While chain hotels bring in standardization, they lack personal touch: Gaurav Jain, MD, Aamod Resorts
In Conversation with Vishakha Talreja

While chain hotels bring standardization, they lack personal touch.
Gaurav Jain
MDAamod Resorts

He is not a typical hotelier, just like his hotels which are not run-of-the-mill assembly line hotels. Gaurav Jain, management consultant abroad for 15 years, an IIT-IIM product who married his college sweetheart, returned to India in the boom of 2006-07 to start Aamod Resorts.

Today this 8-hotel old entrepreneur says despite the challenges he wouldn’t want to turn the clock back! Considering we at The Hotel Explorer love stand-alone, boutique properties and always on a look-out for them, we wouldn’t want that either.

Tell us how it all started?

I was a management consultant abroad for 15 years before realized my dream of starting a hotel chain. During the boom of 2006-07 the Indian economy was booming, my kids were young so I thought it was the right time and age to return to country to become an entrepreneur.

The first property we developed was Aamod Shoghi and with that we created the brand. It was a sheer work for passion where I built a hotel based on my personal tastes and likings. It didn’t stick to the conventional hotel layouts. Imagine the cottages are spread over 40-50 acres and our staffing ratio is as high as 3:1.

 

aamod shoghi

Aamod Shoghi

Today we are present in eight locations-Shoghi, Bhimtal, Udaipur, Alwar- to name a few and will be adding 2-3 by end of this year. Aamod is a brand targeted at discerning upper middle class travelers.

What is the best way for a traveller to book a hotel, especially boutique, stand-alone properties- travel agents, portals or directly through a hotel?

Well a year back I would have said book directly through us ( hotel reservation team). However things have changed and in current scenario its best to book through a travel portal to get a cheaper deal. It has surprised us as well how they end up giving discounts from their own pocket. We are not complaining though. Our bookings from travel portals have increased by 50% in last one year.

Also travel portals allow us to be flexible. Many a times we can not offer a last minute deal through agents but can do that on a website. I must add 70% of our business still comes through referrals, where guests recommend us to their friends and family.

 

alwar bagh 2

Aamod at Alwar Bagh

What about sites like Tripadvisor that recommend hotels. Tripadvisor earlier got lot of flak for favoring hotels that gave them business?

TripAdvisor has definitely become more hotel friendly. Few years back it was so difficult to get through someone in their team, if there was an error in listing. But now they definitely have become much more responsive.

The trend of boutique hotels is catching up in India with discerning travellers opting for experiential travel.

I have lived in the UK for 10 years and when I was there, for personal holidays we wouldn’t even touch a chain hotel. The problem with chain hotels is while they bring standardisation, they lack personal touch. The same trend is catching up in India now. Earlier travellers lacked confidence in boutique properties and weren’t sure what they will be offered and the kind of service that will be extended.

While travelers are warming up to the idea, there are also many boutique hotels coming up..

Yes, which is good. There is market for everyone, we are not competing against each other. With our property we rested Shoghi as a destination bringing it to travelers map. Similarly there are lot of new destination that can be created.

If competition is not a problem, what is?

Infrastructure is an issue we grapple with. We need better road and airport connectivity. Also from government’s end things are very slow. Approvals take lot of time, thats why now we don’t d greenfield projects and are only acquiring properties. For two of our hotels we have been waiting for a bar license for over a year now. We are into eco-friendly hotels but local authorities do not understand the term. We end up using generator lot of times when there are power cuts. How do we built sustainable eco-friendly resorts without government support.

Which is your favorite hotel?

My favorite is Wildflower Hall ( Oberoi property in Mashobra, near Shimla). In fact, its from Wildflower Hall that we took our inspiration for an outdoor spa jacuzzi at our Shoghi property. I also admire CGH Earth Hotels which offers unique holiday experiences.

 

Romantic Escapade to Aamod @ Shoghi (7)

Wellness with a View: The Outdoor Jacuzzi at Aamod Shoghi

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