The Indian Hotels Company, whose subsidiary, Taj Group, is one of the largest hotel operators in Asia, has tapped Deutsche Hospitality CEO Puneet Chhatwal as its new CEO. Chhatwal will replace Rakesh Sarna, who is stepping down on September 30, 2017.
IHCL selected its new CEO from five external candidates and six former Tata Group executives and existing top brass. Sources familiar with the new appointment stated that Tata Group's leadership, including its chairmen N Chandrasekaran and Ratan Tata, met with Chhatwal in Munich for his interview. "He first met Chandrasekaran and they hit it off really well. He is young, gregarious and a dynamic leader," a source told the Economic Times.
Chhatwal, who was born and raised in Delhi, studied at Delhi Public School on Mathura Road. Afterward, he pursued a hotel management degree in IHM, Pusa Road. Chhatwal later received his master’s in hospitality administration from ESSEC Business School in France. "Puneet Chhatwal has worked his way up and deserves this. He has extensive global experience with Indian sensibilities and is a good fit for the Taj group," celebrity chef and entrepreneur Sanjeev Kapoor, who studied with Chhatwal at IHM and worked with him at India Tourism Development, told the Economic Times.
Chhatwal began his career with ITDC before he moved to Rezidor Hotel Group as its chief development officer. Later, he joined Frankfurt-based Deutsche Hospitality in 2012 as the CEO. Chhatwal has been leading the Steigenberger brand's global expansion to countries including Egypt and China.
The new Indian Hotels CEO came up against other top industry leaders for the position, including TGB's CE Ajoy Misra, IHCL director Abhijit Mukerji, Tata Group's Mukund Rajan, former Trent director Zubin Dubash and IHCL executive director Anil Goel, the Economic Times reported.
In the first quarter of 2017, IHCL reported a consolidated loss of Rs63 crore on sales of Rs4065 crore although it was operationally profitable. For June 2017, the company also recorded a consolidated gross debt of Rs3,383 crore. IHCL, which operates about 134 hotels with over 16,000 guestrooms, has been struggling with its accumulated debt. The company took on this debt due to an overseas expansion strategy that began in 2007 and gained the company its U.S. properties.