Current policies are loaded against Indian manufacturers

For Ajay Khanna, the newly elected President of Hotel & Restaurant Equipment Manufacturers’ Association of India (HOTREMAI), the priorities are set. These include strengthening of membership base of the association, bringing regional associations in the South, South East Asia on one platform, seeking favourable policies for Indian manufacturers to take on competition from import goods, etc. In a freewheeling interaction, Khanna opens his mind to P Krishna Kumar.

Q. The hotel industry in India is going through testing times for the past few years.  How has this  impacted the hospitality suppliers?
A. The hotel industry is indeed under great stress in the country.  The reasons are both global as well specific to India.  At a socio-political level, India’s image as a tourism destination has received a beating in the last few years. Hotels have been going empty or operating with occupancy levels which was below sustainable levels. Poor business sentiments has affected new projects as well as renovations and procurements. Hotel projects that used to open in 3 years are now opening in 5 years, renovations have extended from 5 to 7years; procurement  budgets have reduced, resulting in hotels going in for lower quality products. Thus, there has been a decline in total turnover of equipment manufacturers and suppliers to the tune of 30 to 40%.

Q. When do you think the much touted ‘Ache din’ will really happen for businesses in India?
A. I am an incorrigible optimist, and extremely positive about India’s resilience. What we need here is better environment.  That is what the Prime Minister is also trying to deliver. Things will definitely look up in the next five to seven years.

Q. As the President of HOTREMAI, what are your priorities? What are your plans in terms of broadening the membership base of the Association?
A. Although by the name, we sound like association of equipment manufacturers for the hotel and restaurant industry, the membership includes traders, importers, and consultants who provide support services to the hospitality industry.   Curently, there are 400 members. My endeavour is to double the membership over the next two years.  

The current market scenario is heavily  loaded against Indian manufacturers.  We want the government to intervene and create policies to create a level playing field for Indian equipments vis-Ă -vis imports. We are pursuing these issues vigorously with the government.  

In order to expose the Indian industry to the regional markets as well as help them find markets outside India, the Association would strive to bring together hospitality equipment manufacturers associations in South, South East Asia and Middle East markets in a common platform by way of a convention.  This, we feel, would help Indian manufacturers and traders to understand the trends in other markets and invest in R&D with an objective to expand their business to newer markets. 

Q. With procurement evolving into  e-procurement, how is the association enabling members to be in sync with the changing times?
A. In the hospitality industry, e-procurement has not picked up steam yet.. Online procurement is conducive to products with  known and defined specifications.However, specifications vary from hotel to hotel and from one brand to the other. Therefore, the conventional systems of displaying products, sending brochures, etc. will continue for some time.

Q. Your membership is largely confined to cities like Delhi and Mumbai.  What are your plans to grow your base in the regions and pan-India?
A. Yes, 60 to 70% of our members are from these two metro cities.  If you add Chennai to it, it becomes almost 85%. Fact is, a large chunk of equipment manufacturers, traders, etc. have their headquarters in these cities. South, North, and West are well represented in our association. East and Central India has never been a strong supply base for the hospitality industry.  

Q. What has been your involvement in improving the quality of the annual  AAHAR International Food & Hospitality Fair. fair?
A. HOTREMAI has been an active member in the AAHAR board for the last 15 years.  We have been voicing our opinions since then to improve the quality of the fair.  AAHAR has grown from a two-hall exhibition to almost 12-hall exhibition. The exhibition was largely a food exhibition in the initial years.  The share of equipment industry was hardly 30%, remaining 70% being food. Today, it is the otherway round, because of our serious involvement.


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