Industry Icons: Nakul Anand - Insights

Industry Icons: Nakul Anand

Nakul AnandDuring his 30-plus year career, Mr. Anand has been recognized time and again for his vision and commitment to sustainable excellence in the hotel and tourism industry. During his tenure, he has helped secure LEED Platinum certifications for all 11 ITC Luxury Collection hotels. Known for dynamic leadership, passion and approachable management style, Anand has initiated some of the industry’s most innovative concepts making ITC’s hotel business world class.

An Economics Honors graduate from Delhi University with an AMP degree from Bond University, Australia, Anand joined ITC Hotels’ Management Training Program in 1978. He has also served as the Managing Director of ITC Hotels Limited during the period 2003-05. He is the Chairman of the CII National Tourism Committee as well as of the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality and was a past President of the Hotel Association of India.

What inspired you to enter the industry?

I had the good fortune of traveling and experiencing great hospitality during my impressionable years. Attention to detail, the philosophy of service, the joy of the sheer experience of being in an environment where utmost care is ensured to delight and create memorable experiences is what I found fascinating and what built an interest in the profession. My natural orientation was in the area of services and my academic pursuits and career choices were determined by it.

What advice would you offer to those entering the hotel industry today?

That nothing is more valued in our business like the human interface.

While technological advancements are essential to enable greater efficiency and superior services, nothing can replace the hotelier’s handshake, especially in a day and age when technology seems to have overtaken our lives.

What keeps you motivated?

That one comment of a guest who writes in to say that they’ve had a memorable experience.

That a manager or an associate at an ITC Hotel had gone beyond the call of duty to deliver an exceptional experience to someone, who took the effort to acknowledge it.

The ability to connect and touch the lives of so many people, be it guests, colleagues or partners you do business with.

Those are the moments that make working in a 24/7 industry rewarding.

What are the most exciting developments currently happening in the hospitality industry?

– Creation of unique experiences becoming a key differentiator in an otherwise crowded market place
– The premium that today’s global traveller attaches to sustainability, which gives hotel companies the opportunity to serve a larger purpose whilst still profitably doing business
– The opportunities to integrate technology with human interface without one substituting the other

What are the biggest ethical issues facing the global tourism industry in 2016?

Exploitative business practices in the context of the environment which includes the ecology and the culture of the destination would be the single biggest ethical issue confronting the tourism industry globally, today.

Misrepresentation of the offering, incorrect packaging and advertising, resulting in a breakdown of trust between the guest and the service provider.

What are the greatest challenges you face in your current position?

To develop and sustain a culture within the entire eco system that we operate in, aligned with our triple bottom (Economic, Social and Environmental) approach to business.

What qualities do you look for when you are hiring staff?

We recruit for attitude with a natural service orientation.

How have guests’ changing expectations impacted the implementation of technology in your properties?

The digital revolution has had a profound impact on hoteliering. Typical interactions between guests and hotels have seen a paradigm shift, transitioning from direct to increasing digital interactions. The process of customer acquisition is moving away from the traditional voice based channels to web based platforms such as Website with Meta search, Online Travel Agents (OTA’s), Global Distribution Systems (GDS’) etc. The influence of social media can be increasingly seen to have an influence on brand loyalty. Customer behavior inferred by big data analysis is leading to improved forecasting and customer specific promotions. Customer loyalty is driven by individualized promotions which bring greater benefits to customers. Customer service processes have moved from reactive to proactive modes. Technology plays an increasingly important role in anticipating the customer needs and facilitate prompt actions to their satisfaction and well as transferring control of the experience from the hotel to the customers.

ITC Hotels have been a pioneer in leveraging technology to satisfy ever-increasing customer and business demands. The key challenge of the industry is the fact that all components of the landscape are disparate in nature. Hence, one of the first tasks taken up by the organization was to setup a first of its kind IT Ecosystem in which no component was left as a standalone. There is a seamless flow of information between the systems, including a first of its kind integration between an advanced ERP solution and the Front of the House applications. It has an advanced Online Reservation System with interfaces to leading OTA’s and GDS’. Its new, state of the art website with social media and mobility integrations are designed for enhanced customer experience.

