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Chandrakant Patel: Person of the Year

ATLANTA — 2011 saw major inroads from franchisees who used their associations to collectively obtain better transparency and even to manage national marketing and supply chains to ensure that they were getting a good deal, free from hidden markups and kickbacks to the franchisor. Two major franchise groups, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and the Coalition of Franchisee Associations, combined forces to push for better contracts and stronger lobbying influence on behalf of franchise owners.

No one embodies the new sophistication and influence of franchisees and their associations better than Motel 6 franchise owner Chandrakant Patel, or "C.K.," as he is known in the industry. Patel has urged for decades that we in the franchise world change how we treat each other. As chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, Mr. Patel has pushed tirelessly for fair franchising. This year he marshaled the sometimes divergent forces of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association to combine with the Coalition of Franchisee Associations.

This isn't the first time C.K. has seen the pain and then went after a solution. His career is characterized by such moves, such as when C.K. noticed that bankers seemed to be discriminating against Indian hoteliers in making loans. So he opened a community bank himself. He was a founder of two community banks in Georgia – Quantum National Bank in 1996, the first bank owned by Indian Americans in the southeast, and Home Town Community Bank in 2005.

Patel, who has been a hotelier since 1982, is president of Atlanta-based BVM Holdings, which owns and operates hotels as well as certain commercial real estate investments in Georgia. In January of 2011, he was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to the prestigious 30-member Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which advises about industry program and policies.

CK Patel speaks at 2011 AAHOA convention
Patel speaks at 2011 AAHOA meeting

In 1998, the Association's chairman Mike Patel (no relation) identified standards for hotel franchise owners to use in judging their franchisor. With the help of C.K., these points were upgraded to twelve points. Later, in 2011, he went out of his industry and with delegates from some of America's largest franchise brands — representing franchise owners of some of the largest restaurant, auto repair and personal service brands — he became one of the founding drafters of a Bill of Rights for all franchisees in all sectors.

Years from now franchisees may affectionately look back to 2011 and refer to C.K. Patel as the industry's George Washington.

If all of that activity wasn't enough, Patel did even more for franchise owners in 2011 — much more. He set an example for franchisee trade groups by initiating a study by HVS of return on investment (ROI) for franchise units among individual hotel brands. In the old days if a candidate wanted to intelligently invest in a hotel franchise, they would largely rely on the franchise salesman, what a franchisee scribbles on a piece of paper as far as earnings, and whether a franchisor chose to be accurate in the Franchise Disclosure Document. Now an independent auditor will provide ROI information to hotel franchise candidates so that they can reasonably compare average unit earnings from one brand to another and know which hotel chain provides the most bang for their investment buck.

That is monumental.

In C.K.'s vision, franchisee cooperatives are very important in running certain national brand functions. In 2011 Patel pushed for AAHOA to build and manage an online travel portal for travelers to book hotel rooms (mybesthotelrate.com). This is similar to Hotels.com, Expedia, Orbitz and even franchisors, all of which facilitate online booking of rooms at a hefty price to franchise owners. He also pushed for an online supply chain cooperative — run by franchisees and hotel owners.

New York-based hotel consultant Stan Turkel called the moves a "home run."

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