This week, I stayed at an ITC property for the first time in ages. In fact it's probably been over twenty years. I was in Bangalore to drop in on a very long shoot that we're doing there…so long in fact, that this was the second time I was "dropping in". So I planned a two day trip and padded the visit with a few agency and client meetings, having Prashanth @Jack in the Box fly in on one day and Payal, the Bang Bang Producer who's running the "very long" job, join me on the other. All in all a very productive 36 hours.
For geographical convenience, I chose to stay at the ITC Royal Gardenia and I have to say I was very thoroughly impressed. Lovely hotel, really modern, well designed, phenomenally good Japanese restaurant, complimentary fresh cut fruit, hyper-fast wi-fi, sensational array of single malts, etc, etc…I could go on. Anyway, once I check in, the Guest Relations Exec escorts me to my room. More of the same. Perhaps one of the nicest, modern rooms I've seen in India. I say "in India" not because we're not capable of having lovely modern rooms here. It's just that most five star rooms have a classical sense of beauty as opposed to a highly designed, ultra-modern look. So, beautiful room, ample and well located sockets and ports (pet peeve alert) and a lot of other niceties. The TV's on; and given I'm a practitioner of our noble trade, my antlers immediately take in the Fiama spot playing. It also strikes me instantly that there's gotta be an ITC thing happening here, which is immediately confirmed once the Essenza di Wills spot plays right after. Ok, so they've got a showreel of ITC ads on auto-play. Nothing wrong with that.
Cut to a few minutes later. I'm in the loo and suddenly subjected to utter shock and horror in finding the soap in the bathroom is none other than Fiama di Wills. You have got to be kidding me! What are they thinking???!? I can understand wanting to leverage existing platforms to cross-promote one's brands. But for the love of god, give some thought to positioning. Kahaan ITC Hotels aur kahaan Fiama? It's ok for HUL to serve only Bru coffee throughout their megapolis in Andheri but do you think the Taj sends Nanos or Indicas for their airport transfers? Ok I'm being extreme to prove a point but it's not like all their cars are Jaguars either. I believe their fleet is dominated by Benzes and Beemers. And they don't just serve Himalaya, they also stock Aquafina.
Kaya Kalp is the ITC's award-winning spa brand. I can't be sure but it would be a no-brainer for them to have a Forest Essentials-type line of products. And if this line does indeed exist, then THAT's what they should have in their accommodation bathrooms and not a very off-puttingly ordinary and cheaply fragrant brand that competes at a rather mass level. What percentage of their clientele are existing Fiama users? Or how many do they hope to convert? I said it before but I have to say it again….what are they thinking?
While I'm in the mood for a rant, here's a pet peeve that I've vented about to the perpetrators in the past but to no avail. So I'm going to go public with it. Like many frequent business travellers, I am a regular on both Jet and Kingfisher. The comparisons between the two will be the subject of another blog at another time. But for now I just want to ask Mr. Goyal and the other good people at Jet Airways….why do you not give your Premier passengers salt & pepper with their meal? Don't get me wrong. It's not like you won't be given any if you ask for it. But if you happen to be sitting in the first row, they'll serve all four or six rows their meal before they get to your humble seasonings. By which time of course, the omelette or dinner or whatever else has cooled down to a slightly less enjoyable level. Sounds trivial? My point exactly. I'd be interested to know how much money they're actually saving in exchange for a handful of pissed off frequent flyers like me. Honestly, I fly a lot. And I've flown some pretty, obscure carriers in my life but not a single one had me requesting salt & pepper. Of course I'm not counting the ones where you have to ask for your food in the first place and pay for it. And the really weird thing is that they do serve it in economy.
Anyway, I've written this in the hope that I can get "Mr. Goyal and the other good people at Jet Airways" to take notice of this important issue and take remedial action. And perhaps I can go down in the annals of history as the man who made Jet serve salt & pepper in Business.