December 10, 2018
What turns a run of the mill, resource hungry hotel into an Eco Hotel and why does it matter? Well, the clue lies partly in the question: an Eco Hotel isn’t resource hungry at all. Instead of gobbling away at all before it, an Eco Hotel sips and nibbles at its key resources: energy, water and raw materials. Eco Hotels are hard wired to save water and minimise on energy and waste material usage. But what about the second part of the question: why does any of this matter? Look no further than last week’s US National Climate Change Assessment, the work of 300 scientists and 13 Federal Agencies which concluded that “ Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilisation, primarily as a result of human activities…” Donald Trump may have dismissed the three-inch thick report out of hand as “largely based on the most extreme scenario”, but virtually nobody else is.
And for a President so intent on wrapping himself in a mantle of economic competence (and hotel owner to boot), the supreme irony is that key policies at the heart of a concerted response to adverse climate change are now proving to be drivers of commercial growth too. Eco Hotels are a case in point.
By definition, a non resource hungry hotel will also have reduced operating costs: it’s also likely to have reduced liabilities, will generally produce a higher return on relatively low risk investments and also deliver greater profitability across the board than its more resource hungry counterparts. Those are the hard conclusions arrived at in the seminal sector report for the subcontinent “Green Hotels and Sustainable Hotel Operations in India” and, perhaps inevitably, the markets haven’t been slow to see their potential either. Green hotels are more popular than ever on the subcontinent and if you need solid evidence of that, look no further than the explosive growth of Lemon Tree Hotels after the company’s successful IPO earlier this year.
Donald Trump could usefully brush up on his bedtime reading before leaving the West Wing to resume control of his own hotel chain …
The travelling public (business and leisure) is now increasingly aware of the importance of environmental compliance when it comes to choosing a hotel room, and the current surge in demand on the subcontinent is running well ahead of supply: not least because India’s tourist numbers have reached unprecedented levels in absolute terms as well.
But when it comes to meeting this burgeoning demand in practice, something much more is required than simply re-branding an existing hotel with “green credentials”. Key consumption variables have to be built in from the very beginning of the construction phase: making water saving devices and waste reduction part of the DNA of the hotel from the outset of the project. That’s why Eco Hotels are being built with solar tubing that reflects light across the hotel day and night, resulting in electricity bills that are roughly half those of a conventional hotel and its properties also has a single kitchen which dramatically reduces the carbon footprint. All those savings go straight to the bottom line.
Red Ribbon is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral hotel brand which offers “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India designed to take advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand meets all key sustainability criteria without compromising on either quality or standards of hospitality and is designed to cater for commercial and recreational travellers alike.
The boom in Indian tourism (both domestically and internationally) is currently playing a huge part in driving forward the subcontinent’s resurgent hotel and hospitality sector, and as the article says eco credentials are playing a bigger part than ever in determining where this burgeoning tide of travellers are deciding to stay. Recent surveys confirm so called “green credentials” are high up on the scale of priorities when they come to make their choice.
And as the article also says, meeting that demand is certainly not just a matter of a last minute rebranding. To deliver properly on green credentials, the hotel has to be built with eco compliance as part of its structure (from the ground up). Only by doing this will cost savings and sustainability criteria properly come together in the future operation of the hotel, delivering the range of benefits described in the article.
I’m proud that Eco Hotels have done just that from the very beginning of the project, and proud too of the part Red Ribbon has played in developing the brand and its ambitions in the succeeding years, spearheading an environmentally friendly response to India’ resurgent tourism demands.
