By Sourish Bhattacharyya
|Rooms at the Leisure Inn Grand Chanakya|
on Jaipur's arterial M.I. Road come with
free WiFi and a host of other facilities
at an average rate of Rs 2,200 per night.
IT'S A COMMON refrain of hoteliers at every industry meet to extol the virtues of branded budget hotels. They say this under-developed category, ignored by established hotel chains, caters to not only the vast domestic leisure market, but also mid-level executives travelling on work to Tier-II and Tier-III cities and towns. It's all talk. None of the major chains has done anything significant to translate this talk into action on the ground. Quality budget hotels, meanwhile, continue to elude the domestic leisure and mid-level corporate traveller even at a traditional tourist hub such as Jaipur, which has little to offer between five-star or heritage hotels and 'three-star' properties that wouldn't qualify for any star at any place anywhere else in the world.
It is this market that the Leisure Inn Grand Chanakya taps into -- and it sets the benchmark for others seeking to enter this potentially lucrative business. The Jaipur hotel located on the busy Mohammad Ismail (M.I.) Road, the Connaught Place of Rajasthan's capital city, is the first hotel to be managed in India by the Australian multinational, Staywell Hospitality Group. Where else in India can you get a room, measuring between 450 and 650 square feet, at an average rate of Rs 2,200, with an exceptionally comfortable bed, effect air-conditioning, complimentary WiFi, electronic safe, coffee and tea maker, moderately priced mini bar, and a toilet with an attached shower stall equipped with gleaming, effective fittings.
The hotel has an interesting history. A vertical construction -- yet another example of how budget hotels can come up at lower development costs -- it is located on the site of the old Chanakya restaurant, which used to be a popular foodie magnet famous for its traditional Rajashthani vegetarian dishes before it had to shut down because of labour problems.
Chanakya was the brainchild of a prominent local businessman, Lekhraj Odhrani. His son, Murli Odhrani, managing director of the Dubai-based Petrotech Enterprises, is in the business of providing oil and gas exploration tools and equipment in the Indian sub-continent, Middle East and Russia. It is he who has partnered with Staywell to give a second lease of life to Chanakya -- now renamed Grand Chanakya, with an imposing mural showing Chanakya, India's Machiavelli, entering a temple -- and add the 52-room hotel above it.
In its slicker avatar, Grand Chanakya continues to draw a steady stream of old loyalists and new faithfuls -- I will always remembers it for ker-sangri ki subzi (richer than the standard lean preparations), yellow dal sexed up with a garlic tadka, and the unmissable besan choorma. The wind-swept terrace bar, Arya, is where you can spend a pleasant evening with your favourite poison and friends, digging into unforgettable grilled items such as murgh ke sooley, noorani seekh (chicken and mutton with a quilt of egg yolk), subz kurkuri (Indianised spring roll -- highly recommended) and mushroom galauti served on biscuits, instead of the standard baby ulte tawa ke paranthe.
You can't get a better package in Jaipur (the hotel, by the way, also has a fitness centre and spa to complete the experience). The Leisure Inn Grand Chanakya promises to be a game-changer both for corporate off-sites and for middle-class domestic travellers desperately seeking places that offer a starred-hotel experience at no-star prices. Staywell has taken over the old Peppermint hotel at Sector 14, Gurgaon, so it has made its intention to stay and grow in India abundantly clear. That's good news for us.