Vikram Cotah: A Passion Driven Leader Steering GRT Hotels & Resorts To Greater Heights | CEOInsights Vendor
Vikram Cotah: A Passion Driven Leader Steering GRT Hotels & Resorts To Greater Heights

Vikram Cotah: A Passion Driven Leader Steering GRT Hotels & Resorts To Greater Heights

Vikram Cotah,CEO

Vikram Cotah


Today, the hotel industry is facing a formidable set of challenges. Some of these are relatively new, such as the steady rise of digital commerce, the growing influence of mobile and social media and a general decline in brand loyalty, while others include the familiar challenges of globalization, intensified by growth market opportunities, pressing for short term results a continuing lack of guest confidence in many mature markets and talent shortages. Confronting these challenges successfully requires leaders who possess traits that are less likely to be found in their counterparts from other industries.

As Peter Drucker says, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked leadership is defined by results not attributes”. Strong leaders can help an organization to maximize its productivity and achieve business goals, whereas a leader lacking the right abilities can not only hurt a business’ productivity but will also put the health of the business in jeopardy. An alumnus of the IHM Bangalore and e-Cornell University, Vikram Cotah is an Indian hospitality thought leader, CEO at GRT Hotels & Resorts, food stylist, model, actor and author who has taken his business to a new height. Having spent over three decades leading luxury hotels and quick service restaurants in Asia,Vikram is passionate about the food business and has conceptualized several award winning restaurants and hotels.

Celebrated for his skills and wisdom, Vikram was been nominated for the 'Best General Manager Award' for Radisson Hotels Asia Pacific. He has also bagged many awards such as a ‘Chennai Superhero’-Covid Warrior for contribution to society by Times Food Guide - 2020, ’Top 10 Leaders in Hospitality-2021’ and he also got Certificate of Honor of Selfless Contributions by Association of Hospitality Professional Welfare (India) 2021. Adding to this, he is committee member of the Hotel Association of India Tamil Nadu Chapter, advisory member for Tamil Nadu tourism and a member of the Hotel Classification Committee. He is a Six Sigma Green Belt and an ISO 22000 internal lead auditor.

Today,engaging in a one-to-one interaction with the team of CEO Insights magazine, Vikram highlights upon his professional journey and how he is making constant efforts towards leaving a greater impact on society.

Throw Some Light On Your Professional Background And Work Experience. Also, What Inspired You To Venture Into Hospitality Industry And What Drives You Today?
It all began when I first visited a 5-star hotel at the age of 13,I was so mesmerized with the hospitality there which inspired me to become a 'Hotelier'. After pursuing my Hotel Management education from IHM Bangalore, I joined the Taj Group of Hotels as a management trainee. Since then, I had the opportunity to work in great organizations spanning varied roles including corporate franchise operations of an international hotel brand, a startup quick service restaurant chain, international luxury boutique hotels and more. I have worked in exotic locations like South Male Atoll in Maldives, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Munnar in Kerala and others. The joy
of crafting superior experiences and memories for the guests drives me to design unique experiential hotels and resorts.

Having Spent Over Three Decades Leading Luxury Hotels And Quick Service Restaurants In Asia, Vikram Is Passionate About The Food Business And Has Conceptualized Several Award Winning Restaurants And Hotels

How Would You Define GRT Hotels And Resorts As An Organization And Its Position In The Market? What Is The Unique Proposition That Your Organization Offers To Clients?
GRT Hotels & Resorts started as a passion project for the Chairman of GRT companies and we also have GRT Jewelers which is a prominent and trusted jewelry brand in the country. Our journey commenced in 1998 with our first hotel in Chennai, today we have 18 hotels and resorts across strategic locations with two more hotels opening soon.

We are particularly known for unique restaurant concepts and food quality besides the exemplary service levels which defines our business philosophy. We put in a lot of emphasis on nurturing talent and engaging them to enable the frontline to deliver stellar last mile service christened as ‘promise of more’. All our hotels enjoy high customer satisfaction scores and online reputation scores bench marked with the best in the world.

