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Tycoon plans to build entire village in Highland glen

Sanjay and Rachna Narang bought three hotels after accommodation disappointment.

By Iain Ramage

An Indian tycoon has unveiled plans to build an entire village in a remote Highland glen.

Sanjay Narang and his sister Rachna, a designer, have just opened the third of three hotels they bought and upgraded, after being horrified by the quality of other accommodation in the region.

They said they had experienced "dirty rooms, cold water and microwaved meals" costing £120 a night while on holiday.

Their vision now is for a traditional 17th or 18th-century village featuring 100 cottages for sale or long lease along with a five-star hotel, four-star guest house and bed-and-breakfast log cabins.

It would have a cobbled-street market, a town square and an amphitheatre. Shop premises would be provided free for local artisans.

The Narangs have their sights set on several hundred acres of Glengarry forest for the project.

Sanjay Narang and his sister Rachna study their plans.
Sanjay Narang and his sister Rachna study their plans. STV

The proposal for sale of forest land has been put to Glengarry Village Community Council. Mr Narang has explained to councillors that if they object he would be happy to withdraw the proposal, saying he did not want to antagonise fellow residents.

Sanjay said: "The intent was to find an absolutely jaw-dropping, beautiful location where there's no sign of any other development, humanity, nothing.

"And in that location create a very old, 17th or 18th century-style stone village with a little main street, town square, a little clock tower, many shops.

"Local shops, where people can come and sell their products, where we just give them the space - and artisans and people who make things locally come and sell it there."

The brother and sister, who head a group which built and owns exclusive hotels in India, snapped up the rebranded Whispering Pine Lodge (formerly Letterfinlay Lodge) by Loch Lochy and Rokeby Manor (formerly Craigard Guest House) at Invergarry along with the Cluanie Inn at Glenmoriston for a total of £3m.

Over the past 18 months they have spent £12m to upgrade the premises.

Rokeby Manor is one of the hotels purchased.
Rokeby Manor is one of the hotels purchased.

The renamed Whispering Pine Lodge and Rokeby Manor were not on the market. Asked if the respective owners would sell, figures were quoted and the Narangs said they accepted the prices without quibbling.

They love the area and its nature so much that they have since relocated from Mumbai to Glengarry.

The three hotels, which will be open all year, employ 80 staff - of which 65 additional hotel jobs were created by the Narangs.

The accommodation makeover has maintained a traditional Highland theme.

Sanjay said: "My sister is very passionate, she's a student of art history, very passionate about history and character of a place and looks to preserve that as much as possible in every single property we have.

"If you were to visit all three they are completely different but you would absolutely know without looking out the window that you're in the Highlands of Scotland and that's what her love is.

"And she really enjoys it and I think that gets reflected in the design of the hotels, completely."

Meet the Narangs

Sanjay Narang studied hotel management at Cornell University, USA, after which he returned to India in 1985 to head Ambassador Sky Chef the air catering division of the Ambassador Group of Hotels, his family's business.

Sanjay joined the Taj Group of Hotels as head of the air catering division and advisor to the chairman and managing director.

During his association with Taj Air Caterers he designed and set up their air catering facilities in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Goa and was responsible for turning around Taj Air Caterers from a loss-maker to a highly profitable division of the Taj Group.

By 1991, Sanjay actively embarked on establishing the Mars Group as a leading player in the food service and hospitality industry in India.

With his vision and hands-on approach, Mars Restaurants partnered with various domestic and international private equity and venture capital funds to build a chain of restaurants under various brands and formats across India and developed a unique boutique hotel concept called 'The Gordon House' in Mumbai and other major cities.

Sanjay Narang and his sister Rachna.
Sanjay Narang and his sister Rachna. STV

The group had set up airline catering units under the "Skygourmet" brand in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata, becoming the largest airline caterer in the country.

Both Mars Restaurants and Skygourmet were listed through India Hospitality Corp (IHC) on AIM, a market operated by London Stock Exchange plc, in 2007.

Sanjay continues to oversee the activity of the Mars Group as its president.

Rachna Narang's early education took place in London, followed by study of Liberal Arts at Cornell University, USA.

On return to India, her first venture in hospitality was setting up and managing a chain of Bakery shops called Croissants etc, followed by Birdy's Bakery & Patisserie outlets in Bombay. She was also in charge of day-to-day operations of Birdy's by Taj cake shops, a joint venture between the Mars Group and The Taj Group of Hotels.

Rachna heads the in-house Design Team and is responsible for designing all Mars Hotels and Restaurant.

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