Introducing Andaz Delhi. A fresh modern day interpretation and understanding of luxury and lifestyle for today’s contemporary traveller. A formidable product amongst a new breed of hotels that are redefining luxury, in their own individual paradigm. Hyatt has done it their way, as being best in style, features, culinary and yet informal, fluid and friendly. Imagine a hotel that doesn’t believe in uniforms and that is Andaz for you!
The hotel’s passionate and hands-on General Manager, Heddo Siebs takes TourismFirst on a personally guided tour of his property. A GM who is fascinated by the city and its culture makes for an inspiring, an enthusiastic and a perfect fit for a hotel that celebrates Delhi and its many nuances.
Andaz is categorized as a lifestyle brand. What do you mean by lifestyle?
We are a sophisticated lifestyle brand. From a look and feel perspective, we are young, fresh, stimulating and different. But when it comes to the interaction we still manage to have the required respect and to make you feel respected. But it is not that we are doing a butler service. Our approach is not too formal but it also not too causal. That’s the ideal secret recipe, to be friendly but not be friends.
When you talk of Andaz, it is your personal style or character. The ambience is fluid, modern and contemporary in feel. You will see no doors here, it is a barrier free environment. We believe we can make a difference not only in the hardware but also in the software, when it comes to the service. The best service you do is at your house. It is an honest service, at home it is not like someone has told you how to do things. You look after your guests in the best way you can. You are proud of your house, you know your guest and you know how to look after them. It is this philosophy of honest service that we do at home that we want to bring to our hotel. We want our employees to welcome everyone like they would at their own house.
How is this philosophy translated into actual service at the hotel?
It begins with how we welcome guests when they enter the hotel. They walk into a lounge and not a typical hotel lobby. You are offered a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, it can also be a glass of beer or wine in the evening. That’s just part of the welcoming experience. If we talk about our studios or our room product, it is very much residential in look and feel due to materials and colours. For instance, the table in the room is a large clear table with nothing on it. The idea is you can use it your own way, to either eat or work and can adapt the space to your need. Our rooms are clutter free because at home you don’t have brochures lying around.
We want to create places globally where we believe people in the city would live in the future. When people travel extensively they sometimes don’t even know which city they wake up in because hotel rooms tend to all look similar. At an Andaz it is very different. We are very local in our interior design. Not too classical and not too much into your face but the influence is there. We also follow the philosophy that you come as a visitor and leave as a local.
How do you get that right balance between being friendly but not friends? It requires a lot of instinctive handling by the team. How did you go about training?
It requires a lot of training and also an understanding to ensure that there is no over service. We want the employees to use their brain and to use common sense and to understand subtle cues. Such as not interrupting a guest who is on a call.
When we hired it was very important for us to first answer what it is that we are actually looking for? We are looking for a smile in your eyes and the right energy. To serve a cup of coffee one can always train but it’s the softer skills you look for. We booked a venue and socialized with almost 2000 people over 2 days. We had 10 executives and we had different group based on the area of interest in the hotel. We didn’t see resumes. We spoke about hobbies and about likes and dislikes. We wanted to see can people have a proper conversation. Then we took it from there and saw resumes and shortlisted the team. We have hired chefs who have no chef diplomas but they have the passion for cooking. It is this passion that is needed.
Also, we have no templates at Andaz. There is no checklist that our front office team has that they must ask when a guest is checking at 3am for instance. A lot of emphasis is placed on intuitive service, on reading the body language of a guest and applying common sense and behaving per that. We have created the larger framework within which people are to work but it is not like the old days. We want people to do their own service. We chose not to have uniforms either.
I always say that in a situation if you don’t know what to do, think of how you would do it at home and do that. You most likely will not go wrong because at home you are genuine and are also careful. This is lifestyle. It’s not scripted. However, we are aware that with flexibility comes greater responsibility. We also listen to the what is going on at the hotel, the interactions and guide them along the way. There is a lot of on the job corrections. We are careful that we don’t fall back into the standard hotel trot.
You mentioned the average guest room stay is 1.7 days, how do you then introduce the city to your guests?
There are various aspects. When we look at the rooms in general, all the products we curate are from the city or the country. The tea selection in the room is from a local person who travels across the country, collects the best tea, blends it here and packages it. It’s a tea journey from Assam, Darjeeling, Madurai to Kerala. Our bathroom amenities are from a local Delhi brand that make chemical free products with bio degradable packaging. Our coffee in the room is sourced from Bangalore. You will notice subtle cultural influences such as a Mughal pattern on the wall, the carpet is handmade, you will see a traditional woven ottoman as in the olden days. It’s the understated touches where we want to make sure that people understand where they are.
