Joint Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer AIANA Hotels and Resorts L.L.C
Recently I ventured into a trendy Cafe at Al Serkal Avenue to meet with the young and charismatic Amruda Nair, the Joint Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of AIANA Hotels & Resorts.
AIANA Hotels & Resorts is a global hotel management company with an Indian service ethos aiming to be a leading operator of hotels, resorts and serviced apartments in the Middle East, Indian Sub-Continent and South East Asia. It is a hospitality brand of upper upscale hotels that offers fresh and relevant product design, facilities customized for the new generation of savvy travellers with an innate service ethic based on traditional Indian hospitality values.
Amruda has hotels and hospitality in her DNA. From her grandfather, the late Captain C.P. Krishnan Nair, founder of The Leela Group, she inherited a maverick streak and an eye for trailblazing business opportunities. We speak to her about the brand awareness, new ventures and her connection to the Middle East.
What does AIANA mean?
AIANA means ‘eternal blossom’ in the ancient language of Sanskrit and offers a unique vision of contemporary living, modern design and immersive enriching experiences.
What does your role entail at AIANA?
I get involved in different areas but primarily I am responsible for designing the brand’s signature programming as well as spearheading the company’s overall business development to create a unique proposition that will define the next wave of smart hospitality.
How is AIANA connected to hospitality in Qatar?
AIANA Hotels and Resorts LLC is the result of a focused and proactive strategy, which combines the strength of its two principals – H.E. Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani and myself. We bring the best of business excellence and Indian service ethos and see Qatar as a base for our expansion in the region.
Which projects are you currently working on?
We have announced our flagship property called Aiana Residences and Suites in mid-2017 in Doha (180 rooms) along with Aiana Makkah (594 rooms). The other major deal-signing announcements include – a management agreement with Moonriver Resorts to operate Aiana Munnar – A Moonriver Resort in Munnar (33 villas), Kerala; an agreement with Ferns Estates and Developers to manage and operate four resorts in Karnataka over the next five years, with the first resort AIANA Hassan currently under development on 45 acres of verdant, hilly coffee plantation land in the district of Sakleshpur and scheduled to open in 2019 (75 villas) plus an agreement to build a 150 room AIANA Agra within walking distance of the historic monument Taj Mahal in India. And of course we would like to be in the UAE, and perhaps in Oman and Kuwait at a later stage.
Were you always keen to enter the hospitality industry and did you study accordingly?
Given my family background Hospitality was always around me but I am an Economics graduate with a degree in Hospitality Management from CHN University in The Netherlands and a master’s from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, New York.
Tell us a bit about your journey since you began working?
After working briefly with Mandarin Oriental New York, I moved to Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels (JLLH) in Singapore as a full-time analyst on the hospitality brokerage team and was involved in investment sales mandates across the region including Indonesia, Japan, China, India and Thailand. Afterwards, I joined the corporate advisory division of JLLH where my role involved pre-opening budget reviews, management contract negotiations and mystery guest audits for properties. Then I moved to India.
Have you worked in India and is that where the passion for Indian hospitality comes from?
After moving to India, I was the Head of Asset Management for The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts during a period of major growth. In this role, conducted financial reviews for the group’s eight operating properties, reviewing pre-opening budgets for upcoming projects and annual business plans.
When I book a hotel, I check if there is a spa first before making a decision and often reject hotels without spas. Would wellness be a strong component in your projects?
Our spas operate on basic fundamentals based on five elements and sense and include mapping of the guests needs and matching the services accordingly. Hence every treatment is custom made.
You recently introduced the concept of fractional ownership in hospitality – can you elaborate on this?
We tested this for Aiana Munnar, a villa resort in Kerala and it received a positive response. With fractional ownership, multiple people can own a single asset. An investor can either own an entire villa as a holiday home or a fraction of it to earn earn revenue.
We understand you are also involved in CSR programmes with AIANA – can you elaborate on that?
I am an associate committee member of Sahachari Foundation, an NGO which stands for ‘women who walk together’ in support of societal responsibility and empowerment and the Vice President of Apne Aap Women’s Collective, an anti-trafficking organisation that serves women and children in Mumbai’s red light district. We hope our involvement helps make a change in these communities.