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Monday, May 18, 2015

Hilton's India development head quits to tread the entrepreneurial path

An edited version of this new story first appeared in dna of money edition on Friday, 15 May 2015.

A shake-up of sorts is being witnessed in the development team at global hospitality major Hilton Worldwide's development operations in India. It's learnt that the international hotel chain's head of development for India has already put in his papers and that the said development could possibly trigger more exits going forward.

Industry sources privy to the development said that Rajesh Punjabi, vice president of development for Hilton Worldwide's Indian operation has quit the organisation and is serving notice period in the company. "Having associated with Hilton for almost a decade now, Punjabi has put in his papers over a week ago and will be with the hotel company till September this year," sources said.

Rajesh Punjabi
Details of Punjabi's new endeavours are not known yet but industry sources indicated that he is set to hit the entrepreneurial road with his own venture. Punjabi did not respond to calls and text message seeking a confirmation on the same.   

While Hilton Worldwide is yet to issue an official statement about Punjabi's decision to move on, a senior company executive confirmed the development saying they were communicated about his decision a week ago. "We still do not know who will replace Punjabi as the head of development. I guess the company will start looking for a suitable candidate (internally or externally) for the vacant position now," said the executive requesting anonymity.

The development team operating out of Mumbai includes two more executives in addition to Punjabi. Earlier operating out of a separate office at Bandra, Mumbai, the development team was relocated into Hilton Mumbai International Airport premises as part of cost cutting exercise in 2013.

In terms of hotel developments, while Hilton opened five hotels last year and there are plans to launch over a couple of hotels including the debut of their Conrad brand in Pune this year. The 310-room hotel is owned by Sandeep Raheja promoted Palm Grove Beach Hotels Pvt Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the K Raheja Constructions Group.

The company will enhance presence in the Goa hospitality market launching a Hilton branded hotel, which is not going to be a beach property but located on a hill looking down at the coast. The company, in 2012, had launched a 105-room DoubleTree by Hilton hotel at Arpora-Baga in Goa.

Hilton Worldwide currently operates the hotels and resorts under its two full-service, upscale brands viz. Hilton Hotels & Resorts and DoubleTree by Hilton and its two mid-market, focus-service brands viz. Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton by Hilton.

It currently has hotels operational in New Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Trivandrum, Vadodara, Pune, Goa, Shillim and Jaipur.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

India's commercial capital Mumbai gets its 2nd JW Marriott hotel at Sahar

Continuing with its growth plans in India, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts has opened its second luxury five-star hotel in Mumbai located a kilometre from the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Mumbai – JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar. Posiioned as a sophisticated retreat within the energetic city of the Indian commercial capital, the hotel will cater to both business and leisure travellers.

With the debut of JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, the JW Marriott brand now has seven hotels in India.  Other locations include Bangalore, Chandigarh, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune and Mussoorie.

According to Arne M Sorenson – president and chief executive officer, Marriott International, India is an important part of Marriott International's global growth strategy. "India is a great, growing economy and as that economy grows, its need for hotel rooms grows too," said Sorenson adding that the new hotel at Sahar will be a premier luxury business hotel in India, setting a benchmark for service excellence.
Spread over 15 acres, the property features 585 intimate rooms including 163 deluxe pool view rooms, 23 deluxe suites, 23 executive balcony rooms and one presidential suite. The rooms are priced starting Rs 8,925/- for a night's stay. 

The hotel flaunts a stunning design and signature service to a compelling restaurant scene celebrating local Indian cuisine. Its stylish lobby features open spaces and natural light anchored by a striking crystal chandelier descending down into an oversized marble bowl. The hotel also boasts some of the most spacious guest rooms in its immediate vicinity.

Also housing JW Marriott’s new branded spa concept 'Spa by JW' the Sahar property is the first hotel in Asia Pacific and the second worldwide to offer the 'Spa by JW'. Featuring seven treatment rooms including one couples treatment room and one ayurvedic treatment room that offers ancient beauty rituals using fresh and natural ingredients it also offers a private couples jacuzzi, a dressing and make-up room, two steam and sauna rooms and two separate jacuzzis for men and women.

The food and beverage offerings are in the form of a chic and contemporary all-day dining multi-cuisine restaurant called JW CafĂ© that has an alfresco seating area while Romano’s bar offers authentic, home-style Italian fare. Located at the heart of the property is the JW Lounge, which serves as a cafe by day and a stylish lounge by night. The JW Baking Company offers indulgent pastries, coffee and deli favourites.

To accommodate large-format events and social gatherings, the hotel boasts of
over 56,000 sq.ft. of indoor and outdoor convention space including a pillar-less 10,000 square foot Grand Ballroom, indoor and outdoor convention spaces, and 11 well-appointed meeting rooms with state-of-the-art conferencing and business facilities. The property also has a spacious JW Lawns and Dining Theatre that can serve as an ideal venue for picturesque weddings and social gatherings.

Additional facilities include, The JW Fitness Centre open 24-hours a day with the state-of-the-art equipment, catering to the needs of the fitness conscious. Poolside cabanas also make a perfect place to unwind and soak up the sun.

