August 2004 | Shubha Madhukar

One for the stay

indiOne, the no-frills hotel recently launched by Indian Hotels, promises to redefine the domestic hospitality industry with its unique price-and-value proposition

Come travel time and India's middle class faces a problem that's as typical as it is common: finding hotel accommodation that's safe, clean, comfortable and, most importantly, affordable. More often than not, they have to compromise on one parameter or the other.

The lobby of indiOne's Bangalore property

This is set to change in the coming years following the launch of the indiOne brand. Promoted by Indian Hotels Company, which also operates the Taj group of hotels, indiOne is positioned to meet the need for what it terms 'smart basics' accommodation. Targeted at budget travellers and tourists, indiOne offers an innovative hospitality model where the emphasis is on delivering quality hotel rooms at low cost.

The first indiOne property, at Whitefield in Bangalore, opened for business on June 25, 2004, and it has already notched up an occupancy rate of close to 80 per cent. Clearly, this is an idea whose time has come, but the economics of operating and sustaining low-cost, high-quality hotel rooms is not easy.

The indiOne model was arrived at, and adopted after extensive qualitative and quantitative research on travel patterns, hotel usage, service needs and the expectations of travellers. The research findings indicated a rich customer base for indiOne, and it included domestic traders, self-employed professionals, pilgrims, backpackers and domestic tourists. What these people were looking for in their hotel accommodation was pretty much similar: affordability, hygiene and safety on the one hand, and informality, stylishness, warmth and modern amenities on the other. indiOne is primed to provide all of this and more.

Indian Hotels established a wholly owned subsidiary, Roots Corporation, to run the indiOne show, before handing the designing of the project to UK-based architects Young & Gault and the Indian firm, Incubis. Roots is looking to have 1,500 rooms operational under the indiOne umbrella in the next one year, with properties in temple towns and smaller urban centres. The company also has plans to take the brand overseas.

The larger objective behind the launch of indiOne was explained by Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata group, when he unveiled the Bangalore property. "One of the challenges identified [for Indian Hotels] was to innovate and to lead," he said. "This spirit of innovation is evident in the indigenous development of indiOne. It is a giant step forward for Indian Hotels."

Speaking at the same function, Raymond Bickson, the managing director of Indian Hotels, emphasised the business logic powering indiOne. "The dynamics of the entire [hospitality] industry has changed over the last few years," he said. "A category such as the smart basics hotel has emerged as a compelling business opportunity. We do believe that significant demand exists in the metros and in secondary and tertiary cities across the country."

The Bangalore indiOne has all the standard creature comforts a budget traveller would look for in a hotel room. Besides, it has a cyber cafe, an ATM, safe-deposit boxes, a 24-hour restaurant, a meeting room and a gymnasium. Rooms are air-conditioned and are provided with electronic locks, a 17-inch, flat-screen television and Internet connectivity. There's also a mini-fridge, a tea/coffee maker, hot water, toiletries, same-day laundry services and 24-hour check-in.

The cost for this package is a steal at Rs900 for a single room for one day and Rs950 for a double room. indiOne rooms can be booked online at a discount of Rs50 from the company website

Sheila Nair, the chief operating officer of Roots, terms the indiOne prototype a reclassification of what constitutes fundamental comforts. "We called it 'smart basics' because we have changed the definition of what 'basic' in a hotel connotes," she says. "We have reconfigured a new set of basics in India and value innovation was foremost on our list."

With the goodies it has on offer, indiOne is hardly a no-frills hotel in terms of facilities, but this is no five-star extravaganza. Just 25 people run the 101-room Bangalore property. There is no room service, no porters, and guests have to carry their laundry to the counter. The hotel has 72 single rooms, 20 double rooms (with separate beds for those who travel together) and eight larger-sized rooms. Additionally, there is a special room for the disabled.

CK Prahalad, the management guru who played an integral role in seeding and developing the indiOne idea, is pleased as punch with his baby. "The launch of indiOne is cause for celebration, not just for Indian Hotels but also for the Indian hospitality industry and for consumers in general," he says.

Also read other articles on indiOne:
'We're not targeting people looking for cheap rates': Sheila Nair, chief operating officer of Roots, speaks on the idea behind indiOne, its conceptualisation and teething problems, and its prospects

Also read other articles on Indian Hotels:
Sovereign splendour: The glorious past of Indian Hotels combined with technology and quality will play a crucial role in tomorrow's hospitality business
Five-star favourite: Recently voted the best business hotel in Asia, Taj Lands End epitomises the class and quality that is intrinsic to every Taj group property
High on life: The Taj Bengal is inextricably involved with all that is joyful in Kolkata