Postcard’s ‘small is big’ concept pays off as India reopens

GOSTELOW REPORT—“One week into the lockdown I realized the unique advantage of our business plan. As in so many parts of the world, international flights in and out of India will not re-start in the short run. Indians will have to vacation domestically,” says Kapil Chopra, CEO of Postcard Hotels and Resorts, based on the outskirts of the Indian capital, Delhi.

“For years I had forecast a trend away from staying in properties with, say, 400 rooms. Now, with the virus coming, I knew people would feel safer booking hotels with eight or 11 rooms, staying with a company that has said from its start ‘Small is Big’”, he continued.

And that is exactly what has happened. He stresses that Postcard’s message “One Key and the Hotel is Yours” has really resonated, bringing in forward reservations that make him happy. From May 18, Postcard is once again taking reservations.

Kapil Chopra, in his office in Gurgaon, India, last week, plots his next move.
Kapil Chopra, in his office in Gurgaon, India, last week, plots his next move.

Chopra is majority owner of Postcard Hotels and Resorts, which is legally held by Untitled Hotels & Resorts.

“I have made sure from the start that the entire management team, resort managers and above, have shares. Everyone wants Postcard to be the next top-class concept. It looks as if, after extremely low April through June figures, this July will be such a success, companywide, that we will make far more April-July 2020 than we did in the same period the previous year,” said Chopra, with a characteristic grin.

In one case, a party of 12 from Mumbai will be driving 10 hours south to the nine-bedroom Postcard Hotel Moira, in Goa. Although they will only need six bedrooms, they have paid upfront for the entire hotel, for seven nights. Their only caveat is that no outsiders will be allowed on property, and staff must stay on site (all Postcard properties have their own staff accommodation, at all times, says Chopra).

The Postcard business plan evolved during the latter part of Chopra’s 20 years with Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.

“I realized that the percentage of domestic guests was rising to such an extent that roughly 50% of all those staying in an Oberoi were Indians, mostly living here but also some NRIs (non-resident Indians, expats). There were no high-end small properties for them to try. Everyone thought I was mad to give up being president of the Oberoi brand to start a group of small, unique hotels that were off the beaten track.”

The first Postcard Hotel opened in December 2018. There are now three hotels in the Goa area and one each in Galle, Sri Lanka, and Thimpu, Bhutan – total room count is 48, and there are over 200 employees. Stay in a Postcard and it feels like a private mansion. Check in when you want and check out when you want, with servers doing what you want when you want. Breakfast can be 24/7, and a local cook prepares whatever tickles your fancy.

Initial marketing was helped by rave reviews in the media and the reputation of the team in luxury hotels, and also by brand collaboration with global giants American Express and Citibank, and Indusind Bank, headquartered in Mumbai.

Very quickly, key Bollywood influencers were posting rave reviews of Postcard properties to their millions of followers. Not surprisingly, no subsequent marketing has been necessary. 

“Before India went into lockdown on 23rd March, the ADR of our three Goa properties was 20% higher than W Goa’s and now it will be even higher. Before, average stay at all our properties was 2.5 nights, but today we are seeing our forward bookings are for seven to 10 nights, and no one is trying to bargain special rates. Our main tagline has evolved to ‘Small is Even Bigger’”.