December 10, 2018
KPMG reported last month that Indian Real Estate Sector has now entered a “revitalisation mode”, with aggregate growth projected to reach $ 650 Billion by 2025 and topping $850 Billion by 2028: the average yearly contribution of real estate to the Indian economy will more than double from its current 7% by 2025. And CBRE India are equally optimistic: in their own quarterly report, snappily titled “India Real Estate: Variance in Construction Costs”, they forecast 17 Million new jobs will be added to the sector and an additional 8.2 Billion square feet of space released by 2025. It all resonates well with the ambitions objectives of Prime Minister Modi’s Affordable Housing Programme, with Real Estate now set firmly in growth mode, and growing stronger every year. But there’s a dark shadow in the garden…
Each of these influential reports has highlighted a potential issue relating to construction costs on the subcontinent, capable of acting as a brake on growth and with no less than six major conurbations (Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi) causing particular concern. Perhaps predictably, Mumbai tops the list of areas where unit construction costs have spiralled over recent years and show little sign of slowing down despite the broadly stabilizing effect of GST legislation introduced by the Modi Administration which helped smooth out some of the worst supply and pricing differentials across the country.
The average cost of construction for a residential apartment in Mumbai is now Rs 3,125 per square foot, compared to the Rs 2,375 per square foot the same apartment will cost in Hyderabad. At one (macro) level the reason for all this is obvious: an increasingly urbanised population pushing up demand for units in the largest conurbations as part of a gradual drift away from the land, but the disparity in relative costs between conurbations is still striking. Inter market differentials of this kind are likely to be caused primarily to an uneven distribution of construction skills, with highly skilled workers drawn to areas of greater demand so increasing the unit cost of labour in specific areas of the subcontinent. Certainly we might expect other variables such as recent sharp rises in the wholesale price of steel to be more uniformly spread across the country.
In short, construction is becoming progressively more expensive in the very areas where more housing and commercial units are likely to be needed most…and that’s a real dilemma.
One answer is to make greater use of just in time delivery systems which are capable of dramatically reducing overall construction schedules: simple maths tells us that if an expensive worker is on site for a quarter of the normal building phase, costs will come down no matter how prohibitive the daily rate. And of course we have now grown used to the significance of just in time methodologies because of the prominence the issue has assumed as part of the current Brexit debate. Just as any significant inhibition on frictionless trade has potential to throw the UK economy into chaos after Brexit, so too the same frictionless technologies can help address systemic cost differentials across the Indian construction sector as well.
Modular Construction prefabricates all of the essential components of the building off site, everything from exterior walls, ventilation systems and internal wiring networks with the parts then arriving on location only when they’re needed: meaning field workers aren’t left waiting around (expensively) for the next phase of the project to get underway. Research has shown that through a combination of just in time delivery techniques and modular technology, otherwise complex units such as student accommodation blocks or hospitals can be erected on site in days rather than the months and sometimes years of conventional technologies. And an added advantage is that Modular Technology also reduces the potential for human error and snagging in the final building which can also be a major but hidden expense on any project.
Modulex Construction is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company, setting out to meet the challenges posed by India’s urban housing shortages in a practical and dynamic manner. The company is at the heart of a project established by Red Ribbon to harness the potential of India’s markets and delivering opportunities for investors. Because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows India and its markets better than Red Ribbon.
Prime Minister Modi has successfully appealed to the youthful and increasingly urbanised population that is currently driving India’s economic growth, not least through his Government’s re-energised Affordable Housing Programme the scale and scope of which has at times been breathtaking. So it should come as no surprise to learn that such an increasingly mobile population is also creating real estate hot spots (and cost differentials) through being attracted to a number of specific locations: by definition, a mobile population is difficult to keep still.
So as it seems to me the resulting cost differentials in construction across the subcontinent are likely to be a fact of life for some years to come yet. But that’s certainly not to diminish the problem, and cost disparities are a problem in India’s most expensive real estate markets, Mumbai in particular. They have real potential to distort the market.
In delivering a workable solution to that challenge most expert commentators now agree that Modular Construction is simply inescapable. No other technology offers the pace and scale of delivery needed to meet India’s housing needs and, as the article points out, it is the perfect corollary for just in time delivery systems. That’s why Red Ribbon was committed to Modulex Construction from the very beginning of the project and we remain committed to it today. I’m convinced it is not only a vital element in meeting market challenges but will also deliver on the unprecedented opportunities currently presented by the subcontinent’s burgeoning economy.
