Deepak Ohri, Chief Executive Officer of Lebua Hotels and Resorts, an international hospitality company, is a gastrocrat who understands the global luxury market in a way few other executives do. He recently spoke to Business Today on India's luxury dining market and why the scene could explode.
Q. Tell us about your assessment of the luxury dining market in India. You have earlier said that China, India and Indonesia would drive tourism globally. Why is that?
A. Five years back, most spending in India was in cash. It is getting converted into credit - there is a new tribe of consumers who are well paid and are working for multinational companies. They have disposable cash and they are spending. People always interpret luxury with being expensive. It is about experience. People are going for more experiences. They are travelling and they have started demanding. Our research shows that if you change the price and improve quality, the consumer is willing to pay. We see exactly the same thing in China and Indonesia. This will drive tourism in the world.
Q. You wanted to set up the world's most expensive restaurant in Delhi. Is there a market for $400 a person eatery in India? Is this based on research?
A. The plan did not go through. It was not a quantitative research. It was a mix of my instinct and qualitative research. We drew an inference from the aspiration of people. The restaurant would have been opened by now and it would have put India on the global culinary map - I would have got Michelin-starred chefs to consult. It would have been an Indian restaurant.
Q. Why wouldn't you want to set up that restaurant in Rajasthan where you have three properties?
A. There is no direct flight between Jaipur and Udaipur. The day the Indian government starts a Jaipur-Udaipur flight, we will start that expensive restaurant. Jaipur and Udaipur is losing out on luxury consumers. There are flights from Delhi to Jaipur. But to go to Udaipur, you have to come back to Delhi and then go to Udaipur.
Q. In 2007, Lebua organised a one million Thai Baht meal in Bangkok. Were there any Indians dining?
A. There was only one Indian who was dining but for free. It was me (laughs). But today there will be Indians who will spend one million.