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Indian market all set for a good growth curve
Adeeb Ahamed is the Managing Director of LuLu Financial Group, Tablez and Twenty14 Holdings. In this interview with 'India Global Business', he talks through his entrepreneurial vision, worldwide expansion plans and the impact of his Indian ethos on his decision-making.
Twenty14 Holdings recently announced a major hospitality tie-up in Switzerland. Please give some details and other worldwide plans of the group.
We have entered into a forward purchase contract with Swiss real estate developer Necron AG to develop a brand-new Intercity Hotel Zurich Airport in Rümlang, Switzerland. This is Twenty14 Holdings' first property in mainland Europe and joins a portfolio of $750-million worth of luxury property across the UK, the Middle East, and India.
Our vision is to create a billion-dollar hospitality investment firm by 2020. We ensure that each of our hotels is unique in its approach, making guests feel that they are at a home away from home. We currently own the Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay in Dubai, UAE, Sheraton Oman in Muscat and the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian in Scotland. The Great Scotland Yard is Twenty14 Holdings' first project in the UK and work is in progress at the site. It has been great working alongside Galliard Homes to create this boutique luxury hotel in London. We have further enhanced the project by adding another £20 million on top of the £110 million deal. We aim to open the property in the second half of 2019. In addition to the Great Scotland Yard hotel in London, we also have three properties in India, under various stages of development, while in mainland Europe we are currently pursuing two properties, details of which will be revealed soon.
What is Twenty14 Holdings' driving force when it comes to the Indian market What are some of the key projects ?
The tourism and hospitality sector in India is poised to become one of the major contributors to its flourishing economy. A slew of projects including those on the lines of development of infrastructure, transport and attractions, are slowly changing the face of India, which further translates to sustained growth in tourism.
The steps taken by the state governments clubbed with initiatives of the central government have been crucial to this growth and the sector's long-term outlook looks very promising. In line with the same, we believe there is great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio of hotels, in view of the current market scenario. We are looking to invest in both greenfield and brownfield projects.
Twenty14 Holdings will be introducing India′s first 'Tribute Portfolio by Marriott' in Kochi as well as the first 'Residence Inn by Marriott' at Electronic City in Bengaluru, which will be a 150-room property. Bengaluru will also have another Marriott near the Kempegowda International Airport while a 150-room hotel will be constructed near the Kannur International Airport in Kerala. Feasibility studies are also underway for a 225-room project in Hyderabad and a resort project in Kerala.
The group has been exploring newer investments under your leadership. Please give us an insight into your vision for the group.
Taking into consideration increased spending on retail brands, brand awareness, supply side getting stronger and more players coming into the market, India is on its path to become the world's largest retail market in the coming few years. With higher disposable income in the hands of consumers, the India market is set for a good growth curve.
In line with the same, our organised retail arm Tablez has launched the brands of Cold Stone Creamery, Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Springfield and Women'secret in India. All brands have been met with great reception in the cities we have launched across India. The year 2019 will see more outlets of our existing brands as well as new ones like Build-A-Bear, GoSports, Yoyoso and other brands opening up in major cities across India. Our financial services arm, LuLu Financial Group, has expanded to 11 countries, with more than 200 branches till date. In 2018 alone, we opened more than 30 branches worldwide and also launched our money transfer mobile app LuLu Money in the Middle East. The evolving landscape of financial services depends on the demands of the customers and their involvement with technology. The convenience of digitalisation will eventually enable us to move slowly away from the brick and mortar setup as well as the physical need for cash. It will also bring down the cost of operation, creating a more sustainable turnover margin. We have a number of plans chalked up for the coming year, including expanding our business across the Asia Pacific region and also strengthening our digital presence. Going forward, we hope to maintain the same momentum and growth rate, leveraging through our well spread out branch network and technology-driven innovation.
How would you describe your management strategy and getting the desired results from your team ?
People are the soul of our company. No matter the business success, our first priority is to retain our talent and only then to spread our wings into untapped business segments. I constantly tell my fellow associates to challenge the status-quo and not get comfortable with market acceptance. My employees are my 'think-tank', and our average employee age across our three companies is 35 years old, highlighting the energy and vitality needed to excel. Infusing the attitude of taking ownership across 3,000+ people was a significant challenge. But, over the years, this culture has percolated through and has been indoctrinated into the company.
How does being a Global Indian influence the company's ethos and how would you define your connect with India?
As a Global Indian, I take great pride in the immense growth of India over the years. In a global economy that is seemingly slowing down, India has held its head high by charging ahead as one of the world's fastest growing economies. Over the next decade, India can utilise technology to raise productivity, improve efficiency, and alter the services sector. This growth drive can be disseminated into new areas of India and can be sustained in the long-term. With the help of policy-makers, realising these challenges can give a boost to India's economy. As we identify new growth and partnership areas between government and industries, we can make India the leader across all fields.