Cover Story

My Management Mantra

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Fifteen general managers of India’s leading brands share their unique management styles

‘Good organisations become illustrious because of virtuous people’

Strategy for 2015

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Amit Samson

Our basic strategy for the New Year would be taking forward the current set of operations and best practices which we have implemented in 2014 and setting new benchmarks in achieving the same. All my strategies for the New Year is aimed towards three broad goals:

Great satisfaction levels of all external and internal customers: In the hospitality industry, the three Ps – Product, People and Processes are the cynosure of all strategies. It is our constant endeavour to keep our tangibles impressive and impactful, which directly or indirectly influence guests’ perception of value. It is also important to give emphasis on the intangibles which hold the key in delighting our customers. Hence, over and above standard operating procedures (SOPs), I give a lot of emphasis to need based training and soft skills training.

Great profitability for all stakeholders: With increasing inflow of inventory in the city and rise of fees of the online and offline intermediaries, there is a huge pressure on many hotels to build up their top lines and yields from rooms. For our top lines, we focus on the right mix of segments and sources. We also ensure that our top producing source markets are clearly identified. For the online space, focus is always set on the right prices and right offers on all GDS and other web based platforms. For the same, we have a highly cogent and effective channel distribution and management team to closely monitor any variations in the market.

With regards to the F&B outlets, I have recently introduced some unprecedented and time tested periodic gourmet events known as the ‘Gourmet Express’ which helps in building up our repeat customer base and strengthening the restaurant brands. We are also planning to launch a brand new nightclub called ‘Kitty Su’ at The Lalit Mumbai around the first quarter of next year which will be the third outlet in our chain. Kitty Su is going to be a unique high energy watering hole with the latest systems in terms of sound, lights and interiors.

Another of our key strengths at The Lalit Mumbai is ‘Banqueting’ which forms a major vertical for us. The banqueting team and I constantly strive in focusing on the right segments of corporate, social and entertainment clients and make all efforts to deliver value to them.

Great brand visibility: In today’s dense population of hotels, we need to stay strongly visible as a brand. With the efforts of our promoters, our chain has gained prominence by engaging with the local communities in the city. Even today, we are continuing with our campaign to promote local sports for sustained community development. This greatly enhances our brand presence over and above cementing strong relationships with the local communities. We also keep partnering with prominent event management companies (EMCs) to gain visibility and prominence in media channels.

Operational excellence

I believe the only way we can achieve this is with training and empowerment. I am a firm believer of decentralising the decision making process with pre-approved boundary lines. Strict adherence to processes and policies, exceptional human relation skills and sound knowledge of the products of business make employees pace towards excellence. I believe that employees should be tuned to comprehend the financial implications of every decision they take. I also encourage my staff to be decisive and take charge when they perceive any negative moment of truth.

Mentor and team builder

My belief is that great leaders always have the ability to become effective mentors. I myself was a protégé of some illustrious hospitality leaders in the country. So now I am morally obligated to do the same. I ensure that all my experienced senior executives and managers take out time for mentoring their junior colleagues. Also, whenever I see a spark and willingness to learn in an employee at any level, I ensure that I take out the time to mentor him/ her personally. I also spend a lot of time in mentoring the senior leaders in my team. I meet my line managers once in a week in the morning meetings without their department and section heads. This gives me a formal platform to mentor and develop employees for vertical and horizontal growth within the organisation.

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With regards to team building – I work on the premise that great teams are built on the basis of clearly defined organisational goals, implicit trust in the brand, implicit trust in the senior leadership and augmented satisfaction levels at work. I make sure that my senior managers constantly endeavour to create an atmosphere of positivity, trust and satisfaction and they disseminate the broad goals of the organisation to each and every personnel in their respective teams.

Good organisations become illustrious because of virtuous people. More than skills and knowledge, I look for attitude in people.

Superfluous knowledge and skills are futile in people with no virtue and character. I stay away from applying logic when it comes to understanding people but largely use my intuition and instinct as the complexity of the human mind is beyond human comprehension. In fact, I apply extreme caution while I form the senior leadership team. I avoid keeping people in my team who are perpetually negative in their thoughts as negative thoughts can never drive positive
actions.

