Industry Update
Appointment30 August 2017

Puneet Chhatwal

Named MD and CEO
At Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) in Mumbai, Maharashtra , India

Puneet ChhatwalIndian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), operator of the Taj chain, chose Puneet Chhatwal, the chief executive of Steigenberger Hotels AG, as its managing director and chief executive, handing him the challenge of "driving the performance of the company", which has been making losses for the past five financial years. Chhatwal, 53, will have the task of strengthening and expanding Taj's position in its home turf where it was recently dethroned by Marriott-Starwood; restoring relations with IHCL's promoters, Tata Sons and Tata Trusts; rebuilding employee morale; and turning around the company's asset purchases which had led to significant write-downs equivalent to its net worth over the last four fiscals. In Chhatwal, IHCL's board has picked an executive with an over three-decade experience in the hospitality sector, who has worked in Europe, North America and India, to give decisive stimuli for growth of the company and to achieve profits. A graduate of Delhi University and a masters in hospitality management from ESSEC, Paris, Chhatwal has been running Steigenberger Hotels, a German chain, for the last four years. Last year, Chhatwal announced Steigenberger Hotels' entry into the Indian market through a joint venture to open 20 luxury properties.Chhatwal beat out several IHCL insiders as well as Tata Group executives for the top post at the 90-hotel chain. Chhatwal's appointment indicates that IHCL chairman N Chandrasekaran, like his predecessor Cyrus Mistry, has preferred an outsider to steer the company. Chhatwal will replace incumbent Rakesh Sarna whose term ends next month, thus becoming the fifth chief executive of IHCL since it went public in 1970. Sarna, who was selected by Mistry, had resigned from IHCL last May amid the new power play at Bombay House, the Tata Group's HQ. Sarna, who was president-Americas of Hyatt Hotels before joining the Indian chain, will be heading back to the US, it is reliably learnt. Chhatwal's other tasks will be to pare IHCL's Rs 3,400 crore debt, aggressively retain Taj Mansingh Delhi in its portfolio, rebuild Sea Rock Hotel which it had acquired in 2009 and revamp budget chain Ginger. The seasoned hotelier, who started his career with ITDC, a PSU in which IHCL holds a stake, will also have to ramp up Taj's market share in the country where foreign chains and accommodation aggregators like Airbnb are expanding. Interestingly, Tata Group chairman emeritus Ratan Tata has an investment in the San Francisco-based online lodging rental company. In 2016, Sarna had unified IHCL's luxury, business and leisure properties under the Taj brand. The company's observers say that the single brand architecture will be something to watch out for under Chhatwal.

ESSEC Business School

Puneet Chhatwal (Class of 1991) is a graduate of ESSEC Business School in Cergy Pontoise - France
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Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL)

The Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) and its subsidiaries, collectively known as Taj Group, is one of Asia's largest and finest group of hotels. Incorporated by the founder of the Tata group, Jamsetji Tata, the company opened its first property, the Taj Mahal Palace, in Bombay in 1903.
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