Hotels the next big thing on Tatas’ African safari

April 1st, 2008 - 11:26 am ICT by admin  

By Manish Chand
New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) The Tatas Group’s African safari is getting bigger and better as the ambitious industrial house readies to set up luxury hotels and a multimillion-dollar ferrochrome steel plant in South Africa. Indian Hotels, part of the Tata Group and owners of the famed Taj chain of hotels, is already developing properties in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. “We hope the hotels will be in place by the end of the year or early next year,” Syamal Gupta, chairperson, Tata International Limited and director, Tata Sons, told IANS.

The Tata Group is already established as a powerful Indian business brand in Africa with business interests in diverse sectors from vehicles and telecom to infrastructure and now hotels, said Gupta, a prime mover behind the group’s ambitious business plans for Africa.

The hospitality sector is not virgin territory for the Tatas in Africa. The group set up a five-star hotel called The Taj Pamodzi in Zambia a few years ago. There is also a plan to set up a hotel in the Nigerian capital Lagos. In fact, the Tatas’ presence in the hospitality sector in Africa is set to get bigger in the days to come with some of the African economies growing at double-digit figures and attracting more global business travellers and tourists than before.

Another big project in South Africa - a $100-million-plus ferrochrome steel plant at Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal - is under construction and set to be completed by next year, said Gupta.

He said the Nano small car had created a splash in Africa, like elsewhere in the world. “The Nano car has created a big buzz in Africa. India is increasingly seen in Africa as a source of high-end appropriate, adaptable and affordable technologies,” said an upbeat Gupta, chairperson of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s Africa Committee.

“Besides Western countries, which used to be their main source of capital and technology, African countries are now seeking alternatives like India. India is now one of their most important sources of investment.”

“Africa is a very attractive destination for Indian investment. Besides the Tatas and Kirloskars, big Indian companies like ONGC Videsh, Vedanta, Mittal Group, Reliance, Essar, Ranbaxy and Dr Reddy’s Labs have already made forays into Africa,” he added.

VSNL, the former Indian state-owned telecom business in which Tata has a 26 percent stake and management control, has already invested in South Africa’s second fixed-line operator.

The Tata Group, which has business interests in at least 18 African countries, has ambitious investment plans worth nearly $800 million in the auto, hospitality and IT sectors.

Tata Africa, the company arm that operates in Africa, and Tata Motors plan to start a vehicle assembly plant in South Africa soon. The group plans to pump $100 million into the vehicle assembly plant it acquired in Pretoria last year. The plant is likely to be operational by 2010.

The Tatas are also actively scouting for mining opportunities in Africa.

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