Amit Samson, GM, The LaLit Mumbai

(As told to Kahini Chakraborty)


‘It is vital to provide exactly what the customer wants’

Strategy for 2015

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Gayle Henriques

There has been an over-supply of rooms in Mumbai as compared to the demand in the city. Corporates have started cutting down drastically on hotel expenses and this has affected the luxury hotel segment adversely whilst at the same time given impetus to budget hotels. The key strategy for 2015 is ‘customisation and improvisation’. In today’s world where the competition gets tougher by the day, it is extremely vital to provide exactly what the customer wants. With the new T2 terminal at Mumbai right adjacent to Waterstones Hotel, there have been quite a few new hotels in and around the area catering to different segments. We however, believe that Waterstones has an edge over other hotels. Firstly, because of our location advantage. The infrastructural development in the city has brought the hotel and the domestic airport closer, literally. Situated less than a km away from the international airport and 3.5 km from the domestic airport, Waterstones has become the ideal choice for business and leisure travellers with a taste for design. Secondly, it is a boutique hotel which has created a strong image and a niche for itself in the market over the past few years. And lastly, because of the range of services it offers to its guests. Understanding our guests’ needs, we have customised our packages accordingly. We offer corporate guests a ‘No-frill package’ which fits their budget without having to compromise on any factor pertaining to their business needs. The idea is to charge the guests only for the services they use.

Going forward, customisation will play a vital role in determining the business share of a hotel.

Operational excellence

A strong team is always crucial when it comes to successfully running a business. We at Mars Enterprises (parent company of Waterstones Hotel), lay a lot of emphasis on team building. A hotel is a labour intensive business and the work-force really is the backbone of the business. It becomes a lot simpler to take decisions when each member of your team knows exactly what he/she is supposed to do.

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Other crucial factor is quality. Quality of service and products offered to the guests play an important role in building a reputation for the brand. It is necessary to maintain consistency in quality in order to have a good relationship with your consumer. Consumers today are extremely knowledgeable and know exactly what they should expect when they use a certain hotel brand. The operations team is the face of the company and hence should know the product thoroughly in order to be able to present it to the end consumer.

Mentor and team builder

I believe that it is extremely important to have a reliable team. The hotel industry is all about providing an impeccable experience to your guest and this depends upon seamless and smooth coordination between the different teams that work together towards creating this experience. If one team should stop functioning effectively or lack in coordination it would hamper guest satisfaction and in turn hamper your business. It is important to not just be a leader overlooking a team but also be a part of the team. Captains are always preferred over coaches. Only if you are involved with your team, will you understand the issues and be able to take a decision.

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It is relatively easy to build a team. But to nurture a team and ensure that the team works as a unit is the biggest challenge for any leader. It is important that the team members see growth prospects for themselves. Personal growth is the biggest motivational factor in any organisation and a motivated team will do everything within its strengths to ensure highest guest satisfaction level. Apart from professional life, it is vital to spend time together off-work which really helps the team gel together. It has been observed that a team which feels for one another works better as a unit. This also helps retain employees, one of the biggest challenges faced by HR departments throughout the industry.

Gayle Henriques, GM,Waterstones Hotel & Club, Mumbai

(As told to Sudipta Dev)


‘It is imperative to have an unbiased system of identifying high performers’ vs employees who need regular coaching’

Strategy for 2015

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Jagar Thakur

The strategy for effective management skills in the New Year will be efficient monitoring of basic principles of management, i.e., unity of command, span of control, definite job assignment, and authority and responsibility, when applied together in humanistic and encouraging manner yields better results and greater satisfaction. This strategy is also in line with our smart goals to meet and exceed the expectations of our guests, owners, employees and business associates by creating healthy environment and happy experience for all of them. In our industry it is all about people, products, processes and profits, which are interlinked. It is a fact that happy employees take better care of guests, and well looked after guests are more loyal to our product and services and generate better business opportunities for our owners and business associates, who in turn will invest more into new projects and create more job opportunities and growth. This cycle brings new exciting opportunities for all the stakeholders in the hospitality business.

However it is easier said than done, unless we hire the right management team to take on the task of managing our employees, who are the prime assets for us to deliver the desired standard of service to our guests. Regular skill development and behavioural training with continuous communication play vital roles in engaging employees for successful endeavours. The key strategies will include:

  • Effective delegation of responsibilities with regard to guest services and expectations
  • Setting of SMART goals for all team members, especially sales for achieving numbers
  • Timely communication with team, so that all are on the same page and guest services and concerns are at the centre of our day-to-day operations
  • Employees general meetings on a monthly basis to share updates
  • Rewarding and recognising achievements of employees
  • Update product and services for lasting solutions
  • Employees must enjoy the work place, don’t take it too seriously, have fun and enjoy work

Operational excellence

We encourage our employees to provide effective and efficient operational services on a continuous basis without linking it to financial compensations every time. This philosophy of leadership, team work and problem solving results in continuous improvement throughout our resort by focusing on the needs of our guests by empowering employees and optimising their activities in the process. It is imperative to have a good and unbiased system of identifying high performers’ vs employees who need regular coaching and supervision as it plays role in making the employees to understand that self starters and high performers will be rewarded by way of additional increments or promotions as soon as they are ready or as and when the vacancy arises. In each department we have implemented employee of the month system, where an employee is rewarded for his contribution for achieving higher guest satisfaction.

