Ratan Tata gets it

MUMBAI, INDIA - MARCH 23:  Ratan Naval Tata Ch...
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For all the buzz that Tata’s release of the Nano received last year,  the long term impact of the company’s new venture may be even greater.  The sprawling Tata empire, loosely held together by Ratan Tata, recently announced a plan to build affordable housing for India’s burgeoning middle class.  Here’s an excerpt from BusinessWeek:

Tata’s Nano Home: Company behind world’s cheapest car to sell $7,800 apartments – BusinessWeek

Tata, the Indian company that made worldwide headlines with its $2,000 Nano car, now plans to build 1,000 tiny apartments outside Mumbai that will sell for $7,800 to $13,400 each. The company plans to roll out low-cost projects outside other major cities.

Tata’s housing division is targeting a segment of the market that was largely overlooked during the housing boom. India’s builders were concentrating on building shiny new high rises and mansions on golf courses. Builders were after profits, but they were also trying to justify their fast-accelerating land costs, especially in and around Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) and other major cities.

As a Cornell trained architect, Ratan Tata clearly understands the value of creating spaces that foster a sense of being and community.  Like the Nano, the Shubh Griha community probably won’t attract the well connected, wealthy Indian, rather it is meant to serve as another building block for the rising Indian middle class.  This is the real growth market in India, this is the market that will truly shape the India of tomorrow.  Ratan Tata gets it.

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Ginger, nice hotels done right in India

Note: This post was originally scheduled for October 2007.

Ginger HotelsOne of the nice things about business travel in the US is finding a certain level of consistency in places to stay. Yes, the Courtyards and Hampton Inns are not the most exciting places to stay, but you generally know what you are going to get when you stay there. The same can’t be said, however, of the business traveler class of hotels in India until recently. Enter Ginger. One of the many enterprises of the Tata Group, the Ginger hotel chain has begun to spring up throughout India. I spent the night in a Ginger hotel in Pune this past October. It was a nice experience.

Designed for Business Travelers

Right from the modest entrance, equipped with luggage carts and an ATM machine, the Ginger chain of hotels is designed to be lean and efficient. You can check in the traditional way at the desk, or you have the option to use a self service kiosk – a nice touch. The kiosk also prints out local weather forecasts and other items as well. Also, unlike many places in India there is adequate parking and security. The rooms are very clean and equipped with small HDTVs, Air conditioning, and a nice sized desk to work from. The entire hotel is wifi internet enabled, with free wifi – they chose not to charge like many of the American hotels do. Adjacent to the lobby is a small in-house restaurant called ‘The Square Meal’. I didn’t get to sample any food there, but it looked adequate for a quick bite to eat. All this for a one night stay in the Rs.1600-1800 range ($40-$45). Not Bad!Ginger Hotels

Despite the attractive price point, and the quality of amenities, I’ve been told that the hotel chain has yet to catch on with the traveling businessman in India. It could be that they’ve developed a solution for a market that hasn’t arrived yet. Generally, if you have a travel related job in India, you are on two ends of the scale. There are those who are bouncing throughout India with a nice travel budget and only stay at ‘five star’ hotels. These tend to be the private businessmen, MNC employees, or government jobholders. The other end of the scale are the road salesmen, the laboring class travelers who tend to rely on the guest houses near train stations or the like. Ginger, however, is for the middle manager, someone who is traveling for work but is on a strict budget. I think that this group hasn’t yet arrived in India on a large enough scale to matter. The Tatas tend to see trends far ahead of many, so I hope their foray into business travel is given enough time to succeed.

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