Mobility solutions at ITC Hotels offer more than just information on services and promotions. They are designed to give control to the customer in areas such as Room Controls, Way finding (using Geo Fence technology) etc., besides facilitating online earning and burning of loyalty points. Artificial intelligence (AI) is used for promotions. Augmented reality (AR) is being explored to provide digitally enhanced experience before the purchase of products and services.

Besides enhancing customer experiences, ITC Hotels has leveraged technology to empower its associates to provide world class services to its customers. This includes implementation of a Guest Experience Management system, which utilizes six sigma methodology for centralized tracking of guests’ requests. It has also implemented a, first of its kind, guest recognition system which recognizes the guests and his preference as he approaches a guest touch point. It uses an advanced Business Intelligence application, which in-turn gets data from information buckets in an advanced data-warehouse. Also, since it is a people centric industry, ITC Hotels has partnered with a world leading E-learning company to provide online training and certifications to its associates.

Technological innovations have had increasingly profound impacts on the Hospitality Industry for some time, taking customer expectation and requirements to increasingly higher levels. ITC Hotels is well geared up, to not only meet these challenges but enhance guest expectation with its innovative use of technology.

Why is sustainability important to you, and how have you incorporated these concerns/beliefs into your work?

ITC Limited is pillared on a triple bottom line approach to business, which focuses on Environmental, Social and Economic Dimensions. It is the only company in the world of comparable dimensions to have achieved and sustained the 3 major environmental distinctions of being Carbon Positive (11 years), Water Positive (14 years) and Solid Waste Recycling Positive (9 years). The organization’s belief is embodied in all its businesses. In the hotels business, it is of particular significance given that luxury hotels are perceived as indulgent.

I have been part of the organization for close to 4 decades now and it is natural for my beliefs to be aligned with the organizations. I firmly believe that sustainable practices are integral to luxury brands and that any brand claiming delivering luxury experiences must deploy responsible actions. It is the right thing to do.

My beliefs are reflected in ITC Hotels’ guiding premise of Responsible Luxury. We work as a team to constantly evolve indigenous luxury experiences for our guests that will allow us to create a positive footprint.

What sustainability issues require the most urgent attention when consideration is made for new developments?

a) Sustainable Site selection. b) Energy & Water efficiency / security. c) Responsible sourcing of materials – during construction & operation. d) Indoor environmental quality, health & wellness. e) Job creation & contribution to local economy. f) Construction & Operation based on – Life cycle environmental impact assessment.

Can you give us some examples of particularly good/forward thinking water or energy sustainability programs in the hospitality sector?

a) Usage of Off-site/On-site  Renewable energy – Wind , solar, Geothermal  b) Online water management c) Ultra low /Waterless laundry system d)Re Gen elevators/escalators e) Intelligent Room /meeting management system e)Responsible meeting & conferences ( ISO 20121) f) On-site gardens/Hydroponics  g) Virtual servers/desktops / blade computing.


ITC Hotels is one of India’s largest luxury hotel chains. It operates under four brands with more than 100 hotels in over 70 destinations in the country. With “Responsible Luxury” as its guiding premise, ITC’s Luxury Collection Hotels combine grandeur with intimacy to operate according to the highest principles of environmental stewardship.

The 11 Luxury Collection properties are: ITC Maurya in New Delhi, ITC Mughal in Agra, ITC Windsor and ITC Gardenia in Bengaluru, ITC Grand Central and ITC Maratha in Mumbai, ITC Grand Chola in Chennai, ITC Rajputana in Jaipur, ITC Kakatiya in Hyderabad, ITC Sonar in Kolkata and the newest property, ITC Grand Bharat in the New Delhi Capital Region.

You must be logged in to post a comment.
The importance of brand standards
In conversation with: Andreas Flaig, Executive VP Development Asia Pacific for Carlson Rezidor