December 10, 2018
In the late 1980’s Esso commissioned a survey of its UK customers and found less than 7% travelled onto Mainland Europe with their cars. Why this reticence on the part of families clearly capable of making their way from Poole to Provence in an overcrowded Metro? And no, it’s not what you think: back in those days we hadn’t even thought of Brexit. As Esso found out, there was a more homely explanation: the Continent simply had far fewer automated pumps on its forecourts, so drivers were in danger of having to talk with an attendant and you know how the English are with languages. Better leave the car behind than risk the unseemly spectacle of sign language on the forecourt with a Frenchman.
And when you think about it, that’s all quite interesting. It’s the reason petrol stations have gradually come to look exactly the same all over the world: with the pumps all roughly in the same place, all self service and roughly the same kind of shop to pay in. It’s why you can now buy a burger (from a screen) in identical McDonalds outlets from Vienna to Vladivostok without once having to speak a word of German or Russian, and it’s why Esso long made sure you can buy your petrol the same way. There’s simply no need to leave the car at home anymore…so we don’t. We buy more petrol instead and everyone’s happy.
Economists call this phenomenon Brand Synergy and until recently India’s mid-market Hotel Sector was widely perceived to be more or less dead to its charms. A senior analyst on the subcontinent memorably (and anonymously) put it as follows: “…it was like an airline that uses a Boeing 747 for travel between Delhi and Mumbai, a Dakota for Kolkata-Delhi, and a Dornier for Bengaluru-Pune”. The poor old travellers never knew what to expect when they got there. Just like trying to buy petrol by word of mouth.
But not anymore…
The subcontinent’s mid-market Hotels including Ibis Styles, Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels have all made progress over the last decade in adopting a much more uniform approach to product profiling, achieving a consistency in specification that has now seen the mid-market secure nearly half the branded hotel sector: spurred on, no doubt, by an increasing number of private equity investors, none of whom are noted for being slow in recognising brand synergies when they see them.
All of which has made the mid-market uniquely well placed to take advantage of the surge in India’s middle class and increasingly urbanised travellers that has doubled airline occupancy rates over the last seven years. And with the average cost of building a mid-market room coming in at between Rs 3 Million and Rs 7 Million, breaking even within six years, it all makes bottom line economic sense too. Compare that with the larger branded chains where average construction cost for each room is Rs 15 Million and break even takes 15 years: more than twice as long. In the past 10 years alone the mid-market has expanded at more than 15% annually (according to Howarth HTL) and now accounts for 43% of total branded stock.
Having got away its successful IPO earlier this year (raising Rs 311 Crore from key investors), Lemon Tree Hotels last week took the trend a stage further by launching its brand overseas: signing a deal for the first of its hotels to open in Dubai next year. It will be the first mid-market hotel on the luxury studded Al Wasi Road, sitting literally in the shadow of the Burj Al Arab and Al Waleed Real Estate’s CEO didn’t miss the significance: “There was a need for a mid-market hotel of this calibre in this location and India has been the largest source of tourists into Dubai, as well as the UAE as a whole, for over three years now.” To save you Googling it up, the exact figure is 13%: India now accounts for a whopping 13% of total tourist numbers into the Emirates, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody given the subcontinent’s wealth and proximity as well as the population’s found mobility.
And now they’ll recognise at least one familiar, distinctively Indian hotel brand when they get there…Plus ca change.
Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid-market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travellers alike.
Working as part of the Eco Hotels Project has certainly taught me the importance of branding and product profiling in the hospitality sector, so I was pleased to read about the renewed emphasis on branding generally and unsurprised to see that it has now increased the mid-market share to just shy of 50%. Monolithic 2000 room hotel chains are no longer the first choice for travellers, especially given all the evidence suggests they are increasingly looking for accommodation that also complements their preference for sustainability.
