Tag

Sustainability Archives - Red Ribbon Asset Management

India Mid Market Hotels - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

How and why mid-market hotels are taking over India’s branded sector

By | INDIA, News | No Comments

In the late 1980’s Esso commissioned a survey of its UK customers and found less than 7% travelled onto Mainland Europe with their cars. Why this reticence on the part of families clearly capable of making their way from Poole to Provence in an overcrowded Metro? And no, it’s not what you think: back in those days we hadn’t even thought of Brexit. As Esso found out, there was a more homely explanation: the Continent simply had far fewer automated pumps on its forecourts, so drivers were in danger of having to talk with an attendant and you know how the English are with languages. Better leave the car behind than risk the unseemly spectacle of sign language on the forecourt with a Frenchman.

And when you think about it, that’s all quite interesting. It’s the reason petrol stations have gradually come to look exactly the same all over the world: with the pumps all roughly in the same place, all self service and roughly the same kind of shop to pay in. It’s why you can now buy a burger (from a screen) in identical McDonalds outlets from Vienna to Vladivostok without once having to speak a word of German or Russian, and it’s why Esso long made sure you can buy your petrol the same way. There’s simply no need to leave the car at home anymore…so we don’t. We buy more petrol instead and everyone’s happy.

Economists call this phenomenon Brand Synergy and until recently India’s mid-market Hotel Sector was widely perceived to be more or less dead to its charms. A senior analyst on the subcontinent memorably (and anonymously) put it as follows: “…it was like an airline that uses a Boeing 747 for travel between Delhi and Mumbai, a Dakota for Kolkata-Delhi, and a Dornier for Bengaluru-Pune”. The poor old travellers never knew what to expect when they got there. Just like trying to buy petrol by word of mouth.

But not anymore…

The subcontinent’s mid-market Hotels including Ibis Styles, Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels have all made progress over the last decade in adopting a much more uniform approach to product profiling, achieving a consistency in specification that has now seen the mid-market secure nearly half the branded hotel sector: spurred on, no doubt, by an increasing number of private equity investors, none of whom are noted for being slow in recognising brand synergies when they see them.

All of which has made the mid-market uniquely well placed to take advantage of the surge in India’s middle class and increasingly urbanised travellers that has doubled airline occupancy rates over the last seven years.  And with the average cost of building a mid-market room coming in at between Rs 3 Million and Rs 7 Million, breaking even within six years, it all makes bottom line economic sense too. Compare that with the larger branded chains where average construction cost for each room is Rs 15 Million and break even takes 15 years: more than twice as long.  In the past 10 years alone the mid-market has expanded at more than 15% annually (according to Howarth HTL) and now accounts for 43% of total branded stock.

Having got away its successful IPO earlier this year (raising Rs 311 Crore from key investors), Lemon Tree Hotels last week took the trend a stage further by launching its brand overseas: signing a deal for the first of its hotels to open in Dubai next year. It will be the first mid-market hotel on the luxury studded Al Wasi Road, sitting literally in the shadow of the Burj Al Arab and Al Waleed Real Estate’s CEO didn’t miss the significance:  “There was a need for a mid-market hotel of this calibre in this location and India has been the largest source of tourists into Dubai, as well as the UAE as a whole, for over three years now.” To save you Googling it up, the exact figure is 13%: India now accounts for a whopping 13% of total tourist numbers into the Emirates, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody given the subcontinent’s wealth and proximity as well as the population’s found mobility.

And now they’ll recognise at least one familiar, distinctively Indian hotel brand when they get there…Plus ca change.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid-market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Working as part of the Eco Hotels Project has certainly taught me the importance of branding and product profiling in the hospitality sector, so I was pleased to read about the renewed emphasis on branding generally and unsurprised to see that it has now increased the mid-market share to just shy of 50%. Monolithic 2000 room hotel chains are no longer the first choice for travellers, especially given all the evidence suggests they are increasingly looking for accommodation that also complements their preference for sustainability.

And that’s important because the boom in Indian tourism (domestically and internationally) is playing a significant part in driving forward the subcontinent’s resurgent hotel and hospitality sector. It’s certainly an area that cannot be overlooked when seeking out the best investment opportunities over the coming years.

That’s why I’m very proud that Red Ribbon has played such a significant role in the creation and development of the Eco Hotels Project, spearheading the response to that demand in an environmentally friendly manner.

