Variety

The Vivanta that Taj built

Nivedita Ganguly | Updated on August 08, 2013 Published on August 08, 2013

Let your hair down: Vivanta by Taj Bekal

Let your hair down: Vivanta by Taj Bekal

Taj at Coorg   -  BUSINESS LINE

Three years ago, when Indian Hotels Company (IHC) decided to embark upon its brand restructuring exercise to enter the upper upscale category with Vivanta, it had to tackle some challenges.

One was the re-branding of its existing hotels to blend with a new identity. Not only did it have to grapple with letting go of the primary Taj tag, it also had to contend with integrating hotels such as the Taj Connemara and President in Chennai and Mumbai, which were institutions in their own right, with the Vivanta brand.

This the company did by fusing the older name of the hotel with the new. Thus, Taj President, Mumbai, was re-branded Vivanta by Taj President, Mumbai. About six such hotels that were a part of the brand migration today retain a semblance of their old names. The rest of them are identified by their location, such as Vivanta by Taj M. G. Road, Bangalore. The brand was launched with 19 hotels – 16 that were migrated and three new ones including the Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef Maldives and Vivanta by Taj Whitefield, Bangalore.

Currently, the brand has 27 properties across India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The name Vivanta draws inspiration from the French expression bon vivant (one who enjoys the good life), and is positioned as an ‘upper upscale’ five-star hotel.

The strategy that IHC adopted to expand to multiple brands has helped it enter the upmarket segments. The company has had its flagship brand, Taj, for over a century before it entered the premium hotel segment with the Gateway brand in 2008 and Vivanta by Taj in 2010.

The brand Vivanta’s flavour was to offer a seamless blend of work and play through a corporate look.

Deepa Misra Harris, senior vice-president, sales and marketing, IHC, says, “When we were conceptualising the brand and mapping the typical customer we realised that things are changing. There are people whose lives are completely seamless when it goes from work to play. We needed to address that segment. We wanted to make that effortless integration of work and play in a hotel. Besides that, one of the core elements of the Vivanta brand is that it should be stylishly spirited.”

But how different is Vivanta from the Taj brand?

“Taj is more luxury and comes from a different DNA. Vivanta was a more relaxed form of luxury, more contemporary. Here, there is a distinctive Vivanta music, the signature Vivanta fragrance, drinks and cocktails,” Harris said.

For instance, Vivanta properties have a distinctive signature fragrance of neroli and lemon zest. “When you come into the Vivanta hotels, you will get little shots, made out of fresh fruit, to drink,” says Harris.

"We have had a head start and today the brand recall value of Vivanta is among the top three in the hotel industry,” she adds. Now the brand is setting foot in uncharted territory – Bekal in Karnataka, and Srinagar.

She says offering the customer varied experiences is very specific to Vivanta. For instance, in Kumarakom, Kerala, as part of the hotel's community initiative programme, a thousand lamps are lit every night with the help of local ladies. There are other activities such as feeding sting-rays at the coral reefs at Maldives. “These add to the overall feel of the brand,” she explains.

In 2010-11, the year Vivanta was launched, occupancy was the highest at 68 per cent. This worked well for the company. According to industry estimates, it takes three years for a new property to reach 50 per cent occupancy. But Vivanta got there much earlier, in less than two years.

In 2011-12 it was 66 per cent, and 64 per cent in 2012-13. The occupancy figures are lower each year as hotels get added to the Vivanta portfolio. The brand will be opening new hotels at Suraj Kund (National Capital Region) and Dwarka (New Delhi) within a year.

Currently, the contribution of Vivanta to the Taj Group’s business is about 35 per cent. Interestingly, while the cost of building a room for Taj is about Rs 1.5 core, excluding the land value, in the case of a Vivanta room it is a tad lower at Rs 1 crore.

MID-SCALE WOES

However, the Taj group is not present in the mid-scale hotel segment, which is witnessing huge demand with many new players entering the scene. According to industry estimates, this segment is expected to cater to 36 per cent of the industry’s inventory in five years. “There is the mid-scale segment that we still need to address,” admits Harris.

Coming up with something less than the luxury and the premium is probably the next big challenge for the Taj group. Watch this space.

Published on August 08, 2013

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