The Ambuja Neotia Group which has interests in healthcare, education, real estate and hospitality is building a niche in boutique experiential travel. Within a year or so the group will have a clearer roadmap on Tree of Life Resorts & Hotels which it acquired last year, says Chairman Harshavardhan Neotia. 

In an interview with businessline, Neotia says the group will be looking at entering new states after finishing the upcoming hospitality projects in Eastern India. Excerpts:


In the hospitality segment, how is the business growing for the Ambuja Neotia Group? And, what are the plans for this fiscal, in terms of new projects?

We have seven operational hotels. And we have three more under construction. Due to the regulatory process, it is always a little difficult to schedule accurately. It sometimes takes much longer than you anticipated. We are very serious about hospitality. We want to be in the luxury hospitality space, and we are building many projects.


The Group last year acquired Gurugram-based Tree of Life Resorts & Hotels, which has presence in five states. What are the plans going ahead for its expansion?

It is a very small investment and a very small project. I would call it an interesting project rather than a very valuable project because it is addressing boutique luxury experiential travel, which I think will grow a lot in India. We have a collaboration with Taj (Indian Hotels Company) on it. That is still work in progress because we did the acquisition only at the end of last year. So till March we were just hand holding the team. I think within a year or so we will have a clearer roadmap as to how we want to take this brand forward. Currently, we are in the midst of a detailed talk with Taj (IHCL).


Going forward, will the group go for further acquisitions in the hospitality segment to expand its footprint across the country? 

We are generally known as a company that is particular about architecture. We do get offers sometimes. So, we have to see whether they are aligned to our design. If they are not aligned to our design, then we would have to redo it. Then it does not become viable. We often do not go ahead with the project because it does not fit into our design. We would like to maintain the special USP of our group. So whatever project we do would be of a certain kind of a design. This does not mean that other designs are bad. Everyone has his style. I am not saying that all the properties are fitting into our design, but most of them do. Sometimes you do get something which fits into your design idea also, then you would be happy to do inorganic. Otherwise, I still think that the larger investment will go for greenfield projects development. 


Do you have plans to enter new states?

Maybe. At the moment we are concentrating on the Eastern part of India. Through Tree of Life Resorts & Hotels we have got some footprint in Northern and Western India. On the Tree of Life expansion, once we are able to finalise our understanding with Taj, then we would jointly decide how we want to grow that. And as far as the rest is concerned, we will first concentrate on the East since we have many projects here which we want to build. For instance, we are developing projects in Digha, Sundarbans and Darjeeling (in West Bengal). We want to finish these projects first and then we can look at other states. Which we will. It is a question of timing. 


Will the Digha, Sundarbans and Darjeeling projects come under IHCL brands?

I don’t know, we have not yet finalised that. We are just in the process of getting approval for the projects. After that we will decide on the partner.


In the real estate segment, what are the housing projects Ambuja Neotia Group doing at present?

We have several projects not only in Kolkata, but also in Siliguri, Patna and Ranchi. So, we are doing projects outside Kolkata also. They are housing projects mostly. Some of them are as joint-ventures with other people. Also, we have a couple of retail projects. We finished a large mall in Patna last year. We have two properties — one in Kolkata and another in Siliguri (North Bengal) — for another mall which we will be starting soon. We are awaiting approvals.