Currently, there are 71 JW Marriott hotels in 27 countries and by 2020 the portfolio is expected to encompass more than 100 properties in over 30 countries.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Our forecasting ensures that Moto products never go out of stock on Flipkart, says Marcus Frost of Motorola Mobility

This Q&A first appeared in dna of money edition on March 12, 2015. 

Marcus Frost, senior marketing director, EMEA & APAC, Motorola Mobility UK Ltd, was in Mumbai to discuss the company's journey in India post being acquired by Lenovo, smartphone sales in the last four quarters, new line of products, the changing definition of value-for-money in the Indian affordable smartphone category etc. Edited excerpts...

Motorola has come a long way from being itself to being a part of Google and finally getting acquired by global IT hardware major Lenovo. Are things better now than before?

We feel super strong and it couldn't have come at a better time. While Motorola is strong in certain geographies globally, association with Lenovo makes it more stronger now. It has got us ready for our part of the journey now where we need scale. Google doesn't make things while Lenovo makes a ton of things thus giving us major supply-chain efficiencies and that value we are able to transfer immediately to the consumer. The products being developed and conceived are very different what we they were before and after the acquisition. You will see more value and choices coming from us going forward.

You would also be competing with Lenovo for the same set of consumers now?

It is highly complimentary than competition. We were about 5% share and Lenovo was about 2-2.5% so together we are about 8% market share. So we have another 92% to take care of rather than cannibalising each other.

It's been a year now operating as part of Lenovo now. How has the journey being?

The journey has started well with Moto G. Since all consumer expectations couldn't be met with just one product we introduced Moto E targeting the affordable smartphone segment. In the hi-end category, we launched the Moto X followed by the wearable technology in the form of Moto 360. Now we have got into new generation products with the Moto E 2nd generation smartphones. This smartphone has been bundled in a way to that will change the idea of affordable handsets while still being classy. The market is changing fast and so are consumer preferences not only in India but globally. So we will keep innovating not only in terms of products but also the marketing strategies, service levels etc.

How has market responded to the products? Could you share sales numbers?

Last year in February is when we started operating under Lenovo and we have received a very overwhelming market response for our products. In the last ten-and-a-half months we have sold three million handsets, which is a testimony of how well the brand is being received.

That's a good number? Does it meet company expectations?

It's a great number to write home about. Also a validation of the focus we have had on what the Indian consumer wants. And efforts are being made to ensure we are delivering on that.

Given the kind of products that are likely to be introduced, can this number easily double in the next 12 months?

We are not chasing numbers or for that matter market share at the moment as the focus is more on delivering innovation, value and choice to the consumers. Besides, it's never so easy to double the numbers. The way we look at it is, if we keep doing the right things this year like we did in 2014 the numbers should happen. While we don't really know what that right number is but we wouldn't want to stop just there and possibly exceed that figure. It all depends on how the entire ecosystem shapes up as well but our aim is to keep on doing the right things.

On the market share part, all I can say is that Motorola and Lenovo put together is the third largest vendor across the world and we are the only viable challenge to number one and number two. In India the story is pretty much the same.

A broader distribution as against the Flipkart only way of reaching out to customers could help reach / exceed that right number?

Online-offline put together, Flipkart is the largest retailer reaching out to 25,000 pincodes in India. E-commerce works for us as our forecasting ensures that Moto products never go out of stock. We also don't do flash sales because if someone is keen on buying a Motorola device what right have I got to stop him / her from doing so. I cannot, not offer consumers a choice.

While the Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 bracket was a major play for smartphone makers, the sweet-spot seems to be moving south to Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 now.

There are different needs from different sets of consumers and just one product will never be able to meet those needs. We are definitely trying to drive value and hoping to move it down and down the change and that's exactly what the Moto E 2nd generation does.

Any plans to join the “Make In India” movement announced by prime minister Narendra Modi?

We do keep evaluating the option but there is nothing happening on that front right now. The reason being that, what you see is a price side of the economics, but if you see the supply side of the economics it may not necessarily make sense.

Xiaomi was to launch own online sales platform in India. Would you be looking at a similar option?

While there are multiple options to explore and that is what the strategy team does, but there is nothing right now that we have finalised on.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

This is just one example how cheats people shopping online

People mostly call me as the window shopping guy who will visit emarketplaces like,,,, etc. but still visit a physical store to make that final purchase.

Yeah call me old-fashioned but there are very good reasons why I still choose a retail store over online shopping.

Let me give you one example right away.

A promotional mail that landed in my Gmail inbox today carries a subject line that says Samsung Galaxy S4 available at Rs 17,999 @Amazon.

I click for more details and see a promotional offer by that says "You Save Rs 23,501" i.e. a huge discount of 57% with a Buy Now box just below it.

After clicking the Buy Now box, I am taken to the webpage that says maximum retail price (MRP) of the smartphone is Rs 23,500 and the deal price is Rs 17,999 thus giving me a saving of Rs 5,501 i.e. a 23% discount on MRP. 

