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9-511-039
REV: APRIL 7, 2011

ROHIT DESHPANDÉ
MONA SINHA

Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces
December 5, 2008: Raymond Bickson, MD and CEO of Indian Hotels Corporation Limited (IHCL) the parent company of Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces (THRP) stared pensively at the Arabian Sea from his Mumbai office. THRP, a 107 year old hospitality brand, was positioned as India’s largest and one of South Asia’s finest hotel chains with a range of properties for both the business and vacation travel markets. Ten days later, three of THRP’s prime properties would open at Goa, Bengaluru (erstwhile Bangalore), and the Maldives. All three had been intended for launch with great fanfare as THRP’s new premium (Upper Upscale) brand, ‘Vivanta by Taj’. Suddenly these properties found themselves nameless.

A terror attack nine days ago at several locations in Mumbai, including at their flagship property, Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, had left the hotel as well as the city and country, struggling to restore their image. Although affected financially by the global recession, THRP nonetheless had to go all out in restoring brand and consumer confidence. However, Bickson paused before pulling the plug and halting all launch activities of their new brand. He glanced at Ajoy Misra, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, “Are we doing the right thing by indefinitely postponing the launch of ‘Vivanta by Taj’ at the last minute?”

Bickson was no longer sure of when and if the brand could be launched. Meanwhile, they needed to immediately decide whether they should name these three properties according to their existing nomenclature for now and rename them again when ‘Vivanta by Taj’ was launched? Or should he opt for a hotel level launch and open the three properties under the new name, without a formal brand launch? Meanwhile, Misra said:

This evening I have to meet the partner/director of ‘Taj President’. In 1995, as General Manager of ‘The President’ [hotel], I had persuaded our partners to let us re-name the property as ‘Taj President’ (erstwhile President Hotel) and raise standards. Just months ago, I went back to the owner’s son to persuade them to agree to be named ‘Vivanta by Taj’ and relook at the service standards to realign it to the new Vivanta brand standards. Now with the launch of ‘Vivanta by Taj’ in limbo, he, like all the ‘to-be-converted’ property owners, are jittery about whether and when the brand will be launched and what will be the fate of their properties until then.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Professor Rohit Deshpandé and India Research Center Researcher Mona Sinha prepared this case. Thanks to Research Coordinator Rachna Chawla for her assistance. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2010, 2011 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-5457685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to www.hbsp.harvard.edu/educators. This publication may not be digitized, photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.

511-039

Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces

India
With a population of over a billion, and a booming economy post-liberalization, India was poised to rise from the twelfth to the fifth largest consumer economy by 2025. By then 41% of its population was expected to be middle class and the affluent classa was also projected to increase to 24 million.1 Although until 2007, ‘mass’ marketers (e.g., LG and Nokia) had been more successful than ‘class’ marketers (e.g., Benetton and Mercedes) in India,2 the luxury market was expected to increase substantially from its current share of less than 2% of total...
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