Expert Guide: Renu Basu, Senior Vice President – Global Sales and Marketing, IHCL
With an increasing number of millennial couples saying ‘I do’ the Indian wedding industry has been witnessing some significant shifts. In this dynamic landscape, however, Taj remains to be a constant that has managed to win over even its youngest patrons for whom a wedding at one of their hotels is a dream come true. In a conversation with us, Renu Basu, Senior Vice President – Global Sales and Marketing, IHCL shares what it takes to occupy the position of market leaders even in changing times.
What makes weddings at Taj timeless in the truest sense?
“At Taj Hotels, weddings are an important part of our DNA. We are known for hosting unforgettable weddings as the leaders and pioneers of the Indian hospitality industry for decades. We have seen generations from the same family, get married at our hotels and we have played host to celebrations of not only some of the biggest names in the country but also celebrities of international acclaim. What allows celebrations hosted at our hotels to surpass time is our expertise in luxury and the propensity to cater to these milestone occasions in ways that go beyond the boundaries of a fixed format. Weddings at Taj, SeleQtions and Vivanta Hotels don’t age with time, they only add to the family’s heritage and cherished history.”
Over generations, Taj has always managed to remain a preferred chain for hosting once-in-a-lifetime celebrations. Can you shed light on the hotels’ offerings that are crafted to win over millennial couples?
“With millennial couples, there is no one-size-fits-all formula. This is a generation that is undaunted by the prospect of embracing new ideas and offers their own spin to the day that is meant to celebrate their love. They’re on a quest for experiences that are authentic and revelries that resonate with their beliefs at a deeper level. Therefore, to have any kind of set offering designed for them would be quite an antithesis to their expectations. Instead, what we focus on is extending and planning experiences that are deeply personal to our couples. Our associates strive to build an individual connect with them in order to gauge their expectations and understand their dreams about the different aspects of the wedding.
All our touch points, right from marketing and sales, to talented chefs, are involved in the decision-making process. They are constantly detecting and interpreting even the most subtle signs of their preferences to curate a day that defines them. Thus, I’d say that our offering to the millennials is impeccable relationships as well as legendary services with a strong focus on personalization and Taj’s hallmark of quality.”
Can you talk about some of the most popular weddings theme/concepts/trends amongst this generation and the ways in which it has been made possible at Taj?
“We have our finger on the pulse of the market with an unbridled passion to cater to every requisite. One of the significant trends that the last decade has witnessed is the rise in the popularity of destination weddings. Celebrations such as these present a wide scope of creating tailor-made festivities that inspire us to create an imaginative fairytale each time for our couples. We have our palaces, our beaches, our resorts and, of course, our iconic city hotels. Be it an enchanted forest themed wedding in the middle of a rainforest at Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa, Coorg, a celebration by the shore at the beachside property of Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Goa or festivities laced with an arresting cultural quality at Pratap Mahal, Ajmer, myriad themes come alive at our hotels to narrate stories that generations ahead will listen to.
Another phenomenon that has become apparent lately is the influence of Western-style ceremonies, however, rituals and ceremonies are not where the nuptials end today. Pre-wedding moments like proposals, bachelor trips, pre-wedding photoshoots & post-wedding celebrations are increasingly becoming a norm. At our properties, we are not only happy to welcome these requests but also eager to make our guests’ experiences absolutely unforgettable.”
Taj has its properties spread across the globe with each hotel offering a distinctive aesthetic. Tell us about the kinds of spaces that couples can discover with your brand.
“Our reach across the globe makes it possible for us to extend to our guests one-of-kind experiences and moods while effortlessly weaving in cultural elements unique to the destination they choose. Royal weddings will find felicitous ambiance at properties such as Rambagh Palace, Jaipur; Jai Mahal Palace, Jaipur; Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad; Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur; Umaid Bhawan Palace, Udaipur and so on. Beachside ceremonies, on the other hand, will discover the most captivating setting at Cidade de Goa. For duos who prefer festivities that explore modern concepts and aesthetics, we have a number of urban sanctuaries. Vivanta Surajkund, NCR as well as Taj West End, Bengaluru have become a preferred choice for city weddings that call for stunning outdoor venues. The Taj Mahal Palace and Taj Lands End in Mumbai, too, are some of our most sought after city hotels.
Taj has a strong legacy of hosting unforgettable celebrations and for an occasion as momentous as a wedding, NRIs settled across the globe come calling for their roots in India. However, besides beaches resorts, heritage hotels, and town retreats, we have hotels internationally for those looking for a more exotic celebration. Be it The Pierre, a Taj Hotel, New York with its undeniable old-world charm, Taj Dubai with its Middle-Eastern flavor or the sophistication of our hotels in London, the choices are truly endless.”
What is it about the way that this generation looks at weddings that really sticks out to you?
“The millennials want to write their own rules without abandoning traditions. They may want an extravaganza but they certainly don’t want to miss out on their favorite comfort food at the event. We’ve had elaborate celebrations that have served only one dish that the couple loves to binge on, at wee hours during the after party following the wedding because it was their all-time favorite; similarly, we’ve also had nuptials that follow every ritual to a T, but swap the conventional, extensive guest list with an intimate gathering that comprises of only with the couple’s nearest and dearest. Brides today are opting for a baaraat of their own, couples are ditching the heavy buffets for wellness menus and some are even choosing to begin their new chapter through ceremonies that have a heavy cultural cross-influence. This generation knows how to strike a balance between contrasts and unite unique concepts. I would say this is something that is hard to ignore.”
Could you highlight the difference in the way Taj approaches weddings as opposed to a corporate event even if the two are similar in scale?
“Functionality remains the key driving factor while curating a corporate event; however, when we’re putting together a wedding, building a personal relationship with our customers becomes a prime area of focus. Nuptials are a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, with which both, the couple as well their families share a deep emotional connect, thus giving every member a say in the final decision. To truly understand their ideas and contribute effectively to their vision it becomes imperative for us to build a strong bond with them and win their trust and confidence. Not only do we guide our couples on the way forward but, more often than not, become involved even in the decision-making process. A family affair, we believe, cannot be treated with the sanctity that it deserves without us become an extended family to our customers; and no matter how intimate or extravagant such affairs are, our efforts are always channeled towards making each of them the most beguiling manifestations of our guests’ dreams.
That said, the distinction doesn’t only lie in our approach towards these two kinds of events but also in the way guests choose venues for each. A couple’s choice of their wedding venue, in India, is often influenced by recommendations of close friends and family members since this is such a momentous day for them. For us, therefore, our long-standing tradition of hosting the most exceptional weddings becomes a matter for great honor.”
What do timeless weddings mean to you?
“I would like to answer this question by quoting Carl W. Buehner who stated ‘They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ In my opinion, this thought captures the essence of a truly timeless wedding. The thing that will always remain etched in the memories of the couple and their guests, it is the feeling of warmth in Taj’s impeccable hospitality and personalized services. It is occasions that celebrate bonds of love that are unaffected by the passage of time and are cherished whenever one looks back.”