Smart Eco Hospitality - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc - Eco Hotels

Better Smart than Big: India’s Eco Hospitality Sector

By | INDIA, News | No Comments

The problem with global conglomerates is that they have global reach but monolithic thinking. Look how long it took Facebook to respond to high profile data breaches, with the hardly media shy Mark Zuckerberg virtually disappearing from the ubiquity of his own platform for weeks on end. Think of IBM: slow to the point of near extinction in responding to software innovations in the market, and poor old Kodak, slow to the point of actual extinction in meeting challenges posed by a blizzard of new, digital based technologies. So it should be a sobering thought for our current crop of global empire builders that big certainly doesn’t always best, because all too often great size comes with an inbuilt decision making stasis …in business, it’s always better to be smart.

Even so the thickest commercial hides can sometimes let in a little oxygen, which is why economists still like to look at the interesting conundrum of scaled decision making: big companies deluded into thinking they are fleet enough of foot to react on time to critical and fast moving trends, rather like an elephant finding a discarded pair of tweezers and thinking they must be good for something.

The latest example is Hilton Hotels, which this month unveiled its “Travel with Purpose Campaign” designed to reduce the group’s global carbon emissions by, wait for it, reusing old bars of soap left behind by its guests. Good luck with that: the Hilton Hotel chain on the subcontinent has properties with in excess of 1000 rooms pumping out as much carbon as a Victorian glue factory, so you might be forgiven for thinking the odd bar of soap is unlikely to make much of a difference. But the Hilton monolith is simply reacting (monolithically) to the unsurprising revelation that most of its guests are now placing environmental concerns at the top of their list when deciding where to stay. Hilton knows this because it conducted an expensive survey of 72,000 of its guests in May this year.

Of course it could have saved its hard earned cash and had a look instead at earlier newsletters on this site (amongst other places): sustainability concerns have been a key trend in the Indian Hospitality sector for at least the last decade and are becoming progressively more important. Hilton’s laborious, too little too late response is yet another example of big not being better. Big, in this case, is positively bad.

The companies that are instead best placed to make the most of eco trends are not operating out of densely occupied concrete blocks. They are strategically positioned in India’s mid market hospitality sector, with Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels being prime examples: smaller in scale and with sustainability ingrained into the fabric of their buildings (rather than in last minute memoranda urging staff to pick up discarded soap). As a result Lemon Tree Hotels is currently valued at 17 times EV/EBITDA and since completing its successful IPO in March of this year the company’s shares have risen in price by an impressive 28 per cent.  

Both companies find themselves carried forward by a relentlessly upbeat market outlook, typical of which is JLL India: “The hospitality industry is witnessing a new buoyancy” and Anarock Capital, where Shobbit Agarwal had this to say: “Stocks of listed hotel companies are on a new high due to improving fundamentals increased occupancy levels, higher revenues and average room rates seeing 5 to 6 per cent year-on-year growth”.

Quite so, we don’t need an expensive survey to tell us that.

And it also has a great deal to do too with a recent surge in India’s domestic and overseas tourist numbers as well as an increasingly affluent middle class demographic prepared to put their money where their heart is…Hilton Hotels might take note.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

I’ve always believed in the essential flexibility and virtue of smaller business platforms, capable of responding quickly and effectively to market opportunities as well as medium term market trends. Because, to paraphrase Keynes, over the medium term a business that finds itself rooted in a fixed strategy can also all to often find itself dead. Just look at the object lesson provided by the once all powerful Kodak Corporation.

And the sheer pace of change and market innovation in the subcontinent’s hotel and hospitality sector at the moment makes that lesson all the more compelling. Mid market groups like Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels are quite simply better placed to respond successfully to rapid innovation and key demographic changes. Not least because they have both been positioned from the outset to anticipate a sustained and progressive move towards sustainability based tourism and business travel. Sustainability is built into their DNA.

That’s why I’m particularly proud of the part Red Ribbon has played in founding Eco Hotels and helping with its strategic development, anticipating exciting developments in Indian markets capable of generating above market rate returns for our investors. So, whilst like the Hilton Group, I’m sure Eco Hotels will be encouraging guests not to waste soap, the company has a lot more to offer in the future.

