People

The business of holidaying

Anand Kalyanaraman | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 11, 2017

Kavinder Singh on how Mahindra Holidays delivers on its vacation ownership model



Kavinder Singh, Managing Director and CEO, Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India, is a seasoned corporate warrior. An engineer from NIT Warangal, Singh has attended the General Management Program at Wharton School of Business. He earlier worked with a paints major (Asian Paints) and held leadership positions at an FMCG giant (ITC) and an adhesives leader (Pidilite Industries). Since November 2014, when he took charge at Mahindra Holidays, the vacation ownership (timeshare) company has seen good growth in membership and profit.

Singh shares his experiences and views on the sector and the company. Excerpts from an interview:

What have been the learnings in your career?

When I look back at my career journey, a few things occur to me as essentials for a leadership position in an industry.

First, organisations must design themselves to keep the customer at the centre. This is easier said than done and requires creating a culture where this becomes the reason for the company’s existence.

Next, it is extremely important for the industry leader to identify and define what makes it unique. Chasing best practices alone does not make companies unique. For a company, its unique value proposition denotes what is unique about its offerings, and how it delivers on its promises to customers consistently. Also, organisations must create a learning culture and invest in employees to enable them to give their best.

Finally, deep engagement with customers, employees and other key stakeholders is critical to sustaining success in the long run.

What are the latest trends in vacation ownership in India?

Today, holidaying is no more only about visiting a destination; people seek immersive experiences every time they travel. The vacation ownership market has immense potential for growth as the attitudes of Indian travellers are changing; people are taking holidays more often and prefer short holidays. With these evolving consumer behaviour patterns, vacation ownership offers the smartest way to travel, for a family, due to its flexibility and access to a variety of destinations in India and abroad.

Today, Club Mahindra, along with Holiday Club Resorts, is the largest vacation ownership company in the world outside of the US. Our 2,18,000 members now have access to 81 resorts across India, Dubai, Austria, Thailand, Malaysia, Finland, Sweden and Spain, where we create immersive family experiences — for instance, fishing from a floating cottage at Club Mahindra Ashtamudi or taking a walk inside the coffee plantation located within Club Mahindra Virajpet.

Besides, our ‘Experience Zone’ programme gives members access to unique experiences even in their city of residence, all year round. Some of these experiences include hot-air balloon rides, visit to vineyards and yacht rides.

Is the young Indian going for timeshare models? Do online models such as Airbnb and low-cost hotels pose a threat to vacation ownership providers in India and abroad?

We have realised that young, upwardly mobile, Indian families are finding the vacation ownership model very attractive and suitable as it offers them an opportunity to explore India and the world, especially from a trusted brand such as Club Mahindra.

Online accommodation aggregators meet the specific needs of a set of travellers and do not pose a threat to the vacation ownership model, which is about creating unique experiences and not just offer accommodation.

The flexibility of the vacation ownership model allows one to choose the membership plan best suited to their style of holidaying and family size and also to upgrade their membership season and size of accommodation as their needs change. All our resorts create opportunities where families can come together and bond over shared experiences to create memories of a lifetime.

Another important factor is assurance of quality service and hassle-free planning. Being a member of a trusted brand such as Club Mahindra brings with it confidence in the excellent standards in hospitality.

Mahindra Holidays has done well in 2016-17. How do you see the business shaping up?

The year 2016-17 has been satisfying for us as we have seen an overall growth in member additions, income and profit. These are a result of the fresh approach and new initiatives introduced during the year to engage with our members.

We have also launched five new destinations this year, adding to our inventory of over 3,000 units across 49 destinations in India and abroad. We intend to add another 600 units through a planned investment of ₹600 crore over the next two years. We aim to expand our global footprint to add more international destinations.

We launched two new products, Bliss and Staycation, targeting new market segments through tailor-made offerings. Bliss is a 10-year membership product, specially designed to suit the holiday needs of prospects in the age bracket of 50 years and above. Staycation allows prospects to take a day trip to our resorts with their families and experience our various offerings.

We will continue to create new offerings to cater to the evolving needs of our members. Last year, we launched our new mobile app which has enabled us to enhance our member engagement and provide customised services.

The app has received a great response from our members and today nearly 78 per cent of our bookings and transactions come from online platforms — our mobile app and website.

Consolidated results suggest that the Finland-based subsidiary Holiday Club Resorts has been turning around. Could you give details?

During the financial year 2016-17, the Finnish operations of Holiday Club Resorts recorded growth in turnover of 20 per cent over the last financial year and also delivered nearly 100 per cent growth in profits. We have introduced structural changes in Sweden and Spain that will help yield long-term benefits for the company.

Timeshare owners are often peeved at the sharp increases in annual subscription fees and unavailability of rooms. How do you address their concerns?

Club Mahindra offers leisure family vacations to its members at some of the most beautiful destinations across India and abroad, where our members enjoy services and facilities that are at par with global standards.

Increase in annual subscription fees is towards our continuing efforts to maintain the quality and service levels that our members have come to expect from a brand such as ours, and are in line with the general inflation trend in our country.

We are constantly adding new resorts and destinations to meet the holidaying needs of our growing member base. During peak season, some popular destinations face excess demand that may lead to unavailability of rooms. Therefore, we encourage our members to explore our new resort destinations where they can enjoy new and differentiated experiences.

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