December 2019 | 1088 words | 4-minute read
Legend has it that while there existed spaces for entertainment and socialising in Mumbai, there did not exist any exclusive space where business leaders could meet and conduct business in privacy. Thus, on the 1st day of May 1975 was born another eternal star from the stable of The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) — The Chambers — India’s first business club.
The club culture seemingly has its roots in the 17th century coffee houses of London. It is fabled that some very famous companies even started as coffee houses, one such being Lloyds of London, which began as Edward Lloyd’s coffee house. These coffee houses served coffee, tea and tobacco and allowed for less inebriated and more intellectual conversations. Over time they evolved into the traditional gentlemen’s clubs — private social clubs originally set up by and for men of the British upper-class in the 18th century. Admission to a club meant having achieved a coveted status.
Defined in precision to serve the needs of the growing business community in India, The Chambers was a revolutionary concept and the first of its kind. Admission was and continues to be strictly by invitation only, and applications are filtered basis the profile of the individual or the company. Needless to say, the launch of The Chambers, at the prestigious The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, saw the country’s 100 most exclusive members and their spouses only. Hosted personally by JRD Tata and the senior leadership team of IHCL, the list of members boasted of the who’s who of eminent industrialists, entertainers, media personalities, sports stars, writers, authors and other prominent people from the business community.
The Chambers’ service philosophy keeps the member at its center and allows for all members to be understood to perfection — their likes, dislikes, interests, preferences and even their whims. It is said that a certain business leader of one of the largest conglomerates of India had an affection for a particular sofa — so much so that each afternoon, like clockwork, 10 minutes before he would arrive at The Chambers, an associate would put a glass of water and his favourite snacks on the table to ensure he gets what he wants, the way he wants it. The sofa for the longest was affectionately referred to by his name.
What makes this relationship even more special is that the members reciprocate with equal warmth towards The Chambers associates, knowing their names, their families and their stories. In a recent conversation with an old associate of The Chambers, he reminisced about his fond memories of long conversations with the most elusive and coveted business leaders of India, where they probably listened as much as they spoke, and where they cared as much as they were served.
There is enough and more literature about customer service and branding. Hardly any Indian brands stand out like a beacon in these aspects, the way the Taj and The Chambers stand out.
The Chambers is built on a simple tradition — “The Chambers members must only have the best.” Right from the launch event in 1975, for which one of the world’s topmost chefs were flown down, to the present when The Chambers concierge doesn’t outline what services it provides — because it tries to deliver everything to its members.
The legacy of The Chambers is laden with stories that parable service levels of an extraordinary kind — from having personalised menus for each guest sitting at a single table to having two sets of menu ready to be served to guests, depending upon the outcome of a business meeting.
Amidst this deep reverence and affection for its members, what guides The Chambers is a strong proposition — of being the place of choice for the achievers of India. And over the last 44 years, The Chambers has built a legacy of unparalleled service, professionalism and warmth for itself and the Taj brand.
Members of The Chambers comprise global achievers who have challenged boundaries, redefined horizons and scaled great heights. Over the years, the profile of the global achiever and new India has changed and evolved, and with it, so has The Chambers. As IHCL — under its strategic plan of Aspiration 2022 — is reimagining its brandscape, it has reimagined The Chambers. The business club, while retaining its unmatched exclusivity and prestige, adds new codes of luxury.
The Chambers Global Membership, which was launched recently, is an elevated offering. It offers members enhanced and exclusive benefits that spread across IHCL hotels worldwide. Valid for a lifetime, it also allows members the opportunity to transfer it one-time to their son or daughter, providing a rare chance to enjoy the unparalleled benefits of The Chambers across generations.
Emanating from a deep understanding of the target audience, The Chambers continues to be the ideal choice as a business destination; at the same time, it is creating niche spaces to unwind with new facilities such as experiential showers and relaxation zones. It endeavours to be the haven where members can come and work, or rejuvenate and connect with like-minded individuals.
The Chambers today has presence across seven Taj hotels in six cities, including Dubai, and is all set to expand to global hubs like London and Bengaluru.
The biggest deals get struck in the rooms of The Chambers, and the biggest acquisitions get sealed on the sofas of its lounge; but what makes The Chambers the exalted club that it is, is its highly personalised and handcrafted service that makes each moment a joy to experience.
To quote, Puneet Chhatwal, managing director and chief executive officer, IHCL, “The Chambers is a heritage that The Indian Hotels Company is extremely honoured to possess. Across my conversations with business leaders, the name of The Chambers occurs with utmost respect and reverence. We owe this great legacy to stalwarts like Mr JRD Tata who conceived of the inimitable proposition of The Chambers way back in 1975. Our humble effort to reimagine The Chambers is to ensure we add more facets to the brand and its offering, whilst retaining its aura and stature.”
The author, Veetika Deoras, is vice president — strategy and brands, The Indian Hotels Company Ltd.