Life has come full circle for Kapil Chopra. The much-awaited announcement has finally come. After quitting the Oberoi Group earlier this year, there was much speculation about what he would do next. Post his life at the Oberoi, he had assumed an active Chairperson role at EasyDiner, an enterprise he had already been associated with. In recent months, he had begun talking about his luxury brand. Amidst an intimate gathering of media, friends, and his new team, he announced a renewed tryst with the hospitality industry, with his latest venture – The Postcard Hotels and Resorts.
It is a luxury segment product, focussing on the authentic and aims at curating experiences for the well-heeled traveller in the leisure segment. The idea is to interweave local elements, and quintessentially local flavours of untapped destinations to provide a truly immersive and intimate experience.
True to the idea of “going back in time” and enjoying an old-fashioned holiday, The Postcard Hotels and Resorts promise no breakfast hours, literally a 24-hour check-out, no mini-bar in the room and no sugary welcome drinks to avoid the monotony of the hotel experience. These hotels will feature 8 to 50 rooms and are expected to be priced in the range of INR 15000-INR 35000.
The business model is based on the two-pronged strategy of an out-right buyout or a long-term lease to ensure a quick turnaround of the property. Kapil Chopra shared that the group had managed to construct 3 properties in a matter of 9-10 months – which could be attributed to imbuing local elements in the architecture. He suggested that instead of going grand in the design and architecture, they had chosen a more simplistic outlay, reducing the construction time and cost significantly. He also announced that the hotel group was eying 50 hotels in the next five years. He seemed open to the possibility of going beyond Indian shores and shared that Sri Lanka was likely to be its first international venture.
Asked to comment on how he would pursue luxury, as different from what he was doing at The Oberoi, and what was wrong there and what would be right here, Kapil said it was not about right or wrong. It was about core strengths and corporate stories, and obviously The Oberoi was doing a lot of right in their core area. This was different, and being pursued with a different yardstick.
Asked if would be asset light, he said they would not go into management only. They would either buy, or go into long leases, depending on affordability.
The group has strategically focussed on three distinct centres or destinations, namely beaches, mountains, and wildlife. Studies had suggested that hotels in these segments commanded a much higher premium than in other regions, he explained. India had an abundance of wildlife, mountains, and beaches, he added. He also noted that the idea was to create more destinations within India.
Goa seems to the focus of the group, at least for now. On the day of the announcement, the hotel has already opened the doors of three of its hotels in Goa. The Postcard Moira (located in one of the four heritage villages of Goa), The Postcard Velha (located in Old Goa, featuring a 300-acre coconut plantation) and The Postcard Cuelim (in the down south, featuring a 350 years-old chapel). Kapil Chopra believed that Goa had much to offer beyond its usually frequented beaches and had in it to become the next ‘Bali’. He shared that Goa could further accommodate 20-25 more Postcard Hotels, given its unique heritage, distinct Goan villages, and diverse backdrops.
The hotel group is being backed by investors from UAE and, in Mr Chopra’s own admission, has no dearth of funds for further expansion in the coming years. He did not divulge the quantum of the investment, but the official communication shared with the media mentions that the hotel company has close to INR 6oo crores of assets under management.
Has this concept been explored before? Companies like CGH Earth and Neemrana are already in this league. But what makes this initiative unique is that it is being backed by a significant equity funding from the very start. It has a corporate outlook, with a defined size per hotel, and the scaling to go international. The hotel group has three properties already open for business and another eight in the pipeline, with additional international forays. What also struck us is his training model where he will go essentially local, putting all staff through an intensive 9-week training.
To my mind, this could be a relatively small announcement of something that could become bigger, eventually emerging as a formidable entity in the luxury leisure segment.