India's Tata Group eyes cities in the Gulf, Egypt and Turkey for Taj expansion: Sunil Sinha

In addition to Dubai and cities in Saudi Arabia, the Indian conglomerate is also considering Abu Dhabi, Doha, Manama, Cairo and Istanbul for new hotels

  
Sunil Sinha TATA Group resident director, MENA.

Sunil Sinha TATA Group resident director, MENA.

TATA Group / Handout via Zawya

The next two years will see five Taj hotels operating across the region, and the Tata Group has plans to expand its hospitality brand into more MENA cities still.

The Taj chain of hotels is one of the Tata Group’s 17 companies, which are both Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE) listed. Sunil Sinha, the group’s resident director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the region is of strategic importance to the conglomerate due to its proximity to India and the high proportion of South Asian expats. 

Taj Exotica, due to open on The Palm in late 2021 or early 2022, will raise the number of the Group’s operational hotels in Dubai to three. The construction tender for a fourth in the Deira Creek area will be issued in 2022, and a fifth is planned for Makkah, Saudi Arabia, due to open in 2023 or 2024.  The cities of Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah, Daman, Doha, Manama, Cairo, and Istanbul are also possible sites for new Taj hotels, said Sinha.

ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION

“We are continuously looking at other key gateway cities,” Sinha told Zawya in an interview. He highlighted the appeal of Saudi Arabia due to its economic diversification efforts through its Vision 2030 goals, adding that the Taj brand has the potential to “play a big role in development programmes in this part of the region.” 

“We especially feel with a very heavy focus on economic diversification and a focus on tourism and development, like the NEOM project [and] the Qiddiya project, there are a lot of opportunities that will come our way, and we want to be a partner in this programme.”

“Taj is our pride,” he added. “Taj is our [oldest] business in the Tata Group, and it delivers unmatched experience and lasting memories for guests around the world, with a service culture that has been nourished over 116 years and practised across 50 global destinations. We are very well placed to make use of this opportunity.”

He continued: “There are a number of projects in process; we have not put any limit. We would like to see a Taj flag in each of these gateway cities; that is the first goal that we have. We feel we are a bit late, and therefore we don’t have luxury of taking too much time.”

COVID-19 IMPACT

According to Sinha, the Tata Group has been impacted by COVID-19 just as many other global businesses have, but it is also adapting and finding new ventures as the world recovers.

One such new venture, he said, is TataMD Check, a fast-turnaround COVID-19 testing solution that produces results in two to four hours. With more development, it could churn out results in as short a time as one hour.   

“We have already launched this product in India, especially in the airports. We are very close to bringing this product to the Middle East, especially to Dubai, […] we want to bring an innovative solution to help the event organisers to provide a COVID solution to people who will be visiting,” he said.

Another new venture, TataMD Secure, is an end-to-end COVID-19 risk management system that has the potential to improve safety at large events and allow employers to bring workforces back to the workplace, he said.

FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES

Commenting on Tata’s future in the Middle East, Sinha cited emerging opportunities in telecoms and communications in particular, with economic diversification and the pandemic opening up “bigger gates” for the company to explore. “Emerging technologies like blockchain, AI, IoT, cloud mobility and other industry 4.0 solutions will play a very, big role in economic diversification.”

He added: “We believe that Tata Consulting Services and Tata Communications are very, very well placed to support our customers in this region in their digital transformation journey. This is going to be a big play, and this opens huge opportunities for Tata Group.”

Sinha said that there are opportunities in aerospace too, as Tata is amongst the largest private players in India’s aerospace and defence and has played a major role in helping the region become self-sufficient in these areas. 

Describing Dubai Expo 2020 as a marquee event and the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region, Sinha said Tata will fully participate and contribute to it. “We also believe that Expo 2020 will unlock opportunities in this region, especially in this country, and provide a tailwind to many businesses seeing some sort of plateauing in the last few years,” he said.

Voltas, Tata’s mechanical engineering plumbing (MEP) provider, developed the Expo 2020 CoEx (Conference and Exhibition Centre), a 148,000 square metre space, and Tata Steel has provided steel solutions to 50 expo pavilions.

“Taj Dubai is going to be the partner for the India pavilion, and we hope to see a very nice fine-dining restaurant from Taj at Expo 2020. We will continue to explore opportunities for all our businesses to be part of Expo 2020,” he said.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Seban Scaria)

(imogen.lillywhite@refinitiv.com)

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