AFTER ALMOST two years of joining the Taj Group of Hotels as managing director and CEO, Rakesh Sarna on Friday evening announced a new brand philosophy for the hotel chain. Termed ‘Tajness’, a concept he has been talking about in his interviews and with the staff, it encompasses a rethink at all levels of operations in the hotel group. From something as small as amenities for guests and attire for the staff to exiting hotels that fail to subscribe to the new philosophy, ‘Tajness’ in other words is a makeover plan for the hotel chain that ensures consistency in service and an experience that is Indian at heart. Sarna even has a deadline for ‘Tajness’ to be incorporated across all properties: December 31, 2017, after which the group will exit any property that fails to successfully implement the new philosophy.
Talking to FE, Sarna explained the concept. “In this competitive market, we needed a rallying cry to remain relevant. After taking over, I visited all Taj properties to interact with the staff, and the feedback came down to emotion. We needed to define who we are and who we want to be. Brand Taj has a strong equity and Tajness takes it further. However, Tajness is not mere emotion, it has heavy meat on it.”
The new plan comes with several strategies. It advocates ‘sincere care’ for not only guests, but among the staff for each other as well. In terms of service and amenities, Tajness includes a radical plan to eliminate lobbies and front desks to make the checking in and out experience a more personal one, revamp and refurbishing of rooms and inclusion of Indian rituals for a more sensorial experience.
Sarna admitted Taj hotels are no longer supreme when it comes to food, but adds that he is not going to give up. “There will be no fusion or radical food ideas. We are going back to basic, good food, which is what we believe guests really want,” he said. Interestingly, Taj’s last ‘star’ chef, Ananda Solomon, hangs ups his boots at the end of this month.
When asked about global expansion plans, Sarna said they would rather be “globally reputable hotels instead of globally present”.
Sarna heralded change as soon as he took over by empowering the general managers of properties to maintain their own balance sheets. “This has been largely successful. To achieve results, we had to give the GMs more power, but it also increases their accountability,” he said.