Making History in Africa and Beyond
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Stuart Parker
Kalyan Group has long believed that its own development goes hand-in-hand with the social and economic development of the country in which it operates, and has subsequently engrained itself into numerous industries - through a standardised set of philosophies and processes - to assist in the progress of a nation.
Established by current Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ashok Gupta, who brings as much as two decades of international business experience from the global market to the Group, Kalyan has diversified and expanded over the years to cater for the hospitality, shipping, mining, fund management, agriculture and poultry sectors; but hotel development remains one of its key drivers.
Benefiting from an active presence across not only West Africa, but also Australia, India, Mauritius, Malta and the UAE, the identification of long-term, sustainable projects fits naturally into the wider Group’s ethos of socio-economic enablement and continues to have a profound influence in Togo, especially.
“Kalyan believes the Company’s growth is connected to the growth of the country and the Group carries responsibility towards the social development of the country where it operates,” emphasises Gupta. “Kalyan seeks to add value to the countries it operates in, adding to the capital and social growth, making sure the majority of employees are recruited locally, trained and certified to the highest level in their respective fields to assist them in building and promoting their careers and improve their standard of living.”
This business model has thus been applied to Kalyan Hospitality Development Ltd in managing the refurbishment and renovation of Hotel 2 Février in Lome, Togo; an iconic hotel which shall be operated as a five-star development by one of the most prominent groups in Africa, Carlson Rezidor, and is expected to open in the first quarter of 2016.
Hard work brings success
West Africa is one of Kalyan Hospitality’s most important markets for growth with Togo a focal point among the wider region, providing a platform for Kalyan to implement its progressive and dynamic continuous improvement strategy; embracing innovation, planning, ethics, inspiration and collaborative business relationships.
“Kalyan’s business model for growth provides us an edge to successfully reach greater heights in a competitive business environment and diversify to various markets across the globe without being restricted to any particular geography,” Gupta explains. “Our focus is always on each business and project, and we believe dedication and hard work brings success, with money just a by-product of each success.
“We always make fast but calculated decisions, and if you want to establish a business in the long run, you need to show all the actors involved that there is a common benefit to it. That is the way we are working in Togo. At the end, people are the basis of a long-term growth.”
This is all too evident through the renovation of the historic Hotel 2 Février, the tallest hotel in West Africa, operated under the Radisson Blu brand.
“Beginning in August 2014, this massive renovation project comprises 320 rooms, and 4,000 square metres of conference and meeting space built to top quality standards,” Gupta details. “In three months we put the whole team together, did the audit, submitted our offer and signed a PPP with the Government for 30 years.
“Nobody has executed a project of that size in such a short period of time, and after participating in the African Investment Hospitality Forum in Addis-Ababa last September and presenting our project, everybody was amazed.”
Mobilising all energy and resources to make projects happen ahead of all industry timelines and indicators is a Group trait gratefully passed down through its subsidiaries, and is equally prominent in its adjacent poultry operations in Togo, as well as its significant palm oil plantation and oil processing project, also addressing a pressing concern in the country.
Gupta notes: “This project will develop a fully-integrated palm oil plantation - across a minimum of 6,000 hectares - and processing unit crushing mill. The project will produce about 2,400 megatonnes of crude palm oil during peak production and has the potential to make Togo self-sufficient and a net exporter of palm oil.”
While the Company’s focus is largely honed in on Togo at present, the aim is to provide the same quality of service across the ECOWAS region (Economic Community of West African States) in the long-term, with the development strategy based on finding the right assets and sources for development in each country, and on developing the most suitable partners for each project.
“You need to evaluate opportunities, bring in the right consultants, perform top quality full feasibility/technical studies and start thinking about how you will finance your projects well in advance to be able to move fast and perform on a fast-track basis,” Gupta says. “You also need to ensure that there is a benefit to the people, country and region to have the human factor on your side.
“If you bring economic growth without social development you might be successful and make some money but if you want profitable long-term business, you need to establish a strong network and show the people you are here for good; not just in words but by actions and delivering what was promised and agreed.”
Kalyan has achieved just this on the continent, subsequently attracting the attentions of the African Development Bank and a series of potential investors now looking at entering a country or region they would have previously avoided.
Gupta continues: “Our goal is to establish a business model in Togo in several fields of activities and to then export that model across the whole of West Africa.
“Most investors might be reluctant venturing into Africa, but Africa is the future. Africa will account for 25 percent of the world population by 2050 and for 50 percent by the end of the century.
“The manpower of the future is in Africa, and plans have to be made to provide jobs to these people.”
This is exactly what Kalyan has been doing in Togo, giving opportunities to local artisans and teaching them how to perform in complicated environments, for the benefit of both the Company and the individual.
“In Africa, local employment is a major issue. If you want to stay in the long run you cannot just come, bring expatriates, make some money and leave. You need to take advantage of the existing skills available locally and also develop what is not available,” Gupta emphasises. “For the hotel’s construction, 90 percent of the manpower was sourced locally, which means around 2,000 local people were involved.
“This is the kind of holistic approach of the business, which might not work in some regions, but I can assure you this is the best way to grow in Africa. You need to develop the business environment and this is obviously linked to human resources.”
A dedication to individual enrichment isn’t constrained to the workforce either with Kalyan heavily involved in corporate social responsibility initiatives and the overall development of the communities in which it chooses to operate.
Improving the quality of living, across amenities, electricity, healthcare and education; the organisation from management down understands the importance of total regional progression.
“We create jobs - 2,000 for the hotel’s construction and another 550 for operations - but it is not just about job creation,” Gupta says. “We also train our employees and make sure they can grow at a professional level.
“We told the Togo Minister of Finance at the beginning, ‘We are not only building a hotel, we are building skills and capacities for the future”.”
Free meals to all site workers each day further cements the Company’s role as a personable and reputable business, fostering a positive atmosphere within Kalyan that promises to reap further rewards in the West African region and hospitality sector in general, in the years to come.
Gupta concludes: “We are a Group with a great vision to successfully grow but to also make a difference in people’s lives. We have always followed our aims and turned failure into opportunity. We believe in collaboration and working together to succeed but also believing in your own abilities and never giving up as there is always a way.
“Nobody works as much as we do, and nobody pays so much attention to quality. There is always a clear focus and ability to just launch into projects and take bold steps into new markets.
“Kalyan can ensure you that we will make history in the sector, not only in Africa but also worldwide.”