The Phenomenon of Eco Hospitality - Red Ribbon Asset Management - Eco Hotels

The Phenomenon of Eco Hospitality

By | INDIA, News | No Comments

This year’s Sustainable Travel Report has reinforced the continuing momentum of Eco Hospitality in India: 84% of business and recreational travellers now confirm a preference for sustainable destinations, and as the saying goes, “sustainability starts where you stay”. Two thirds of travellers are willing to spend 5% more on accommodation if it meets sustainable criteria, meaning everything from water and energy consumption through to macro environmental management systems. But to get a real feel for the importance of those findings, you have to place them side by side with tourist and business statistics on the subcontinent and, in particular, for the first half of this year. It helps explain why India is currently experiencing an Eco Phenomenon.

The subcontinent will be the fourth biggest tourist economy in the world within the next four years, bigger than Italy, the United Kingdom and Australia put together and a major factor in this explosive growth is internal demand. In May alone airlines in India reported a 16.6% growth in passenger numbers, carrying 11.9 million customers with 80% occupancy (Spicejet reported an astonishing 94.8% occupancy rate). And with tourist numbers on the subcontinent riding at such an all time high with 84% of tourists preferring sustainable destinations (they have to stay somewhere when they arrive), even the most rudimentary of economists could spot an emerging trend.

Certainly Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels haven’t been slow to pick it up: both companies are currently spearheading key innovations in India’s hugely significant mid market hotel segment, with eco hospitality at the heart of each of their business models.

No surprise then that JP Morgan reported Lemon Tree in June to be delivering better than average cost control and execution ratings as well as higher return rates on room occupancy. Better Eco credentials aren’t just a honey pot for prospective travellers, they make sound business sense too with reduced commodity use (and costs) delivering straight to the bottom line. JP Morgan have also pinpointed enhanced operating leverage as a driver for future growth for at least the next three years, which is likely to deliver improved capacity for better pricing and capacity structures.

Lemon Tree and Eco Hotels continue to roll out new hotel units across the subcontinent, with the former last month investing another Rs 850 Crore into its aggressive expansion programme. Interestingly enough, Lemon Tree’s President Vikramlit Singh has also again highlighted a continuing mismatch between demand for hotel rooms and availability as a likely source of future profitability, so there’s no sign of those capital programmes losing their momentum anytime soon.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India, designed to take full advantage of market opportunities available on the subcontinent at the moment. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on quality and will cater for commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Market changes rarely come about in isolation, with one revolutionary event: the iPhone would have been an expensive mirror without something to plug it into. And the same goes for economic trends generally where we should look for the confluence of a number of key factors before drawing any conclusions. That certainly applies to the Indian Eco Hospitality sector where a huge uptick in business and recreational travel on the subcontinent has coincided with a surge in demand for sustainable destinations. With mid market hotels already roaring ahead, added eco credentials are giving the platform a turbo charger.

And I would add a third factor too. As may not be generally known the whole, vast expanse of the subcontinent currently has less hotel rooms that the island of Manhattan alone. So the point mentioned at the end of the article also has considerable importance to my mind: demand for hotel rooms is in any event seriously outstripping supply and that is bound to make for a more profitable outlook. A turbo charge for the turbo charger perhaps?

Hospitality in India - Eco Hotels - Red Ribbon Asset Management

Mid Market’s Moment: Trends in India’s Hospitality Sector

By | INDIA, News | No Comments

India seems to do everything on a bigger scale these days: the fastest growing large economy on the planet and the highest rate of GDP growth anywhere in the world (currently a shade over 8%). So why settle for just one reason when you can have five? Why settle for one reason to explain the explosive growth in India’s hospitality sector over the past decade, something to tell us whether current growth rates in the sector are sustainable? And in case you’re wondering, the answer to the second part of that question is “yes”, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.

First though the reasons for the sector’s extraordinary growth, and as promised there are five of them: a surge in middle class numbers as India’s population becomes steadily larger and more affluent (in other words, much more consumer led demand); an overall increase in absolute business and leisure travel numbers; rapid urbanisation of the population (meaning that you need more and bigger hotels in densely populated areas); progressive economic growth (the subcontinent’s rising population has more money to spend) and lastly (fifthly, as I’m sure you’re still counting), a doubling in domestic air travel numbers over the last seven years. All these factors have now come together in a perfect storm to booster mid-market hotel brands in India, and that means in particular mid-size business hotels and eco friendly hotels.

