‘We decided to create a brand that is exclusively Kashmiri’

They had an ambition to give Kashmir a luxury brand in hospitality sector, and they did it. Umer Tramboo, Director Khyber Group, shares his experiences in business and challenges they faced in the making of one of world’s elite group of luxury hotels at Gulmarg, with GK Business Correspondent Mukeet Akmali. Excerpts

What made Khyber group to enter into hospitality sector, when it was doing well in other sectors?
 Well, in Kashmir there are few sectors like Handicraft, Tourism, Power and Agriculture in which there is scope for growth, and tourism is one among them.

Tell us something about Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa?
 Well the Khyber group had planned to give a luxury brand in hospitality sector to Kashmir. The Valley had not its own luxury brand in the hospitality sector and in view of that we planned Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa. Instead of tying up with any brand from outside the state, we decided to create a brand that is exclusively Kashmiri. The construction for the resort was started in 2007. But in Gulmarg you cannot do the construction work throughout the year.  So we had to stop the work during winter months and it took us about 30 months to complete all the process. We had roped in nine consultants including engineering consultants, interior designers, etc. to take care of each and every aspect of the construction and other things. It was one of our ambitious projects for which we had taken utmost care in each and every aspect of it. KHRAS has 80 rooms, four luxury cottages and one Presidential Cottage.  Each room features a separate dressing area, leading to a plush bathroom with a sunken tub where large picture windows offer brilliant views. In the luxury cottages, the single and double bedrooms have covered walkways leading to intimate, private hideaways. The Presidential Cottage is 4227 sq ft grand suite comprising of a large master bedroom, a separate swimming pool, two additional bedrooms each with a luxurious bathroom, a private heated plunge pool with a Jacuzzi, a living room, dining room, a full kitchen and a spacious private garden. The resort has multiple restaurants – the Cloves, a terrace restaurant called The Nouf, the tea lounge, Chaikash Spa, banquet halls, conference enclosures, gymnasium, children belt fitted with the modern play-things, an indoor swimming pool, a theatre of 25 seats and Calabash, the cigar and Sheesha room. The sprawling resort includes the beautifully landscaped Paradeez gardens and an amphitheatre; retail outlets, ski shop and more than 10,000 sq ft of meeting, banquet and event space.

What special measures you have made to protect the environment of the place?
 For environmental safety we have commissioned sewerage treatment plant at the resort which only few hotels in the state are equipped with. Besides having its own affluent treatment plant, we have also created a system that will utilize all the used water to irrigate the vegetation in the premises. It has already started plantations in the entire premises to integrate it with the ecology of the place.  We have not raised a fence so that nature is not intervened.

You chose Gulmarg for your hotel. Any special reason?
 We did survey of all the tourist destinations in Kashmir valley. Pahalgam has good number of hotels as compared to Gulmarg which has only 800 rooms to accommodate tourists and we thought it is better to have a resort at Gulmarg . I believe that Gulmarg still has potential for many hotels and resorts. If you add our 80 rooms that means there are only 880 rooms. There is great scope for few more hotels to accommodate the huge influx of tourists that visit the ski resort of Gulmarg.

How has been the response so far?
 Response is tremendous. We are sold out till January 5. Also we have joined the elite group of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which is an unrivalled selection of some of the world’s finest small independent hotels comprising of 520 hotels in more than 70 countries. A team of SLH has recently visited our resort. They were impressed with our property and have now decided to include our resort in their group which is great achievement for us keeping in mind that we have just opened our resort.  They would promote our resort and it is great thing because they only promote world class resorts and hotels. In India they are promoting only few hotels because their standard is very high and now our resort will be one among them.

What are your future plans in hospitality sector?
 We are going to focus on untapped tourist destinations like Kokernag, Arabal and other places where there is need of infrastructure. There is lot of potential in tourism sector and we need to fully explore it as it can provide employment the many people and also help boost the economy of the state.

Kashmir faces severe unemployment. Many believe private sector alone can tackle this problem. What is your take?
 It is true that private sector can help long way to solve the problem of unemployment but for that purpose government needs to infuse confidence in private sector and make investment friendly rules and laws.  We at Khyber group are providing livelihood to thousands of families and if more private groups come up and set up their operations more and more youth will get employed in the private sector. In KHRAS we have recruited 200 employees and 80 percent of them are local.

You are also running a hospital. What do you think about the health systems in the Valley?
 Yes, we are in health sector. We are running our hospital on no profit no gain basis and it is the initiative of Khyber group towards the people of Kashmir and part of our corporate social responsibility.  Regarding the standard of health care, we need to improve.

Tell us something about yourself?                           
 Umer Tramboo is nobody. It is about Khyber group.  It is Tramboo family which is behind KHRAS. I am just a member of the group. I have done my Masters Degree in Business Administration from Bond University, Australia and after finishing my studies I joined my family business.

Anything you wish to tell the young entrepreneurs of Kashmir?
 Work with honesty and dedication, you will achieve your target. There is no substitute to honesty and dedication that will help you. You should have passion for what you are doing. If you don’t have the passion you won’t be able to achieve success.

Local tourism players are praising your group for coming up with the state-of-art resort that can help them woo high-end tourists to this part. What is your take on it?
 They (travel operators) are the stakeholders. We will give first preference to local tour and travel operators. Even the Chief Minister believes that with a better facility available at Gulmarg, we will be in a position to prolong the stay of the high end tourists. Till recently, Gulmarg was a day picnic destination with guests being driven for a Gondola ride and then encouraged to return to Srinagar.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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