Emotional farewell given to Ratan Tata
An emotional farewell was accorded to Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group, who chaired his last annual general meeting of Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL) today. The 111th AGM got sentimental with shareholders recounting their past experiences with him.
IHCL runs the Taj brand in the luxury five-star segment; the Vivanta brand in the four-star segment; Gateway Hotels in the three-star segment; and Ginger in the budget space.
Shareholders were told that Vivanta has performed higher than its competitive set and that the distinct brand elements of Vivanta are strongly endorsed. The multiple-brand strategy followed by the company to ride the growth wave in the Indian hospitality industry and to retain its domestic leadership, appears to be working well, company officials said.
“Domestically, the state of the economy is a matter of growing concern with slowing economy, persistently high inflation, uncertain political environment and depreciation of the Indian rupee weakening the overall economic sentiment of the country,” said Ratan Tata.
Commenting on the international operations of IHCL, he said the focus would be on its hotels in the US and South Africa. “These hotels are a cause of concern for us. We hope to be profitable soon,” he added.
He said the company’s stake in Orient-Express is a great strategic opportunity. “Orient-Express has some iconic properties in many countries,” he said. IHCL has a 6.93 per cent stake in Orient-Express.
In the last one year, IHCL witnessed five new properties opening under the Vivanta by Taj brand, and one property under The Gateway Hotels brand. This included new markets for the Taj Group such as Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir; Bekal in North Kerala; Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu; and emerging business districts such as Yeshwantpur in Bangalore and Begumpet in Hyderabad. These new hotels have added a total inventory of about 800 rooms to the company’s portfolio.
Ratan Tata is to retire at the end of 2012 when he turns 75. Many shareholders at the AGM suggested the name of Krishna Kumar for the next Chairman of IHCL.
While one of the shareholders suggested that a special coin memorabilia be released with 111 embossed on one side and Ratan Tata’s face and signature on the other, Ratan Tata reiterated that he would consider the suggestion. Shareholder Asha Lata Maheshwari recited poems for the Board of Directors and said: “We will miss Tata. I hope he takes up the role of Chairman Emeritus. It is difficult to find a replacement like Tata.’’
- Umesh Shanmugam