Talking Business: Prashant Sadarangani, Hermitage Suites

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• What is your background?
"I have a  background in finance and economics. Prior to founding Hermitage Suites, I spent 10 years in New York as an Investment Banker, in the role of vice president for emerging markets at Merrill Lynch & Co. After returning to India in 2014, I decided to build out a portion of our family real estate business into a full fledged serviced apartment business model."

• Why did you launch Hermitage Suites?
"Having travelled extensively throughout India and interacting with both business and leisure travellers, I realised that the millennial traveller wants more than a traditional hotel, bed & breakfast, or what an Airbnb can offer. They want a brand that provides the comforts of their own home, along with personal, on-site service. In our extensive research within Pune city, we found that the growing market of millennial travellers have different needs and accommodation preferences. We have seen an increasing demand for shorter stays that are in direct competition with hotels, as travellers notice that serviced apartments can be a good, if not better, option. At Hermitage Suites, we have the unique ability to bridge the gap between an Airbnb and a hotel. Not only do you have a spacious living room, private garden/balconies and a kitchen space like a top AirBnb, but you also have the peace of mind - 24/7 security, and cleanliness that comes with a hotel."

• What is the product mix?
"Almost 60 per cent of our units are made up of three bedroom-apartments, a third are two-bedroom apartments, with the remaining falling into larger unit types. Our key priority is always our core market of long-term corporate stays and business travellers and as we build our brand, the appeal to the leisure market has been growing with families and shorter stay vacation clients."

• How do you drive demand?
"Technology has led to a radical change in the way our clients are choosing accommodation arrangements. Over the past one year, we have seen a 60 per cent increase in demand coming through OTAs. We continue to also drive a major portion of our demand through local estate agents/brokers on the ground, we also assist the largest relocation agencies and our network within the corporate community. We have a sizeable number of repeat leisure travellers for the short stays. And to cater to these audiences, we also offer a value added service of an on-site all day menu which lends another hotel-style convenience to our travellers."

• Is Hermitage Suites looking to expand, and if so how?
"Our focus right now is on the Pune market - specifically, within the prime areas of Koregaon Park and Kalyani Nagar where we have our own established properties. We have already done some preliminary work in Mumbai and Chennai, and hope to have a team on the ground there within 18 months to start the process of assessing and securing suitable sites for new Hermitage Suites properties."

• What is your advice for serviced apartment brands looking to do business in India?
"The branded serviced apartment sector is getting more crowded. As long as consumers can see the distinctions between brands, they will understand the price points and service levels that come with those, which helps them choose. The challenges within the Indian market continue to be linked with government permit approvals and, most importantly, the fragmentation between different states, with local styles forged by local demand and regulation."

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