a colleague. The best part of the relationship was that I could discuss issues openly with them. This is something you can’t do with all promoters.
Will you be continuing with the Mahindra group as an advisor?
I don’t think it is right for me to continue. I believe the current management is competent and should take its own decisions.