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Here's why Shruti Shibulal's Tamara Leisure is looking at the expansion route

Here's why Shruti Shibulal's Tamara Leisure is looking at the expansion route

Owner Shruti Shibulal sees a big opportunity in religious tourism and is very upbeat about the hospitality segment as cases drop and travel picks up.

The daughter of S D Shibulal, co-founder, Infosys, Shruti acquired an MBA from Columbia Business School. The daughter of S D Shibulal, co-founder, Infosys, Shruti acquired an MBA from Columbia Business School.

For Shruti Shibulal, the last fiscal (FY22) was a good one. “With international travel dropping, many people spent a lot of money on high-quality domestic travel,” she says. As CEO & Director of Tamara Leisure Experiences, the pandemic was a challenging period but the growths story is not just back but she is going aggressive on expansion as well.

The daughter of S D Shibulal, co-founder, Infosys, Shruti acquired an MBA from Columbia Business School.

An internship at the Shangri-La in Hong Kong had her “falling in love with hospitality” and the career path was sealed from that point. Tamara (meaning lotus in Malayalam) launched its first resort in 2012 and today, it operates three brands in India – The Tamara Resorts, (that offers luxury stays in Coorg, Kodaikanal and Allepey), O by Tamara (does upscale business hotels in Trivandrum and Coimbatore) and finally Lilac Hotels (a mid-segment chain with two properties in Bangalore). There is also an overseas presence with four properties in Germany.

The first fiscal after the pandemic hit the world (FY21) saw Tamara adding three new properties. It includes a 19-key ayurvedic resort in Allepey called Amal Tamara, a 147-room hotel in Coimbatore (this was courtesy and acquisition and will be re-opened as O by Tamara) and a 128- room hotel in Germany’s Moxy Bremen. As a result, it brings in an additional 315 keys or a 36 per cent growth over the previous year.

Determining a location for a property is a big decision in this industry. Shruti throws up a few insights here.

“Around 80 per cent of tourism in India is religious tourism and there is a clear need for an overnight stay,” she explains. That thought process now has Tamara expanding into Kannur, Guruvayoor (both in Kerala) and Kumbakonam (in Tamil Nadu), all of which are at various stages of development. “These are pilgrimage destinations and also transit destinations. Obviously, we are looking at more locations but will go about it strategically," she said.

The logic of pricing power is smaller destinations makes for a compelling argument. Shruti points out that one can price a four-star property in Bengaluru at Rs 9,000. “In Tier 2 and 3 locations, it will not be more than Rs 5,000. Our model is one of diversification and not being restricted to just one geography,” she says. Coimbatore is the first instance of acquiring a building as opposed to the normal approach of going ground-up.

“That helps us in saving time and the pandemic has thrown up some very attractive opportunities since valuations are dropping,” she said.

Published on: May 10, 2022, 1:29 PM IST
Posted by: Mehak Agarwal, May 10, 2022, 1:26 PM IST