In 2002 less than 25% of India’s hotel stock was mid-market in that sense, but this year the equivalent figure was 43% (according to the global advisory firm Horwath HTL). Between 2002 and March 2017 the supply of chain affiliated hotel rooms grew at 11% annually, but this too was outstripped by the mid-market segment, which grew over the same period at an impressive 15%. On any basis that is a striking shift in the market demographic over such a relatively short period, and if it tells us only one thing it is that now is perfect the time for investing in mid market hotel developments on the subcontinent.

And not just because statistics favour the segment so strongly, because development makes more financial sense in absolute terms too.

The average cost of building a mid market hotel room in India is between Rs 3 Million and Rs 7 Million, compared with a major chain development where the equivalent figure is Rs 15 Million which means that a mid market unit will break even faster: within six years rather than twelve for a chain development. The variables are in favour of the mid market too, because these break even projections are based on historic demand and, as we have seen, there has been a recent surge across the sector with current occupancy rates running at higher than 65%. The average room rates have also grown by more than 8% in the last decade, so we can realistically expect break even times to start coming down.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of its current roll out programme which is structured to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travellers alike.

And the timing couldn’t be better with everything pointing to a mid market surge.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Red Ribbon is the founding force behind Eco Hotels, and continues to support the project’s current roll out across the subcontinent where we are very confident that it will play a key part in the all important mid market sector. Not least because we know that a combination of demographic factors (driven primarily by India’s burgeoning and increasingly urbanised population) as well as the current acute shortage of hotel stock, combine to make the subcontinent’s hotel sector such an extremely attractive sector for investment.

To illustrate that point graphically, it is worth remembering that there are currently more hotel units on the island of Manhattan alone than there are in the entire expanse of the subcontinent. And that supply deficit is bound to create fertile ground for new investment, not least because of the five factors highlighted in the article.

At Red Ribbon we pride ourselves on our in depth knowledge of Indian markets, and the hotel and hospitality sector in particular. With more than a hundred advisers working daily on the ground in the market’s hot spots, we are confident that we can identify the best investment opportunities as they arise, taking full advantage of the trends for growth in this, the most exciting growth market on the world.

India: A Sustainability Superpower

By | INDIA, News | No Comments

The Government of Prime Minister Modi certainly can’t be criticized for a lack of ambition; indeed, when it comes to international policy-making and geopolitical influence, India is now up there with the best. Take last month for example, when Swedish and Indian Corporates together with leading Banks and a raft of high-powered non-governmental agencies met in Stockholm to review steps for future implementation of the Paris Climate Change Accords. India has taken its place at the top table, with an increasingly influential voice on the global stage.

It has become, in short, a Sustainability Superpower.

The Swedish talks took place against the backdrop of Nobel Memorial Week where, for obvious reasons, the future of climate change policies was high on the agenda; and there was a general  acceptance that the best place to see these policies in action is India given, in particular, that the subcontinent’s economy grew by 7.8% last year (making it the fastest growing large economy in the world). It also has one of the world’s largest populations (soon, indeed, to be the largest); and its major cities are growing at an unprecedented rate as the historically poor and impoverished population becomes increasingly urbanised and wealthy.

So the key question being asked in Stockholm last month was what cost will all of this growth bring in terms of future sustainability.

That’s not a question without its own particular difficulties in the context of the Indian economy.

For a start there is air pollution: the biggest current environmental challenge being faced on the subcontinent, with airborne particulate levels in the most densely populated of its cities frequently running twice as high as China’s worst megacities, with the root of the problem being largely attributed to historic and continuing dependence on coal-fired power generation.

This key concern was the subject of a wide-ranging discussion and debate at last month’s Conference in Sweden, which concluded (with a degree of obvious satisfaction) that whatever its historic problems might have been, India is now moving inexorably towards the full adoption of much more stringent energy efficiency policies, with renewable energy generation at their forefront.

The subcontinent is blessed with some of the highest sustained levels of sunshine on earth, perfect for solar power generation. So it should come as no surprise that it is now the world leader in solar and wind power generation technology. And getting all this power out to consumers has been high on the Government’s agenda too given that  at least 300 million people in India currently have no access to the national grid: so there is also a powerful and pressing need for the Government to make funding available so as to ensure these new resources are accessible to its population as a whole. That challenge has resulted in new funding commitments from Prime Minister Modi’s Government that would make most western governments shy away in terror.

In keeping with the scale and ambition of the Government’s hugely ambitious programme for new infrastructure investment, substantial spending plans are now being put on foot to support energy delivery, including key support for companies investing in construction projects through the new “Green Buildings” and “Smart City” initiatives.