We are also in the city centre of NCR but on the outskirts of Delhi, we thought how we could make people feel connected to Delhi. We came up with a concept where each room has a curated art piece that speaks of a reason to fall in love with Delhi. Something which relates to Delhi. So, for 401 room, we came up with 401 reasons to fall in love with Delhi and decided to create a book on it, which is placed in each room.
Even at Anamaya Food Hall, you will see items on sale that are local artisanal products from India. It is supporting a community and good quality produce. Majority of the products we use here are from Delhi or from India and try to focus on what is available. We have a green house in the restaurant and grow our own micro greens.
Outside of the hotel, do you curate experiences for the guests to better experience the city?
On channel 1 in the hotel, guests can view 8 curated videos on Delhi’s unsung heroes that connect back to 401 reasons to fall in love with Delhi. Such as a video on the Chief Gardener of Lodhi Garden, a parkour practitioner showing Delhi’s rooftops or the art of Arabic and pictorial calligraphy.
It is not a Lonely Planet guide but more a curated selection of niche experiences which are unlike a typical tourist checklist. Such as going to a Sikh Temple and volunteering to help in the kitchen.
We partnered with Delhi “I Love You” and in conjunction with them co-produced these videos. It is all about celebrating Delhi as a city.
Who is the Andaz guest?
We always talk of the creative people who we want to target. But then everyone thinks straight of an artist or a musician. But we think it can also be a creative brain surgeon or a creative banker. So someone who is curious to explore where they are. It’s a mindset. It is about people who are interested in knowing where they are going and want to learn something different.
How are you reaching out to them?
When we started we created two tents, complete with the look and the furniture and used them at pop up events. We didn’t want to bring people to the hotel like everyone else. At these events we invited those people whom we believed were the right fit for the product.
We did these events across several venues and different verticals such as gallery gardens, parks, with the fashion fraternity. These were held in Delhi and the key idea was to share what the ethos of the brand is and what the Andaz experience is. We created a cocktail evening where guests could come and make cocktails. So, we did a lot of different things and tried to reach different people. It was about communicating and socialising with them but equally about listening and gathering information. It was of course about making people curious about the hotel and to introduce the new brand.
Is it tough introducing a new brand into the market? Especially a brand called Andaz, one doesn’t know what is means and that it is a part of the Hyatt family.
We understand and appreciate that Hyatt has a legacy and we use the name strategically. For marketing and advertising we are using Andaz Delhi by Hyatt. However, from a brand positioning point of view we are clear that we want to position it separately and so the hotel is ‘Andaz Delhi’.
When we bought the Ambassador over a year ago and painted it purple and made it red inside, we only wrote Andaz and drove it around. It did raise thoughts. What is Andaz Delhi? Is it a hotel, is it a shop? People didn’t know. It was interesting. Now we have 4 of them. Used mainly for airport pick- ups because this is what people want. It is our way of experiencing India as the Ambassador is such a traditional car. But then we made it modern in different colours and different interiors.
What sets you apart in Aerocity?
Our look and feel is very different. I have been in India for two and a half years and have travelled around to understand India and explore Delhi to know what is really the market and how can we launch Andaz as a brand property. You meet and talk to a lot of people and create an interest about the brand that talks about personal style. Also, when talking to creative people, we did a lot of listening. What do you want to see, what are their interests? And, then how can we bring that experience to the guests.
Where would you position yourself in Aerocity Delhi?
What is very nice is when we look at the Aerocity, the hotels here are very different from one another and we as Andaz are very different in style and experience. Guests have their options to choose from. We are a premium product in the area and different in terms of both software and hardware. We hope to lead the field but time will tell.
It has only been a couple of months but how is the brand being received in the Indian market?
We have got a good response and are very pleasantly overwhelmed. Apart from positive feedback from guests, what is good is the site inspection from the business groups has been very positive with a lot of wows. We are also pleased that this response is not limited to only the younger age group. It is across all age brackets; from young to old. Everyone feels very comfortable. We have taken the stiffness away. Even the older more traditional travellers in the luxury space are no longer associating luxury with chandeliers, carpets and marble. We, at Andaz, have none of the three. The hotel reflects modern luxury inspired and influenced by traditional Indian elements.