And that’s important because the boom in Indian tourism (domestically and internationally) is playing a significant part in driving forward the subcontinent’s resurgent hotel and hospitality sector. It’s certainly an area that cannot be overlooked when seeking out the best investment opportunities over the coming years.
That’s why I’m very proud that Red Ribbon has played such a significant role in the creation and development of the Eco Hotels Project, spearheading the response to that demand in an environmentally friendly manner.
September 14, 2018
What exactly do we mean by Eco Hospitality? McDonalds has its own unique take on things, announcing plans to serve rice at tourist resorts on the subcontinent: rice with extruded cheese or spicy packet sauce. Take your pick. And PepsiCo India has a global sustainability agenda as well, planning to reduce the size of its Lays and Kurkure snacks in a valiant effort to “limit the company’s global footprint”. No sign yet of any plans to reduce the price of the smaller bags though. But beneath these slightly risible gestures there is a serious point. We have all witnessed the cruel after effects of the recent monsoons in Kerala, which have displaced hundreds of thousands and claimed the lives of hundreds more. And global warming is widely identified as a key factor behind the unusually heavy rainfalls.
So its welcome news that with or without extruded cheese on our rice and smaller bags of crisps, the subcontinent is already working at the forefront of global climate change policies, especially since the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords last year, and India certainly knows what Eco Hospitality means because Eco Tourism is now an integral part of its economy.
Take one small example: operating at the epicentre of this month’s flooding in Kerala, the Tourism Department announced an initiative last month which will literally light up tourist spots by installing solar powered street units, including along the entire length of the beautiful Kovalam Beach where LED lighting systems link the seashore to local thoroughfares. The solar units are also hooked up to the Internet through a mobile app that will monitor power usage and report in if units are damaged or tampered with. It all costs Rs 31 Lakh but will save the State much more in electricity costs and, much more importantly, will help preserve the State’s precious environment for the future. There are also plans to extend the project to Varkala and Akkulam.
It might seem slight and insignificant given the scale of the recent disaster, but when Kerala recovers (as it will), it is one step further forward towards addressing the environmental issues that contributed to last week’s events. And on any basis it’s a lot better than extruded cheese and a bag of crisps.
Another good example of an Indian business looking to work in harmony with its environment is Lemon Tree Hotels where every hotel in its chain on the subcontinent will now adopt a stray dog from the local area and give it a home in the lobby. As history tells us, small steps can make a difference if we take them together. And as Eco Hotels has also demonstrated with its innovative “green hospitality” brand, the concept doesn’t just make environmental sense: it makes good commercial sense too, with lower operating and capital costs factoring into a leaner business model. Lemon Tree’s shares jumped 2% in a single day on 17th August, so the model is obviously working.
Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which is designed to build and expand on economies provided by the platform in conjunction with explosive growth in the Indian tourism sector (and mid market hotels in particular). The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and will cater for commercial and recreational travelers alike.
I think we were all shocked to witness the scale of the devastation that has unfolded in Kerala this month, and our best wishes and sympathies go out to all of those who have been so severely affected. But it is right too that we try to understand the reasons behind this, the worst monsoon flooding in India for more than a hundred years and its difficult to resist expert suggestions that global warming and avoidable harm to the environment could well be a major cause. So it is obviously important that we should try to do something about those long-term trends as well.
I am proud that India is working at the cutting edge of climate change policies across the globe and, in however small a way, those policies will I am sure help to make Kerala a safer and more secure, even more beautiful place to live in the future. Eco hospitality is a vital part of that equation for an area which is so heavily dependant on international and domestic tourism. As the article says, small steps taken together can change the world.
August 16, 2018
The World Travel and Tourism Council predicted this month that within the next decade India will be the fourth largest tourism economy worldwide, snapping at the heels of China, the United States and Germany. The Report makes a particularly interesting finding that this trend is not just driven by increasing numbers of international business and tourist travelers: significant growth is being driven from within the subcontinent itself, fueled by India’s rapidly expanding middle class and an increasingly technology literate young population who are quicker than ever to reach for their smartphones to book a holiday. Domestic travel is now the real catalyst for change in a burgeoning hospitality sector with a striking 90% of travelers being Indian Nationals.
