5 Minutes with Masood Ahmed: An Overview of India’s Serviced Accommodation Landscape

India’s serviced accommodation landscape is booming. As key industries flourish amidst impactful market forces, we are seeing a substantial influx of business travellers both within the country, across Asia Pacific and beyond.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) recently shared promising insight that India’s travel industry is expected to fully recover to its pre-COVID business travel spend in 2025, and is expected to reach 120% of its pre-COVID business travel spend by 2027. This healthy recovery, combined with a rebound of tourism is paving the way for a thriving serviced accommodation landscape.

Synergy has seen a meaningful year of growth in room nights across India. This uptick in demand for serviced accommodations follows the economic development of domestic and international organisations in major industries including IT, banking and pharmaceuticals.

Seeking to dive deeper into this vibrant and thriving ecosystem, we took some time to sit down with our Bengaluru-based Masood Ahmed, Business Development & Supply Chain Manager APAC, to give us the down-low on the latest of serviced accommodations and corporate travel in India. Here’s what we learned.

Q: Demand for serviced accommodations is thriving in India. What’s driving this growth?

Masood: There are so many factors contributing to this remarkable surge we’re seeing—from economic growth, to globalisation, emerging industries and the development of tourism infrastructure. I see India truly as the land of opportunities at the moment.

These solid foundations have placed India in an attractive spot for local and international investors. Local businesses are keen to get their travellers back on the road post-Covid, while the bounce back of global economies has driven a surge in globalisation.

As organisations set up local subsidiaries across prominent business hubs, we’re seeing a wave of investment into serviced accommodation options which provide business travellers with easy access to their offices. We know how important location and proximity to the office is for travel managers, so this is only set to grow.

Additionally, as Gen z and Millennials make their mark on the professional world, traveller demographics and behaviours are shifting. These groups are seeking more sustainable options, enhanced lifestyle and comfort, alongside the space to productively work from home—serviced accommodations can provide all of this, and travel managers are shifting their product choice to support and retain talent.

Q: Which Indian cities are seeing the biggest influx of business travellers currently?

Masood: Several Indian cities serve as major hubs for business travellers. When people think of business travel in India, we might think of traditional hubs such as Mumbai and Delhi, but the corporate travel hubs we really want to watch in 2024 are Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune.

I’d put this down to three major reasons:

1. The growth of the IT sector

Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune are renowned for their position as prominent IT hubs. These cities have witnessed a surge of investment into IT parks. Global technology giants have established a strong presence here and there is a thriving startup culture as a result of strong economic development

2. Junior talent and recruitment

As emerging industries from IT to research to pharmaceuticals and automotives continue to grow, with this will come an influx of junior talent seeking to kick start their careers. Oftentimes, interns are offered training roles which sometimes require them to travel across the country driving an uptick in the adoption of co-living accommodation types—mainly because they are a great option to keep costs down, while at the same time creating a comfortable and engaging environment for gen z travellers.

3. Climate and culture

On top of the vast array of investment and career opportunities these cities offer, Hyderabad, Pune and Bengaluru also offer its travellers a very pleasant climate. This enhanced quality of life, combined with India’s rich cultural heritage, has created the perfect storm for attracting talent looking to expand their long-term horizons.

Q: Hyderabad took the lead as the most travelled business city in India for 2023. Tell us more!

Masood: This comes as no surprise—Hyderabad is truly on its progressive path to becoming one of the world’s most prominent commercial hubs. To put this growth into perspective, occupancy across Hyderabad has mounted to 73% from 51% in the last year alone. It’s one of India’s leading IT hubs and is attracting significant investment from technology companies, software development firms and IT service providers. The city is also a major centre for pharmaceutical and global financial industries.

Hyderabad’s strategic location, modern transportation networks and thriving hospitality sector caters well to the diverse requirements of business travellers, ensuring a safe, seamless and productive experience during their corporate travel trip. This investment is only set to flourish as Hyderabad continues to thrive as a key global travel player.

Q: What are the most popular types of serviced accommodations across India?

Masood: India is an interesting one because there is quite a significant gap between budget brands and luxurious brands—there are very little “middle of the range options”.  As the industry matures however, we should expect to see the gap between luxury and budget options narrow as investment into middle-of-the-range options grows.

We see most international travellers seek out serviced apartments or boutique hotels which offer premium hotel suite or apartment types set within a popular global hotel or apartment brand.  They offer excellent on-site facilities such as restaurants, gyms, swimming pools and laundry, alongside exemplary safety measures such as 24-hour CCTV, security guards, secure entry and well-lit areas.

Co-living is really gaining momentum here. This option might look something like a 3-bedroom (BHK) apartment share with shared communal spaces like kitchen and laundry, or guests might have their own small hotel-like room which has access to shared communal spaces. This is a popular choice for travel buyers looking to keep costs down while ensuring travellers enjoy an engaging, comfortable and collaborative experience.

Q: What’s important to travel buyers when choosing accommodations in India?

Masood: Location and distance to office is King in India. Traffic congestion is still a challenge for commuters across the country, and both international and Indian companies are looking to ensure their travellers enjoy a simple, stress-free and efficient commute to the office. In cases where companies have adopted hybrid working, travellers are opting for locations which are close to malls, supermarkets, health facilities and so on.

Cost remains a prominent element within the decision-making process, particularly amongst domestic Indian companies. I expect to see continued investment into budget conscious brands, particularly as the global price index increases and budgets are squeezed.

Finally, duty of care is a prevailing factor for buyers, as they seek to ensure the security and safety of travellers remain intact. There is a perception, especially amongst international travellers, that India isn’t safe and so many travellers and travel managers will feel much more comfortable opting for accommodations within popular hotel chains who have access to first-class security features.

Q: What should we anticipate in terms of accommodation availability for the rest of 2024?

Masood: Demand for serviced accommodation is increasing across major cities such as Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Pune and Chennai. While this has resulted in a slight increase in rates, we are seeing this balanced out as continuous new streams of supply enter the market. This is mainly a result of investment into the Indian economy from local property developers, the globalisation of prominent hospitality brands and of course, the emergence of new, alternative accommodation providers.

Travel organisers should be especially aware of periods where intern volumes are high such as May-August and December. Planning, proactivity and booking accommodations in advance will be key to avoid paying severely inflated prices in the long-term.

How Synergy Can Help

At Synergy, we specialise in managing the end-to-end management of serviced accommodation programmes, wherever our clients need us to be across India, and for however long.

Our goal is simple: to make it easy for you to achieve your business travel and mobility objectives across India without any compromise on guest experience. More specifically, Synergy can provide:

  • Consultative, end-to-end programme management which targets your specific corporate travel and overall organisational objectives in India
  • Local reservations, guest services, finance, sales and supply chain management experts to supportyou and your business travellers from start to finish
  • Potential tax savings associated with your programme via Synergy’s tax registration across Telengana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Naryana
  • Access to an extensive network of fully vetted apartments across India including Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai and Gurugram.
  • Access to high touch service teams who will go above and beyond to deliver your objectives
  • Innovative and flexible accommodation management solutions to meet the ever-evolving requirements of the modern day business traveller

Ready to learn more about how Synergy can help you build or enhance your existing accommodation programme in India? Tell us what you need and our local teams will be happy to support you.