All of which makes India a world leader in sustainability. Something the delegates in Stockholm were at pains to note.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Climate Change Policies were high up on the agenda in Stockholm last month during Nobel Memorial Week when top-level Indian and Swedish Governmental Officials met with Leading Companies and International Agencies to review the future of the Paris Climate Change Accords.
There was a general acceptance in Stockholm that the best place to see these policies in action is India.

The subcontinent’s economy grew by 7.8% last year (making it the fastest growing large economy in the world) and it also has one of the world’s largest populations (soon, indeed, to be the largest), with its major cities growing at an unprecedented rate as its historically rural and impoverished population becomes increasingly urbanised and wealthy. SEB, a key delegate at the conference, characterised India as a “Sustainability Superpower” In this week’s newswire, we take a look at what all that means for future sustainability on the subcontinent.

Read about Paris Climate Change Accords here

Read about Nobel Memorial Week here

Read about Smart City here

 

Sustainability On The Subcontinent: Making It Happen

By | INDIA, News, Uncategorized | No Comments

In 2014 the World Bank reported that environmental factors including air and water pollution, deforestation and natural disasters were costing India more than $80 Billion a year (just over 6% of its GDP). In addition to the human tragedy involved, that is something we would do well to remember particularly bearing in mind the severe flooding in the Northern Indian States at the moment. If nothing else it demonstrates the inescapable connectivity between the wider economy, local communities and the environment: a dynamic which sits at the very heart of Red Ribbon’s Mainstream Impact Investment Strategies for its Indian Market Portfolio.

But, of course, ongoing issues of poverty and rural poverty, in particular, have inevitably attracted more attention from Prime Minister Modi’s Government outside the prism of specific natural disasters such as those presently being experienced. In 2012, for example, just 36% of India’s population had access to rudimentary sanitation facilities.

For this reason, much of the discussion on sustainability in India has tended to focus on improving social inclusiveness; bringing the population at large and the rural population in particular up to a common standard. That ideology is certainly at the heart of recent Government initiatives on Green Energy Generation where a key focus was the need to bring sustainable, reliable electricity supplies to India’s rural poor for the first time.

In 2014 the Indian Government also launched the Swachh Bharat (or Clean India) Campaign as part of a five-year effort to improve sanitation on the Ganges and other heavily polluted rivers with the aim of making India clean by 2019 and both Domestic and Multinational Companies have proved important partners in delivering sufficient traction for the Project.

There’s a particular fiscal reason for that as well.

In 2013 India became the first country in the world to introduce a mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility programmes (CSR) which requires some 8,000 companies doing business in India to invest at least 2% of their annual profits in CSR initiatives; and as a result of that programme more than $2 Billion a year is now being invested in poverty reduction programmes as well as social and environmental initiatives The legislation also requires companies to make the relevant investment, wherever possible, in their local communities.

All of which is, of course, admirable and the resulting investment is certainly working its slow way into the roots of the Indian Economy, but is this really what we mean when we talk about investing in sustainable projects? All too often, fiscal incentives of this kind can give rise to a tick box mentality at an executive level, treating sustainability as just another (necessary) cost of corporate compliance. But it can be so much more than that. Profound and resilient long-term change is much more likely to be achieved by decoupling economic growth from it’s “adverse social and environmental consequences”; favouring investment in businesses that do not regard sustainability as a compliance exercise, but as a means of securing a competitive advantage, a resilient business and long-term financial sustainability”

That’s what Mainstream Impact Investment is all about.

Mainstream Impact Investment Strategies recognize the importance of the delicate balance between communities, the wider society and the environment at large; driving effective sustainability by tapping into mainstream market economics and delivering long-term, resilient change in the process; not just by way of one-off projects that are fiscally attractive in the short term. That is why Red Ribbon Asset Management has placed Mainstream Impact Investment Strategies at the centre of its Portfolio Management Policies. Delivering above market rate returns as well as sustainable, positive change in the process.

Read about the World Bank Report here: www.worldbank.org/en/country/india
Read about the Indian Corporate Responsibility Programme here: https://www.pwc.in/assets/…/handbook-on-corporate-social-responsibility-in-india.pdf

Red Ribbon

At Red Ribbon we understand that the transition towards a resilient global economy will be led by well-governed businesses in mainstream markets, striving to reduce the environmental impact of their production processes on society at large and on the environment as well.

Newsletter

Sign up for our informative newsletter.