How Has Been Your Response To The Challenges Posed By The Covid-Affected Market And How Would You Describe Your Role In Tackling Those Challenges?
COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the Hospitality industry all over the world, especially since hospitality is known for its high contact nature of the business. At GRT Hotels & Resorts, we had taken cognizance of the post-pandemic scenario early and had devised a master plan to overcome the challenges and be prepared. We rolled out a dynamic way forward strategy for GRT Hotels & Resorts and called it the ‘ABCD strategy’ of GRT Hotels & Resorts.

(i)A for'Adapt with Agility':This included our accelerated digital transformation plans, up skilling programs for teams, design changes in hotel facilities and spaces to adapt to pandemic ready experience, adoption of new age tech like AI and virtual reality into operations and re-inventing the hotels into IOT integrated building systems.

(ii)B for'Build New Capabilities & Capacities': We embarked on multi skilling teams for better productivity, introduced systems for transparent communication, built sustainability and high levels of sanitation into operational programs with eminent partners like Diversey. We conceived metrics to measure KPI like customer centricity, loyalty and brand advocacy and incorporated team incentives to motivate high performance on critical KPIs.

(iii)C for'Conquer New Market Shares': We will achieve this with the new sales and marketing structure and cluster account ability of the teams responsible for the sub brands of GRT Hotels & Resorts. With the focus on customer retention and exemplary value benefits, we believe that we are ready to grow our revenues multi fold when the market surges back.

(iv)D for'Disrupt & Deliver': It is better than industry benchmarked
bottom lines for all stakeholders. We have started our GRT Cloud kitchens in eight locations as a new revenue stream. We are consolidating on our Wellness and Spa programs in all our inhouse spa brand Bodhi spa in 10 locations to deliver profitable bottom lines. We have been proactive in creating customer centric travel promotions like Stay cations, Drive cations, Weekend getaways Work from Hotel room and others.

What Are The Changes In Market Behavior That You Anticipate And What Are The Opportunities That You Foresee? What Are Your Future Goals?
The new hospitality landscape has seen a paradigm shift in the last few years as the last decade in hospitality was about terrorism and security when public hotels turned into highly guarded places while this decade will be about clinical sanitation and wellness.

GRT Hotels & Resorts is on track to embrace the new normal and flourish with its 'Accelerated Digital Transformation' program, agile design thinking and focus on talent building with multi generational
Work forces in the hotels. Our newly built hotels and renovation programs are planned to take advantage of the emerging hospitality trends. We truly believe that 'Disruption is the Mother of Invention'.

In The Light Of Your Strong Experience In The Hospitality Industry, What Advice Would You Give To The Budding Entrepreneurs?
I would like to tell the young leaders that the new an them will be built on the foundation of the fundamentals of traditional school of hospitality with addition of new age technology and the millennial customer insights. Deep diving into the new age hospitality enablers like sustainability and others is a must for the budding professionals. One should be agile, adaptable, and resilient to the rapid changes taking shape in the world and one should dare to fail and learn life lessons from every failure. I would advise that every young leader must understand the startup finance and design thinking. Sensitivity to the workplace diversity and inclusiveness is a responsibility for the budding entrepreneurs. The future world of hospitality will be a very exciting place to live in.

Vikram Cotah, CEO, GRT Hotels & Resorts
Having spent over three decades leading luxury hotels and quick service restaurants in asia vikram is passionate about the food business and has conceptualized several award winning restaurants and hotels

(i)Food Styling & Food Photography: TV Commercials, Print ads, Food Calendars, Recipe Books and Menus.
(ii)Adventure Travel: Travelled to five continents and more than 100 popular cities & locations.
(iii)Writing: Blogger and a Published Author.
(iv)Fitness: Cross fit functional training and Power Lifting(Podium finishes at district level).

Favorite Cuisine:Experiential World Cuisines and Modernist Indian.

Favorite Book:'The New Gold Standard :5 leadership principles for creating a legendry customer service of Ritz Carlton Hotel Company' book by Joseph Michelli.

Favorite Travel Destinations:New Zealand, Alaska and Japan.

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