Bhubaneswar is a tourist hub and has good business potential with many star hotels available & some coming up soon like ITC’s WelcomHotels & IHCL’s Taj Group of hotels. At present, there are quite a good number of hotels in Bhubaneswar like Mayfair Lagoon, Swosti Grand & Premium, Trident Hotel, Crown Hotel, Ginger etc. But, during the 80s, things were quite different with only a handful of hotels in Bhubaneswar including Hotel Kalinga Ashoka. And, very few remember that there was a hotel by the name Konark Hotel at Gautam Nagar. It used to be a landmark in Bhubaneswar & did quite good business in the early 1980s. The giant Konark style chariot wheel replica, made by well-known sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra, at the hotel’s entrance was an attraction for its customers & passerby alike. The well furnished 72 rooms, swanky bar, massage parlour & other facilities inside were once the talk of the town when there were very few star hotels in Bhubaneswar. But, gradually the hotel lost its appeal and incurred losses due to internal disturbances & was taken over by the Kolkata based hotel group – Hotel Kenilworth in 1988. Gradually, the occupancy rate increased & the hotel started to show signs of revival. But, in the meantime, it changed hands, went under a new management & was renamed as Sishmo Hotel in the 1990s. Initially, it did average business but later business took a dip due to quality issues & financial mismanagement. I remember attending a job interview in 2004 at Shismo with all its magic lost & interior work looking horrible. The hotel complex has now taken a complete makeover & looks quite dazzling once taken over by the ITC Group’s Fortune chain of hotels in late 2017. Let’s note that Fortune brand is a franchise model hotel chain with brands like Park, Inn, Select & Resort. It has 50+ hotels across India, some are leisure while some are the business category. So, erstwhile Konark hotel complex’s current name is Hotel Fortune Park Sishmo since Sishmo’s loan is still pending.
Insider news is that the plot originally belonged to Indian National Congress (INC), managed by Swarajya Ashram Parichalan Trust (SAPT) which had planned to build a Gandhi/Swaraj Ashram. After a series of deals, the ownership went to Harekrushna Mahtab (former CM of Odisha), as chairman of Prajatantra Prachhar Samiti. He was also the member of SAPT & sought the govt’s permission to sell off the plot in 1970s. And, the plot was sold to Kolkata based company Ashoka Industries, owned by hotelier S.N Goel in 1979 and that’s how Hotel Konark was born. It managed the magnificent pure white looking hotel till 1988. I remember cycling past the hotel in 1984-85 & gasping at the giant Konark wheel and the grandeur of the hotel. It is said that Goel’s sons couldn’t manage the hotel well & eventually became defaulter to financial institutions and was evicted by the court’s order. The hotel was then handed over to another Kolkata based hospitality business – Kenilworth Group, for a fixed annual rent which was never paid till date. Even Kenilworth faced the same fate within a few years, incurred losses & went back to Kolkata, where its original hotel business with the same name is still doing brisk business at Park Street. Now, it has expanded its business to Goa too. Sishmo Hotel then made its silent entry in the late 1990s and had the same fate of mismanagement & its dues to financial institutions are still pending. Its managed by Fortune Park since the second half of 2017. Some satirically say that the plot itself has negative energy due to which despite being in posh locality with all major important locations (airport, museum, heritage temples, railway station etc) within reach, yet not a single party could run its business for long.
Whatever it be, I’m least concerned, but can’t find the gigantic Konark wheel at the entrance now in 2018. Last time I had seen it in Sept 2014, in a hapless condition which will make one feel pity. The entrance looked like a dumping yard & the construction company who was carrying out the renovation work has not paid any heed to the magnificent wheel and was fully covered with mud (see image). The only thing connecting to the bygone era is the taxi stand in front of the hotel( registered in the same year when Konark Hotel was started) still running under the name – Konark Taxi Stand. Heard that the wheel was sold at an undisclosed price to a foreign collector. I personally strongly feel the Konark wheel should have stayed in its own place with proper dignity & continue to attract the eyes of people passing by because it was not just a brand logo carrier, but was an iconic landmark for the people of Bhubaneswar, long before the Master Canteen’s war horse statue was made.
Last updated & published in my FaceBook page on 6th Sep 2014.
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