For someone unfamiliar with the business, what is it that you do?
The basic premise of our group was really to bring Indian hospitality to the rest of the world. We’ve established our company in Doha, but we got teams in both Dubai and India. In the 18-months since we started, we've not got eight hotels under construction in India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
How do you define 'Indian Hospitality'?
If you say that to most people, they will immediately associate Indian hospitality with stereotypes, elephants and the like. But what we intend to do is go back to the fundamentals. Aiana is about being intuitive, adaptable and authentic. When we talk about Indian hospitality, it is about the warmth of our service.
Are you trying to cater to world travellers?
The very basic concept is to follow the Indian traveller as they leave India and go about the world. There are a little over 13-million people who leave the country regularly, and that's going up to 30 million in the next five years.
So let's take Dubai as an example. India has become a top market for the Dubai, which has over 1.2-million Indian visitors every year. It has overtaken Saudi Arabia, China and the UK. That's why we decided to put ourselves here. The idea is to give them a home away from home, when they travel.
18-months ago no one had ever heard of Aiana. Today, you have eight properties on the go. Why the rush?
We decided to take on multiple properties at the same time. We've got hotels under construction in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and India. In terms of the brand, we've got Aiana which we want to do a little bit of everything – we've got a whole extension of brands.
We're doing everything from a 33-room plantation resort in India, to a 611 room pilgrimage hotel in Saudi Arabia. This all goes back to our premise that Aiana is all about being where you are. There's a great sense of place and identity in one of our hotels; we're not about being a cookie cutter company.
If you are doing so much, how do you ensure a consistent experience for your guests? Surely, staying in a 33-room hotel in the forest is vastly different to a 611-room mega hotel?
What ties each of our properties together – what makes the experience consistent for our guests – comes down to the service. While every property stays true to its location, I don't think guests are going to wake up not knowing where they are.
How is your expansion in the Middle East going?
Our global headquarters are in Doha, and so we're focusing on getting a representative hotel for each of our brands there. We currently have Aiana, which is a full service, upper scale property with 180 service apartments. We also have a boutique hotel, which offers true luxury in Qatar's capital.
Then we are also looking at a three star mid-market project called Aiana Explore. Our largest project is currently the property in Mecca, which has over 600 rooms. That's due to come online this season. That's why we've now opened up a representative office in Dubai, to cater to that property.
What prompted you to start Aiana?
I am actually a third generation hotelier. My grandfather started in the business at the age of 65 – at a time when most people retire, he decided to hand over his successful textile company to one of his sons, and build a hotel. I was fortunate enough to work with him after I left college, and he was a huge inspiration to me.
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