A cup of Candid with The Business Den: Vishal Kamat, fourth generation of Kamat Hotels India Ltd, on his journey so far and what it takes to run a hospitality giant in India.
The hospitality sector is very dynamic. What inspires you to get to work each day?
We were in quite a big financial issue about three years back. The hospitality industry was down and we were saddled with debts. When you’re fighting with banks and creditors, you tend you tend to lose focus on your core abilities and work. We get diverted to legal and the other hassles. In the last one and half year, I was supported by my father Dr. Vithal Kamat, to focus on our business and construct a plan to share with our lenders. Once they saw the plan and the efforts we had put in, they backed us confidently. Our net loss of minus 86 crore in 2015-16, turned to a net profit of plus 40 crore in 2016-17- a remarkable turnaround. This motivation to further our achievements and grow our brand Orchid is what inspires me each day. We are now back at looking at acquisitions and grow rather than be stuck in mud.
What do you work toward in your free time?
I read a lot and watch a lot of movies to relax and unwind. I also enjoy a good Whisky or Beer and love trying new, exotic ones.
Who has inspired you in your life and why?
It would be unfair to take one name because there are so many. Like Eklavya, I watched and learned from near and afar and learned from multiple Dhroncharyas because each situation is different and one person does not embody all the qualities or situation. I just hope they don’t ask for my thumb; I can treat them to a lovely stay at Fort JadhavGADH instead.
To what do you most attribute your success? What would you say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
I went through a tough path much earlier in life and I think it was greatly needed. Tampering of steel is what makes it strong. From vast experiences I was able to realign my thinking and relations and understand what really needs to be done objectively, rather than just doing things and not getting results. I would advise any person to follow a single formula for how we look at things MAP-GAP- TAP
MAP the market
Find the GAP in the market
TAP the gap in the market with your strategy
How has the hospitality industry evolved in the last decade?
The hospitality industry has seen a sea change in the kind of offering and concepts that have come up. The use of technology and the various permutations and combinations have totally changed the old Thumb Rules and that’s a good thing. It gives more people a chance to enter our industry and create fantastic offerings for customers who are the ultimate beneficiary.
And how much has your business grown over the last five years?
We have seen a huge turn around in the last five years, but the best is yet to come.
How much does India contribute to global hospitality revenues?
India is a critical market in global hospitality and our current government is encouraging more and more people to come and experience all that our nation has to offer.
PM Narendra Modi is very optimistic about the GST. What, in your opinion, are the benefits of the GST in India?
GST will benefit the nation and especially the hospitality industry that had to deal with so many different departments: excise, VAT, service tax, etc. In the long run, things will simplify.
ST rates in India are one of the highest in the world and can go up to 28% in some sectors. GST in hospitality sees troubles, consumers complain of multiple taxes, ‘informal’ bills. Do you think the introduction of the GST will hamper the hospitality industry at large?
The introduction of GST won’t hamper honest business people. Those not used to bills will feel the pinch. These are the ones who need to change and start contributing to the act of nation building.
Coming back to you, what’s the one interview question you would ask before hiring an employee?
One question does not determine an interview for me. The interviewee is already nervous and is trying to project or portray what they think I want to see. So I am already seeing two people: one their original self which you draw out and second is their perception of what they think I want to see. Hence, each interview is unique and customized. I go for attitude more than aptitude. You can teach one aptitude, but no one can change your attitude other than yourself.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
There should be no difference. Both should be doing things they love. Some fantasize of being their own boss and become entrepreneurs till they realize the keyword in the above thought was fantasy. Some entrepreneurs feel ‘wow’ that dude gets so much salary and here I am doing so much. In the above thought the keyword is salary and that necessarily may not lead to satisfaction. Hence I don’t differentiate between entrepreneurs and those who are employed. At the end of the day, it’s you who needs to be happy with what you are doing and where you’re going.
Lastly, share with us one thing that not many people know about you.
I would suggest those who want to draw inspiration or just enjoy a great song, listen to Nat King Cole’s song titled ‘Smile’. I don’t think there is more I can add to what he has said.
About Kamat Hotels Pvt Ltd
The Kamat Group of Hotels has been in the hospitality industry for the last 75 years and is involved across several sectors such as hotels, restaurants, agriculture, real estate, etc.
Vishal Kamat, who is now fourth generation Kamat, is working towards making the group a modern and tech friendly company, without losing its hospitality roots that they are famous for.