From Intercontinental Grand in New Delhi to properties in Mumbai, Udaipur,
Srinagar, Bangalore, Khajuraho-Bharat Hotels has been adding to its list of
properties. Recently the group announced a major plan to renovate the hotels and
incorporate the latest IT and communication technologies. Khattar, discussed the
requirements of the industry, the considerations while deciding on a technology,
and the need for a one window, one shop service provider. Excerpts:
What role do the Internet and wireless play in your business? What is your
take on IP-based communications?
Today a hotel without the Internet is unimaginable. The guests first ask for
Internet facility in the room and now wireless Internet is taking over. Merely
having Internet does not suffice. The guest likes to be plugged in-be it in
the lobby or the restaurant, he wants to be connected. So, Wi-Fi is taken for
granted now and our estimates say that revenue from communications has doubled
after we deployed wireless at our hotels.
One has to go beyond this. We are planning to extend reservations and
check-in through mobile handsets. We would also be offering more voice and data
services on the move. And, all this would integrate IP. Services like video
conferencing, IP-telephony, and broadband would have the element of IP.
For our internal consumption also we are evaluating service over IP-VPN, to
connect all our hotels. But all this requires a lot of investment.
How can business, IT, and communications be aligned seamlessly to benefit
all the concerned parties? How has the management responded to changing needs?
The hospitality industry depends a lot for business on the business
customers and they come in from all over the globe with different IT and
communications requirements. And to be in business one has to align with the
changing times. Wireless communications is being offered in all the hotels and
the differentiator now comes in form of better services. If you deploy IT and
communications to make the guest comfortable, the work is done. Similarly, the
CRM and ERP applications for the administration and staff make serving the guest
easier. The management has realized this and is now open to invest more on IT
and communications infrastructure. The mindset has changed. We are putting up
new infrastructure in old hotels; this makes our task difficult and also needs
more money. However, compared with the past, it is easier to convince the top
What all should a CIO keep in mind while dealing with a service provider?
Things have come a long way from the monopoly days of BSNL, MTNL, and VSNL.
We now have more choice in terms of service providers and are in a better
negotiating position. Choosing and evaluating a technology to suit our needs is
the main thing. All the operators provide almost similar offerings and we have
to see what the product is and how it can be integrated with our system. Whether
it is scalable and how it has been implemented in other similar environments.
What would be the return on investment is another thing to be kept in mind,
because, if technologies like Wi-Fi do not give good returns there is no need
for putting them up. Redundancy, disaster recovery, and back-up plans should
also be evaluated before finalizing an operator.
Service level agreement is an important element. While private sector
operators have adopted better marketing and services, BSNL-MTNL need a lot of
attitude improvements otherwise they would lose customers. No more are they the
only integrated players, and operators like Bharti and Reliance are making gains
in terms of customers. And if they offer better deals why should I do rounds of
The time has come to take end-to-end offerings from one operator across all
the centers so that there is uniformity of services. It helps in establishment
of closed user groups across various centers, bringing down the cost of
operations and cutting on infrastructure investments too.
Are there still regulatory issues that hamper deployment of new
communication technologies in India?
As an enterprise consumer, we do not see any regulatory issues becoming
roadblocks. For the service providers and operators there might be some issues,
but for us there has been no delay in technology deployment due to regulatory
At our Srinagar property, there were some security concerns raised about
wireless communications. But it was cleared by the authorities and there is no
Which are the emerging communication/networking technologies that an
enterprise must keep a tab on?
There is no doubt on wireless being the key to all the needs, and IP would
be keenly awaited. Being in the service industry, we would watch out for any
technology that helps us in improving services to the customers. More than the
technology, we would keep a tab on the applications useful for our industry.
The buzzword is convergence and instead of having three different platforms
for audio, video, and data I would like to have one platform to run all the
three and IP has that capability.
How are you planning to integrate the new IT and communication
technologies in your group?
We are planning to have intelligent hi-fi rooms for our guests. On certain
floors the guest would be able to use all types of latest office devices,
wireless connectivity, and IT facilities. Rooms are going to be equipped with
plasma screens, plug-and-play cameras and USB ports, DECT phones, and CD writers
and guests would have the option to transfer their hotel voice mails to their
mobiles. We are scaling up the bandwidth being taken up and depending upon
requirement of the hotel, it would vary from 64 kbps to 2 Mbps. IP-based lines
or ISDN lines would depend on cost factor and service offerings. The issue of
interference due to concrete walls in Wi-Fi systems has been resolved by beaming
the signals from outside the hotel building. Just as light from one source
outside a building can enter the rooms through glass windows, so can the Wi-Fi
signals. The renovations being made in the hotels would bring all the
connectivity needs to the hotel rooms via wireless.