No surprise then that In May of this year domestic airlines on the subcontinent reported a 16.53% growth in passenger numbers compared to the same month in 2017, with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation confirming that Indian carriers had transited no less than 11.9 million passengers during that single month. Across the board scheduled carriers flew to an impressive 80% occupancy with Spicejet leading the way at a 94.8% load factor.
These are hugely significant trends for the future of India’s economy, with the hospitality sector having already accounted for more than $230 Billion of the subcontinent’s GDP in 2017 (up from $209 Billion the previous year) and no suggestion that current unprecedented rates of growth in the sector are likely to slow anytime soon.
This pattern of exponential growth shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone: India has 36 world heritage sites, 103 National Parks (with the Taj Mahal thrown in for good measure) as well as Goa’s beaches, the foothills of the Himalayas and an astonishing breadth of wildlife from tigers and elephants to snow leopards. All of that is bound to attract tourists in large numbers, but such rapid tourist growth can of course bring its own problems, as anyone struggling through St Mark’s Square in mid August can testify. Growth of the wrong kind can threaten the fragile ecostructure of the very locations proving to be so popular with tourists, to such an extent that some of India’s tiger reserves no longer have any tigers to see.
More than 30,000 plastic bottles are left behind each summer by tourists in the high altitude Himalayan Ladakh desert of Jammu and Kashmir and on Mount Everest itself eight to ten tons of waste are left behind on the mountain every year: everything from empty oxygen bottles to rucksacks, tents and discarded climbing equipment.
So there is a balance to be struck: recognising the importance the hospitality sector now has for the subcontinent’s economy, but at the same time striving to support unprecedented growth within the sector in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of India’s precious ecosystem. This is the principal reason for the success of Eco Hospitality as a key driver of India’s mid market hospitality sector: not just because it is the only model striving to get this critical balance right, but because the majority of those travelling on the subcontinent now recognise the risks greater tourist numbers are posing to the natural habitat and are actively seeking out accommodation that supports its preservation.
Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which is intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travelers alike.
No surprise indeed that tourists are flocking in unprecedented numbers to the natural beauties and historic splendorous of the subcontinent, but it is still striking to learn just how significant a part internal tourism is playing in buoying up India’s resurgent hotel and hospitality sector. It’s certainly an area which can’t be overlooked in seeking out the best investment opportunities over the coming years and that’s why I’m proud Red Ribbon has played such a significant role in the creation and deployment of the Eco Hotels Project across the subcontinent.
As the article points out, tourists and business travelers alike are looking increasingly for hotel accommodation that is compliant with requirements of eco sustainability, and as the world’s first carbon neutral hotel brand, Eco Hotels are spearheading the need to meet that demand. It not only makes good sense for the environment, it makes good business sense too.
March 13, 2017
Here’s a little conundrum.
Suppose I want to pay my tailor £500 (guineas if he is Saville Row); and I write him a cheque and post it to him before learning that the postbox was forcibly opened by a thief and the contents of the box stolen; I don’t want to take any chances, of course, so I stop the cheque and I go to the tailor in person, paying him his pounds (or guineas) in cash. And this is the question: with the cheque now stolen and stopped, but still in circulation, who actually loses out because I won’t honour my promise to pay assuming the cheque is eventually presented to my bank? Not me of course; and certainly not the tailor (who has been paid), but quite possibly the thief (although, presumably, he won’t be in any position to complain).
And you might think that would all be simple enough, but when the same situation is translated into macroeconomic terms it has been causing no end of heartburn for economists.
Because on 8th November last year, the Indian Government removed from circulation two denominations of banknotes that together made up 86% of all of the rupees previously in circulation; it is a policy known as Demonetisation. And to make the policy work, the Central Reserve Bank of India was required to dishonor its promise to make payment on the notes that had been withdrawn from circulation. Just like I might stop the cheque to my tailor.