So my discount or the money I save buying the smartphone online is already down from 57% to 23%.

Just to be sure that the 23% saving was for real, I decided to further dig into the pricing of the smartphone on the Samsung India eStore. And what do I find there?

The Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone is being sold on the Samsung India eStore for Rs 17,999. While it also says 'Out Of Stock' it certainly validates the fact that the smartphone doesn't cost more than Rs 17,999 and that price is inclusive of all taxes.

What started as a promise of 57% savings on Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone came down to 23% after checking out the deal on A further due-diligence on its price gives out a completely different picture, which is 'That I Was Not Saving A Single Penny' buying the smartphone from

I guess being a window shopper on the various eCommerce platforms has its advantages and disadvantages.
I am certainly not regretting because I see more advantages than disadvantages here :-)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rajeev Menon is now COO of Marriott Intn'l for South-East Asia & Pacific region

Global hospitality major, Marriott International Inc. promoted Rajeev Menon
Rajeev Menon
as the chief operations officer (COO) for the South-East Asia & Pacific region.

Based out of
Singapore, Menon will be a key member of the continent’s senior leadership team and will function as the operational business leader for the region, under his new responsibility. He will also help drive key initiatives and ensure implementation of brand discipline programs.

Over the last 7.5 years, Menon was area vice-president - South Asia as well as Pakistan, Malaysia and Australia during various periods of his assignment. Menon has led the growth of India from six operating hotels in 2007 to 27 Marriott managed hotels operating under seven brands (with a pipe-line of another 49 hotels under construction). 

Under his leadership, Marriott has been recognised as one of the best performing international hotel brands in India and has received numerous best employer awards for the past several years. 

Menon joined Marriott in 2001 as the general manager of Renaissance Mumbai Hotel and Convention Center and Marriott Executive Apartments, Mumbai. In 2004, he moved to Sydney, Australia where he served as the general manager of Sydney Harbour Marriott and Country General Manager for Australia.

A global leading lodging company based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, Marriott International currently has over 4,100 properties in 79 countries and territories and reported revenues of nearly $13 billion in fiscal year 2013.  The company operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts under 18 brands.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

JWT set to acquire Social Wavelength

JWT, a leading global marketing communications brand and India’s leading integrated communications company, is set to acquire a majority stake in Social Wavelength, India’s leading social media agency. A full service agency, Social Wavelength specialises in social media offerings from strategy to executionand includes social media marketing, online reputation management, social CRM and social media for HR.

According to Hareesh Tibrewala and Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEOs, Social Wavelength, this acquisition is a logical confluence of social media and mainline expertise, coming together to create integrated communication for brands. "The rich experience of five years that we have, in this young industry of social and digital media, will find the next leap of growth, through this partnership. A socially connected world is going to create new challenges and opportunities for brands, and we will create solutions to help brands navigate those challenges,” the duo said.

Social Wavelength has established itself as India’s leading social media agency within a short span of five years. Founded in 2009, the agency now has over 170 professionals who offer social media communication services, social media listening services using Radian6, influencer outreach program, application development, video and rich media content creation and media buying to over 50 leading brands across their offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai.

Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT South Asia, said, “We want to be a critical resource partner across the many solutions we provide to our clients. As we continue to relentlessly transform our offerings, Social Wavelength adds a huge dimension to our existing clients and the brands we steward. Across the marcom value chain and across various digital touch points the skills and capabilities of Social Wavelength will be that edge.”

This acquisition will add value to JWT’s delivery capabilities across social media monitoring, online reputation management, digital ideation and production. JWT Asia Pacific has invested heavily in expanding its digital footprint over the last two years. In addition to the acquisition of Hungama, in India, JWT acquired Post Visual in South Korea in 2013, and took a stake in Converge, in Pakistan, in 2012. XM Asia, a digital agency owned by JWT, also acquired Designercity, in Hong Kong, and Thomas Idea, in Thailand, in 2013, and XM Gravity in 2012.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Glen Attewell replaces Sandeep Dhar as CEO of Tesco HSC

Tesco Hindustan Service Centre (Tesco HSC), the global technology and operations centre for Tesco operating out of Bangalore has appointment Glen Attewell as chief executive officer. He succeeds Sandeep Dhar, who spent over five years as CEO and is leaving the business.

In this role, Glen will work closely with the leadership team to continue the journey of Tesco HSC in becoming a fully integrated part of Tesco’s multichannel strategy. He will report to Alison Horner, Group Personnel Director, who serves on the Tesco executive committee.

Established in 2004, Tesco HSC is the operations and technology centre for Tesco, a leading global multi-channel retailer and is the first fully-owned retail operations centre set up at Bangalore, India by any major international retailer.
Currently employing over 6,800 people, HSC is an integral part of Tesco and drives value across IT, Business Operations, Finance, Property and Commercial Buying to Tesco’s operations globally.

Tesco is the world's third largest retailer and enjoys a market leader position in six of them. It has a turnover of £72.4 billion ($120.25 billion), operates around 6,784 stores and employs over 530,000 employees across 12 countries.