Interview with JS Anand, Founder & CEO of LEVA Hotels

Interview with JS Anand, Founder & CEO of LEVA Hotels

Against the backdrop of a burgeoning city, where the demand for upscale yet affordable accommodations has soared, LEVA Hotels emerges as a beacon of distinction. As the visionary behind LEVA Hotels, JS Anand has seamlessly blended the essence of affordable luxury with a strong sense of social responsibility. Anand's two decades of experience in the hospitality sector have not only shaped LEVA as a brand but have also propelled it to the forefront of a new era in guest experiences.

Embark on the captivating journey of LEVA Hotels as JS Anand, Founder and CEO, shares insights into the brand’s pivotal role in reshaping the region's hospitality landscape.

Building the brand

Anand recognized a substantial gap between traditional hotel offerings and evolving guest expectations. Viewing this as an opportunity, he established LEVA Hotels in April 2017, a lifestyle brand within the 3 and 4-star segment, to provide a compact, unconventional, and boutique-ish product with a distinctive design focus. The main goal of the brand was to offer sophisticated comfort, vibrant experiences, and flexible value propositions for hotel owners.

LEVA Hotels stands out for its unique blend of luxury and dynamic ambiance. The brand has meticulously crafted its identity through a series of strategic branding exercises. Recently, LEVA underwent a transformative collaboration with a Swedish-based branding firm, resulting in a refined brand identity encompassing a brand promise, story, foundation, values, and market positioning. Anand shares,

“Our focus on art, design, technology, and human capital drives us to become a brand offering a fresh perspective on hospitality and travel.”

Reflecting on his journey in building LEVA Hotels, Anand acknowledges the inherent challenges of establishing a brand, particularly when faced with financial constraints and a lack of initial support. Given his unfamiliarity and absence of connections in Dubai, entering the Middle East posed challenges in establishing a support system, be it through banks or financial institutions.

Anand reminisces,

“It's been a journey for me to work in the industry as an employee for 20 to 25 years and then wanting to be an entrepreneur and build a brand.”

Inspired by the ruler’s vision of upscale, affordable luxury, Anand, alongside his team and co-founders, worked extensively during the initial stages, presenting business plans and opportunities in front of numerous doors. The challenges persisted during the opening of the first hotel as they had little time to navigate licensing and other complexities.

Despite facing adversity, including the impact of COVID-19, LEVA Hotels maintained its operations, achieving a commendable 60-62% occupancy during the pandemic. Anand’s strategic focus extended beyond the UAE market, delving into Africa, signing projects in Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, showcasing his commitment to global expansion.

There was no fixed model that led to the establishment of LEVA. However, Anand’s entrepreneurial journey highlights the significance of studying the market, making smart plans, taking risks, staying determined, and assembling a strong team. These elements played a crucial role in overcoming challenges and experiencing significant growth in the hospitality industry.

‘People First, World Focused’

As LEVA Hotels undergoes expansion, maintaining its core values and hands-on management style is paramount. The brand's fundamental principle revolves around ‘People First, World Focused’. This ethos is ingrained in the organizational culture through robust training and development programs. Through strategic partnerships such as with NextGen in New York, the brand has ensured proper training and quality assurance programs for its team.

LEVA Hotels places a strong emphasis on employee well-being and satisfaction. The philosophy revolves around providing a platform for team members to build a career, prioritizing a positive work culture. Anand proudly states,

“We prioritize creating a positive work culture where the team is encouraged to have fun while getting the job done.”

The team is not only encouraged but empowered to make autonomous decisions. Open communication is another key element of their organizational culture.

Social commitment

Under the leadership of JS Anand, LEVA Hotels showcases a strong commitment to social responsibility by participating in local initiatives. This involvement includes supporting animal welfare centers and promoting environmental safety. He stresses the importance of balancing business success with a commitment to social and humanitarian causes. He believes that corporate organizations hold a responsibility to make a positive impact on the community.

Anand comments,

“We have a responsibility, not just as a corporation but as a human, to allocate some of your profitability towards bettering the environment, making a difference in humanity.”

Despite being a smaller company, LEVA Hotels has supported many local initiatives including environmental efforts and assistance for organizations like the autism institution, and stray dog center in Umm Al Quwain. Anand believes in the significance of smaller actions creating a substantial positive impact. His key goal involves focusing on education and medical systems in Africa as LEVA Hotels expands.

LEVA Hotels extends its commitment to sustainable initiatives and local development. Actively championing eco-friendly practices, such as waste reduction and green initiatives, the hotel brand has formed partnerships with suppliers to introduce environmentally friendly amenities.

Excellence in service

Image Source: LEVA Hotels

JS Anand's leadership style has not gone unnoticed. He found place on the Forbes' Top 100 Travel and Tourism Leaders for 2023. He attributes this recognition to a leadership philosophy centered on building a brand with a strong foundation and fostering a positive culture. He acknowledges the collective efforts of the entire team as the driving force behind this prestigious honor. He has also been shortlisted for the Lifetime Achievement Awards 2023 and acknowledged as one of Dubai's Most Powerful Leaders. However, he aims to be recognized as a leader driving transformative change within the hospitality industry.

The people-centric and future-focused approach of Anand is visible in the growth trajectory of LEVA Hotels. LEVA Mazaya Centre has risen to the top spot on TripAdvisor within three years of opening. This success is a testament to the team's unwavering commitment and diligent efforts. The hotel attributes its success to a focus on delivering exceptional service, attentiveness to guest feedback, and maintaining consistent quality.

Innovation remains at the heart of LEVA Hotels. The brand sponsors major hotel development conferences and emphasizes technology, evident in a recent partnership with The Digital Hotelier in Dubai. This collaboration introduces seamless digital guest services using QR codes in every room. This showcases LEVA's dedication to enhancing guest satisfaction and convenience through cutting-edge technology.

Expanding horizons

Imase Source: LEVA Hotels

Embracing a service-driven ethos, the brand aims to go beyond industry norms, prioritizing results, a competitive fee structure, and a profitable business model. With a global vision, LEVA Hotels is determined to establish itself as a premier lifestyle hotel brand, concentrating on expanding across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

Immediate plans involve exploring opportunities in Saudi Arabia, particularly in Tier 2 cities, and solidifying its presence in Africa by unveiling a fifth property. Anand continues,

“For us, expansion means more than just numbers; it is about creating that unique experience in that market for our guests."

Exciting ventures await LEVA Hotels, with six greenfield projects signed in Africa and an upcoming entrance into the European market. A significant milestone will be the opening of its first 5-star hotel in Lagos, Nigeria, by the end of the year.

Driven by JS Anand’s vision, LEVA Hotels is set to reshape the hospitality landscape with a blend of luxury, social responsibility, and a commitment to exceptional guest experiences.

Watch the full interview:

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