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We're Focusing On FITs & MICE Verticals To Gain Momentum: Paritosh Ladhani, Taj Hotel & Convention Centre Agra

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Ladhani, talks about Entrepreneurs' Organisation, Noida chapter, Hard Rock Cafe, Delhi and Agra as a tourist destination

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Agra - is one of the most iconic places in the history of India. Be it the Taj Mahal, the new Seven Wonders of the World or the Mughal Emperors' golden age. It has a rich history. The way they have spent their life made it the city of royals. To maintain the legacy of ancient and new flavours, Taj Hotel & Convention Centre, Agra offers a wide range of dining options from Indian cuisine to Asian and European platters. Spread over 4.5 acres, the hotel is located within walking distance from the Taj Mahal which make it more approachable. In an interview with BW Businessworld, Paritosh Ladhani, the Managing Partner of The Ladhani Group and the Executive Director of Sincere Developers, owning company of Taj Hotel & Convention Centre, Agra talks about Entrepreneurs' Organisation, Noida chapter, Hard Rock Cafe, Delhi and Agra as a tourist destination.

How are you positioning Taj Hotel Agra & Convention Centre as a culinary destination? 
Our hotel offers a wide array of dining options: Palato - the all-day diner; Daawat-e-Nawaab - the Indian speciality restaurant; and Infini - a roof-top bar and cafe. From enjoying interesting cocktails and lavish European cuisine by the infinity pool while overlooking the Majestic Taj at Infini to partaking in rich Awadhi Biryanis and Kormas at Daawat-e-Nawaab, the guests are sometimes spoilt for choice. According to me, a culinary destination should offer an eclectic range of both Indian and world cuisine in varied set-ups. And, that’s what we strive to do. We are also in talks with Taj for setting up the famed Chinese restaurant ‘House of Ming’ in Agra. The restaurant enjoys cult status at many other Taj properties. The move is again aimed at exacerbating the feel and vibe of an ideal culinary destination.

You launched the Entrepreneurs' Organisation (EO) Noida Chapter amid pandemic. How has the first year been? 
How good the first year has been can be gauged from the fact that we recently won an award for being the most dynamic chapter at EO and also have rapidly reached the golden number for members- 50.

Personally, as the chapter head, EO Noida has been a great learning experience for me and I am sure the same is true for other members. The birth of this organization also marks a special place in our lives as it took form during the pandemic and lockdowns when we members were hankering to brainstorm even if it was virtual, to start with. We have successfully hosted many events through the year but two events have been noteworthy and really impactful. The first one was a talk with the producer of Batman, Michael Uslan. Another one, a freewheeling chat session with Bollywood actor Pankaj Tripathi. Both sessions have been truly inspiring. We have set the tone for EO Noida in its launch year and are glad about it.

You and your wife Alka Ladhani are bringing the iconic Hard Rock Cafe back to Delhi we hear.
We have always desired to helm a wide array of hospitality verticals under one umbrella. F&B is also a very important arm in that. With the hotel generating decent revenue, venturing into food and beverage was a natural progression for us as a brand extension exercise. With home-grown restaurant chains folding up or staring at mounting losses, treading along on our own was too risk-bearing. Running a popular international brand made stupendous sense. And, what better than Hard Rock Café. The resto-bar has been there in India for more than a decade now. For rock lovers the restaurant has always been their Mecca. We noticed the brand’s absence in the city and hence tied up with the brand to open its three-storeyed restro-bar in Connaught Place.

How has Agra shaped up as a tourist destination? 
Agra is primarily an inbound tourism driven market. The city is mostly dependent on tourists and less on business travel. However post pandemic we are seeing good traction in domestic FITs and some noticeable traction in MICE, after the Covid related fears and restrictions started receding. We have hotels like Taj Convention Center and few other decent properties that are wooing people majorly from other cities of UP and a bit of Delhi for conferences and launches. The pre-covid levels can only be realised once the world opens up like before. The ball has started rolling. We are confident that we will reach that scale soon. Then, MICE restarts and foreigners from across the globe restart visiting one of the world's most feted wonders, Taj Mahal. We are looking at a mix of both Domestic FITs (Frequent Individual Travellers) and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions) verticals to gain momentum. It's the only tool for both survival and growth.

What about the wedding market? 
Agra is now being seen as a preferred wedding destination and that is working in our favour. Taj Hotel & Convention Centre Agra features a large pillar less banquet hall, Mansion, with high ceilings that can accommodate unto 2000 pax. Besides Mansion we have ballrooms and Infini, our rooftop poolside area where various functions can be organised. So from pre-wedding functions to big fat weddings, we are well equipped to capture the growing wedding market in Agra.