Walk into a Ginger hotel in any one of 25 locations, and it feels like home. Clean and neat, without being overwhelmingly luxurious, there’s ginger in the air — an exciting yet cheerfully friendly atmosphere that’s efficient without being intimidating.
From the current number of 25 operational properties, the target is to have about 40 hotels by the end of fiscal 2012-13, and a total of about 75 to 80 properties in two or three years thereafter. While a high proportion of properties will be owned or leased, the company has also commenced with the asset-light model of ‘management contracts’, where Ginger hotels earn management fees for providing the design, branding and operational management of a property owned by another party but maintaining the Ginger standards. “Growth is likely to be largely organic. Redevelopment of existing hotel properties could be an option in limited cases, where the basic layout of the property meets the Ginger requirements,” adds Mr Pani.
International markets are not under consideration currently; there is a clear focus on India, where the demand for hospitality is at least double — and, according to some sources, even four times — the number of rooms available (Ginger for select international markets with some adaptation is not ruled out in the future). The category attracting the highest demand in India is the budget segment, eyed by several domestic and international companies.
The 'Smart' advantage
At the heart of all the hotels is the Ginger ‘Smart Basics’ package that focuses on hospitality elements needed by a business or leisure traveller, with no unnecessary frills, keeping tariffs extremely attractive. The no-frills model offers all the necessary comforts — posture-pedic mattresses that support the back, good quality linen, an LCD TV offering channels from Tata Sky, a tea / coffee maker, a mini fridge, an attached bathroom with 24-hour hot water, free Wi-Fi connectivity — but dispenses with elements like the traditional services of doorman and valet, multiple restaurants and swimming pool. Even the room service is limited, allowing guests to order only a select range of snacks.
Using technology, other improvements have also been planned across the range of operations — payment mechanisms, guest engagement and customised offerings — among these a pre-paid product, a check-in kiosk, web-based and mobile phone-based booking and check-in. A special section for travel agencies on the Ginger website would allow them to create specific user accounts, define access rights, make, view, amend or cancel bookings online, print invoices online, and so on.
Focusing on people
While staffing is tight by design, availability of suitable human resources is a challenge and likely to remain so going forward. Says Mr Pani, “Ginger places a high premium on its employees being multi-skilled and professional. More than ever, the quality and ability of our employees and partners will become a make-or-break factor for us.” Therefore, Roots Corporation undertakes intensive training programmes to advance skill levels of both regular employees and staff members of partners.
Outsourcing of services — such as food and beverage (F&B) offerings, including 24-hour café operations and à la carte and buffet meal options, and laundry and housekeeping services — to reputed and specialised partner-companies, allows for cost-efficiencies. Outsourcing partners include Café Coffee Day and Khaaja Chowk for F&B services, Forbes Concepts for house-keeping services, and Jyothi Fabricare for laundry services. In the budget hotels space, Ginger can, in fact, take credit for starting a trend in outsourcing.
Constant improvement is a mantra at Ginger. Feedback from employees and customers is sought virtually as a business development tool. “There is a specific effort made to collect feedback from guests and recommendations from employees. This helps in providing essential inputs towards short-term and long-term approaches on product development, process changes, training, spends, and so on,” says Mr Pani. “At Ginger, we recognise that repeat business is the key for success and hence it is essential to track customer satisfaction. It is equally important to have low attrition rates in the interests of operational and cost efficiencies.”
As a fast-expanding hotel chain, the challenge is to keep pace with the evolving needs of consumers and to make necessary changes in the Ginger product offering in a timely and cost-effective manner. A big challenge is to make the brand visibility salient and build strong brand equity amongst potential and current guests. It does, after all, have the punch of ginger to offer guests… and the advantage of the Tata brand name.