Luxury, thy name is Karma!
‘We create experiences’ isthe brand motto of The Karma Group – the award-winning lifestyle and luxury brand owned by the British-born John Spence....
‘We create experiences’ isthe brand motto of The Karma Group – the award-winning lifestyle and luxury brand owned by the British-born John Spence. Comprising of Karma Resorts, Karma Retreats, Karma Royal, Karma Estates, Karma Beach, as well as Karma Spa offering curated entertainment with a foothold in more than 26 locations across four continents, the group is today counted amongst the noted in leisure segment; the journey of which began in Goa. Today, as the company is on growth curve, John is considering going for public issue.
The group has six unique properties in India, four in Goa, one in Jaipur and one in Kerala. The recent acquisition of a property at Dharamshala just summons a new wave of growth for the brand and the man who is truly to be reckoned with. “When we had a handful of properties, it was easy to make sure they were all unique, and they resonated with what we believe our Karma resorts should stand for. Now, we are just about to pass the 30 resorts mark, and it is a challenge to make sure that they are all one of a kind,” shares John Spence during an email interaction.
Was it an experience or inspiration that brought you to hospitality?
It was a series of events, to be honest. I dropped out of university after a couple of semesters because I wanted to move to London and pursue a career as a guitarist. Reality soon struck, however, when I discovered that I was probably one of the worst guitarists in the world. During the 1980s, I ended up on the other side of the desk, being an agent for some of the biggest bands of the time like Culture Club and Eurythmics. I’ve always had a penchant for travelling and staying at numerous hotels and resorts during my years in the music business, I was inspired to be more involved in the industry. In 1984, I decided to shift gears and began developing resorts across Europe and Thailand, with a group called Global. On one such visit, I fell in love with India, and took a huge leap of faith to tap the opportunity, and form my own company.
What went behind opening the first resort?
Our first property was developed in Goa in 1993. We were vastly underfunded, and all the people who were prepared to support me initially, backed out, as soon as they saw that I was planning to operate in India. However, that didn’t deter me. I sold everything I owned, emptied out all my savings, and altered my lifestyle to survive on a shoestring budget, to invest in my dream. Over the years, we’ve evolved, and today we are present not only in India, but also in Thailand, Bali, Australia, Philippines, and now, all over Europe. My journey, despite having had a humble beginning, has been an extremely adventurous one.
What was your initial idea and how did it transform into the brand identity of the Karma Group?
It has always been designed as what we call a ‘mixed bag of products’. We certainly see ourselves more as a private members club than a hotel. We create an experience, a lifestyle, based around leisure and hospitality, woven together with an element of entertainment. The ‘club membership’ has always been at the heart of the Karma experience. I think what’s happened with Karma is that while we have several distinct brands which have developed into different verticals over time, the ‘club culture’ has remained a defining feature of it.
How do you choose locations for your resorts?
We choose locations both opportunistically and strategically. Strategically, we know that among our consumers, there is a high demand for certain destinations. So, currently, we are keenly launching properties across Europe. We recently established Karma properties in the Alps, the Scottish Highlands, and London, and are even setting up a resort on a popular Greek island.
Despite being present in Vietnam, we grabbed an opportunity in nearby Cambodia, outside the ruins of Angkor Wat. The complex has tremendous sentimental value, and we know our members would love going there; so, the decision worked out very well.
What keeps you going even after reaching where you are?
The love for what I do is my sole driving factor. I don’t think I have ever really worked through anything; I love travel and hotels, and hence, enjoy the work I do, which also happens to be my passion. I am fortunate that I’ve trained an excellent group of executives, so, I don’t have to micromanage either. Owing to the above, I can also engage in teaching at universities, which I thoroughly love. I enjoy seeing the company grow, and over time, I have come to enjoy it more than ever before.