In a slightly arch, if a rather unworldy The Economist Magazine last month portrayed this decision by the Central Bank of India, the decision to dishonor the withdrawn notes as little short of a scandalous breach of promise; having issued the notes in the first place, the Central Bank should honor them and its reputation would be seriously harmed if it failed to do so.
But why should that be the case? The old (withdrawn) notes are not simply being liquidated into the ether by demonetization; holders of withdrawn currency were given until 30th December last year to exchange their holdings of old notes for new, higher denomination currency and the Central Bank will certainly be honouring it’s promise to pay on those notes. And, of course, nobody spoke of the Bank of England defaulting on its promise to meet a call on pre-decimal (withdrawn) currency when new, decimal notes were issued in the United Kingdom in 1971; and nobody accused the Bundesbank of reneging on its payment commitment when Deutschmarks were withdrawn and exchanged for Euros in 2002; not least because neither it nor the Bank of England was doing anything of the kind and neither, for that matter, is the Central Reserve Bank in India.
So why should India be any different? It all sounds more than a little parochial.
After all, ask yourself who loses by demonetization. Only the black economy (the exact analogue of the thief who steals my tailor’s cheque); only those, in short, who are holding a stock of withdrawn denomination currency, which they are unable to take to a bank to exchange because they cannot or will not explain how they got it in the first place; and that, of course, is precisely what demonetisation is designed to achieve: to take the black market economy in India by the throat, stop it in its tracks and pave the way for a more invigorated, open economy.
In announcing demonetisation last November, Prime Minister Modi explained that a key objective of the policy was to combat corruption and to render more accountable to the Indian Exchequer what was perceived to be a hidden stockpile of untaxed cash. Who exactly is going to disagree with that? Although, oddly, the latest reports suggest that some 15 trillion rupees of the 15.4 trillion taken out of circulation are now accounted for. So perhaps the black market in India wasn’t quite as pervasive as had previously been thought, and that has to be a good thing too.
But aside from these essentially negative policy objectives, there are also at least three beneficial effects of demonetisation:
So it may, on balance, be wise to treat the naysayers of India’s demonetisation policy with more than a little healthy skepticism. And especially so in the light of last year’s fourth quarter figures for economic growth on the subcontinent which were released last month and which recorded a healthy 7% growth in GDP; and that, we should bear in mind, is not only in line with annual growth figures for the Indian economy for the period down to the fourth quarter, but it also coincides precisely with the period when the demonetisation program was operating at its fullest pitch. Far from hurting the Indian economy, it seems to have helped it.
So who loses?
Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:
Demonetisation has certainly proved to be one of the most controversial political programs of recent years, and especially so as it involves one of the World’s leading Economies; but in my opinion, this has been both a brave and a necessary policy for the Indian Government to embark on. As the article points out, the time has come for India to take what remains of its black money economy by the throat, and to lay a solid and sure basis for the wider economy on the subcontinent going forward.
Prime Minister Modi’s Government is to be commended for accepting that challenge. India can only be stronger for it and this is certainly not the time for half-measures or a lack of resolution. India is now the fifth biggest economy in the world and the fastest growing large economy globally. It is time for it to take its place at the economic top table and Demonetisation has been a necessary part of that process.
And far from acting as a fetter on growth, I am very pleased to see that in the fourth quarter of last year India’s GDP growth figures were as strong as the first three-quarters of the year had been. Demonetisation certainly seems to have acted as a stimulus for growth, rather than the fetter the naysayers would have had us believe.
March 02, 2017
William Prescott, the chief impact investment officer of Red Ribbon Fund Management Ltd, walks Proactive’s Andrew Scott through the aims of what is termed “mainstream impact investment”.
“In many ways our objectives are the same as other fund managers. Our aim is to create wealth for our clients at competitive rates, however our approach differs in as much as we are choosing to invest in well governed, profitable businesses that create value for society but reduce the environmental impact of doing so.”