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Thursday, November 08, 2001

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Inspired by the country


Ajita Shashidhar

WITH properties in Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Visakhapatnam and Coimbatore, and with as many as 50,000 members, Y. Rajeev Reddy, Chairman and Managing Director of the Hyderabad-based Country Club (India) Ltd, looks at his club chain as a major brand. We are the only club group which not only has properties in various parts of the country, but also has 125 affiliations around the world, with clubs such as St. James in London and Paris, says Reddy.

In an exclusive interview with Catalyst, Reddy talked about his plans to make Country Club a sought-after brand not just in the domestic market, but internationally. While the Country Club property in Mumbai and its second property in Chennai are under construction, the company is making its foray into the global market with the launch of Country Club International in Dubai. We also have an international club on the outskirts of Hyderabad, remarks Reddy.

Our USP is accessibility, affordability and value for money, remarks Reddy. In contrast to the other regimented clubs such as MCC in Chennai, Bangalore Club or the Secunderabad Club, where one has to pay through ones nose to get a membership, and that too after years of waiting, one can become a life member of Country Club by paying just Rs 25,000 and without any waiting period, he added.

Reddy says that since inception, Country Club has always focused on health, fitness, leisure and entertainment. Most of our entertainment-based promos revolve around festivals such as Dussehra, Diwali and Holi, for which we also rope in celebrities. We have a tie-up with singers such as Raageshwari, Shaan and Sagarika who have not only performed for the Country Club members during festivals but also on several other occasions, he says We have also had other celebrities such as the former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen, chef Sanjeev Kapoor and cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly who had visited our clubs and interacted with our members. We also organise beauty pageants and talent scouting shows such as Antakshari competitions, he adds.

Country Club is also on the verge of launching a Rs 10-crore print and television ad campaign with the former Miss World, Yukta Mookhey, as the brand ambassador. We signed up with Mookhey in August this year, on World Friendship Day, which was on August 3, remarked Reddy.


The other initiative being taken by Reddy in his bid to popularise Country Club is to market its gym, Tassha. As propagating health and fitness is the motto of Country Club, we are trying to enable more and more people to be healthy and fit through our gym Taasha, which we are soon going to operate through a network of franchisees. The first franchise units are going to come up in Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore in the next three months, says Reddy.

Apart from in-house promos and expansion exercises, Country Club has also done promos with a number of FMCG companies. Strategic alliances are important not only for consolidating our business, but also for expansion, says Reddy. Country Club has recently tied up with Citibank, in which Citibank is funding its credit card customers to become members of Country Club.

Though Reddy ruled out any possibility of venturing into resorts, he mentions being affiliated to RCI and owning two timeshare properties - Hotel Amrutha Castle, a four-star hotel in Secunderabad, and Country Club International.

Though the timeshare market today is in the doldrums, Reddy claims that his timeshare business, Country Vacation, gives him an annual turnover of Rs 50 crore every year. The one and only reason why we are doing well in this business is because we have limited properties, which we are able to manage efficiently. The major reason why most of the timeshare companies in India are doomed is because they have too many properties which they are unable to manage, says Reddy.

The advantage of becoming a member of Country Vacation is that one automatically gets to use our club facilities around the country as well as the other RCI properties, adds Reddy.

As Reddy speaks about his success, he also seems to be undeterred by the recession. Recession has not affected us at all. In fact, we have used the current slowdown to our advantage, by buying fabulous properties at reasonable rates. This, in turn, has proved advantageous for our members, as our membership rates still remain quite affordable, he says.

Reddy finally signs off by talking about the turnover figures of Country Club. Our net assets are worth Rs 250 crore and we had projected a turnover of Rs 60 crore last year. This year, we hope to cross the Rs 150-crore mark. This steep rise is mainly due to our properties in New Delhi and Chandigarh, which came up this year, he says.

 
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