Established in June 2021, the Confederation of Hospitality, Technology, and Tourism Industry (CHATT) is a dynamic, proactive, and forward-looking institution. In the post-pandemic situation when the Hospitality industry is striving back to normalcy the importance of an idea like CHATT supporting the sector is extremely important and fitting. T&E Editor Anirban Dasgupta speaks with Mr. Anwar Shirpurwala, Secretary General, CHATT on the role of CHATT as a catalyst between the Government and the new-age hospitality, tourism, and travel technology industry.
- The idea of the Confederation of Hospitality, Technology and Tourism Industry (CHATT) to transform the hospitality, travel, and tourism sector through the wider adoption of technology is not only encouraging but also much-needed support for the apparently unorganized micro-entrepreneurs, small & medium enterprises (SMEs). What has been your experience so far in terms of response and level of confidence from the target sector?
Ans. The guiding principle and philosophy of CHATT is to bring about a positive economic change in the lives of the micro-entrepreneurs as well as small and medium enterprises like budget hotels, bread and breakfast hotels, guest houses, homestays, travel agencies, tour operators, etc. by bringing them into the mainstream, promoting technology adoption, upskilling them, making them aware of government policies and schemes. For this, we are closely working with the governments at the centre and in states along with tech-based platforms in hospitality and tourism as well as online travel aggregators (OTAs), knowledge firms, technology service providers, industry experts, think tanks, and other relevant stakeholders.
For me, it has really been a great experience and an eye-opener working on the ground with the critically important section of the entire hospitality, tourism, and travel sector in the country accounting for about one-fifth share in the overall MSMEs in India.
So far we have received very positive feedback from our target segment and they are very much eager to adopt and implement new technology to promote their business. Presently they are seeking support to improve marketability, skill and training opportunities, and information on government policies and schemes to avail financial assistance, we at CHATT are working with multiple stakeholders on all these fronts.
- An accomplished business leader with over 25 years of experience in various corporate arenas. If you could tell us in short about your journey so far and the thought behind joining CHATT?
Ans. In the current scenario, technology has become the core of business strategy regardless of the sector and size. After having spent over two-and-a-half decades as a tech-savvy leader with experience in different industries relating to the technology sector, the opportunity to lead CHATT as its Secretary General also coincides with my experience not just as a tech-sector professional but also as a travel enthusiast and an avid off-roader.
I have a lot of experience in public policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Apart from my specialization in business management, marketing, and support services, I’ve built links between government, industry, and various key stakeholders in my previous avatar as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of India’s first and only self-regulatory industry body for Fantasy Sports – Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) and CEO of Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (MAIT), the apex industry body representing the electronic hardware sector in India.
- How important is the idea of CHATT, especially in the present-day scenario when the Hospitality and travel industry have been facing and adapting to unprecedented situations due to prolonged lockdowns, pandemic-related travel restrictions, etc.?
Ans. The micro-entrepreneurs, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the hospitality, tourism, and travel sector have arguably been amongst the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions leading to job losses, pay cuts, and redundancies.
Considering that MSMEs need special support and guidance, CHATT was formed on the recommendation of the Union Ministry of Tourism to the tech-based platforms and online travel aggregators (OTAs) to work with, represent and safeguard the interests of entities like budget hotels, Bed and Breakfast (BnB) stays, homestays, independent lodging partners, regional OTAs, wellness centers, travel operators, agents, guides and other such entities in the travel and tourism sector on specific sets of initiatives to help them grow and sustain.
CHATT is playing a very proactive role to ensure the rapid recovery of these entities from the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Our primary focus is on advocacy, ecosystem development, professional development, public policy, sustainability, technology adoption, upskilling, and other related efforts for the industry through digital access, technology interventions, and innovative solutions to cater to the needs of tourists in an ever-changing tourism landscape.
As part of its endeavor to further strengthen the core of the tourism sector, CHATT has also set an agenda of operationalizing government policies and guidelines across the SMEs, which contribute a significant quantum to India’s hospitality and travel ecosystem.
- What’s your opinion about the role, contribution, and scope of micro-entrepreneurs, and small & medium enterprises (SMEs) in the hospitality, tourism, and travel sector in India in the coming days?
Ans. We at CHATT firmly believe that to build India’s position as a leading tourism destination, the service quality of micro-entrepreneurs, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that serve as the backbone and growth drivers of the entire hospitality, tourism, and travel sector in India needs to improve continuously.
Digitalization is the way forward as it brings agility and elasticity to operations. Technology adoption is critical for the rapid growth and development of tourism in India, especially for MSMEs that dominate the sector with a share of about 80 percent.
Tourism accounts for about 20 percent of overall MSMEs in India. The Central and State Governments are aware of the importance and contribution of MSMEs and are taking steps to develop them further. In the new tourism policy to be announced soon, the Government of India has prioritized digitalization and upliftment of MSMEs as distinctive missions along with other initiatives.
The online booking platforms have allowed lakhs of micro-entrepreneurs and small players in more than 2,000 cities and towns in India to showcase their properties and services. The next level of digitalization will allow such micro-entrepreneurs and small players to increase their productivity and profitability.
- If you could explain to our readers the various benefits that CHATT can provide to its members?
Ans. With its seamless connection with policy and decision-makers in government, think tanks, and industry, CHATT is helping MSMEs overcome difficulties, achieve smooth business execution, fulfill their ambitions, and goals, and achieve a competitive edge with exclusive opportunities including a host of benefits like exposure to tools for widespread business promotion through training and workshops on digital marketing; access to regular and timely information on government notifications, circulars, reports and periodicals; gain professional knowledge & networking through sector-specific events and seminars specially designed for small business owners; opportunity to raise their issues and suggestions at the government level etc.
- What would be your message for the industry as we step into a new year with new hope and possibilities?
Ans. While 2022 was nothing short of a blessing for India’s tourism industry as it saw a strong rebound, two classic examples are unprecedented tourist footfall in Jammu and Kashmir and Char Dham Yatra. We expect the trend to continue and tourism sector growth to accelerate as we move into the new year 2023. More so, considering exciting developments like India’s G20 presidency that present a huge opportunity for India to showcase our rich biodiversity, culture, heritage, and tourism offerings to the travel buffs world over. Besides, the new tourism policy of the nation is expected to be launched along with five new missions focused on destination management organizations, digital tourism, green tourism, tourism and hospitality sector skills, and tourism MSMEs.