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Mentor and team builder

My strategy for mentoring and team building is based out of genuine concern for the well-being of our guests, owners, business associates and employees and the idea is to increase efficiency and motivation of employees so as to increase productivity without being afraid of giving honest feedback to employees in the interest of improving their performance and the resort’s credibility.

In the hospitality industry especially in resort destinations, human resources management is very important, to look after the organisation. This industry often has been described as a ‘people business’ and we have to be familiar with all aspects and trends that affect our business like political view, economic condition, competitions and social views, so we have to plan manpower requirement and recruitment carefully, to suit specific activities and specific positions to make business sense for all stakeholders.

Jagar Thakur, GM, Fariyas Resort, Lonavla

(As told to Kahini Chakraborty)


‘Our key focus will be to continue building our operational excellence’

Strategy for 2015

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Manish Dayya

The key strategy for 2015 is to stick to the basics and to ensure we work towards highlighting and delivering our brand promise, with respect to each of our brand pillars which include – a sense of welcome, a sense of food and beverage, a sense of wellness and a sense of culture and discovery. Another strategy is to also stay in sync with current market trends, such as the increasing number of high spending domestic tourists to the Goa market and the increasing MICE business that is coming to Goa.

The opening response to Grand Mercure Goa Shrem Resort has been beyond expectations and our key focus will be to continue building our operational excellence. Grand Mercure Goa Shrem Resort is nestled in the lap of lush greenery with a view of the beautiful paddy fields. This property reveals the lesser known side of Goa which is so close (yet within a safe distance) of the bustling nightlife that North Goa is so famous for. The resort features 121 rooms and suites elegant in detail, each room at the resort is designed with comfort in mind, offering the finest combination of elegance, indulgence, and upscale hospitality under one umbrella with a ‘Glocal’ touch. We welcome travellers to experience the Grand Mercure Goa Shrem Resort. With these distinctive offerings by Grand Mercure Goa Shrem Resort we trust that travellers across all segments can indulge in a heartfelt experience coupled with world class hospitality and experience the perfect balance of luxury, family spirit and wellness.

For 2015 we are happy to announce La Brise, our beach restaurant, which opened its doors in December 2014. La Brise is a 150 seater restaurant with a great view coupled with 1,400 sq ft of meeting space and 5,000 sq ft of open lawn space.

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Operational excellence

Achieving operational excellence requires high performance, strategically integrated processes that outpace the competition by delivering more value to the guests. There are three major factors which ensure achievement of operational excellence. First and foremost, we need to ensure high quality team work which follow the organisational priorities. Secondly, use of effective technology is of prime importance. The use of technology in the hospitality industry has dramatically changed over the past few years, shifting from a back office support role to one of strategic significance. An effective use of IT not only facilitates the day-to-day operations, but also ensures better interactions with guests and a higher chance in delivering exceptional customer service. The third factor is to keep employees motivated. Motivating hotel staff not only improves job performance, but also reduces costs associated with finding and training new workers.

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Mentor and team builder

In an industry like hospitality, service and morale go hand in hand. A general manager of a hotel plays a larger role in this industry. His/her role becomes more of a mentor and often needs to function as a coach who derives excellence for him and his team. In a fast changing trend and surroundings, we in the hospitality industry also have to continue and keep up with the trends, being available on social media, responding to the voice of the guests and customers and most importantly rate parity will continue to be the factor for me and my team to watch out for.

Manish Dayya, GM, Grand Mercure Goa Shrem Resort

(As told to Kahini Chakraborty)


‘We will be focusing on multiple layered training programmes’

Strategy for 2015

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Anoop Suri

In this fast changing world, where we are seeing a technological boom and high expectations from both internal and external customers for implementing effective and successful management strategies, it is required that our management skills are revised and updated on a regular basis. We need to keep up with the changing scenarios and must ensure that we are one up from our competitors at all times. 2015 will bring in new changes anticipated not only from technology but also from the changing face of the global traveller. To ensure that we have effective management skills within our team we will be focusing on multiple layered training programmes:

  • Management development programmes – Undertaking technology updates, industry best practices, management skill development, training skills, etc.
  • Supervisory skill development programmes – These programmes will focus on developing existing supervisory force to accept and adopt the technology in their day-to-day working and also to upgrade their knowledge in management skills to ensure that they go up the ladder to become future managers in coming years.
  • Staff skill development programmes – These programmes will be conducted mostly by the supervisors and managers with inputs from the training department to update the staff with the new management policies, existing technology and how it will assist them in being more productive and increase client satisfaction.

We will also partner with other companies in the industry to share our best practices which will be a mutually beneficial step. We will be encouraging CPD (continuous professional development) for all our employees and provide them with resources where ever possible. We will also provide opportunities to our employees to be part of different associations for networking with professionals within their trade.

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Operational excellence

As mentioned above, the training and upgrading of knowledge is an effective manner to ensure that our work force brings in effective operational excellence. Confidence in self and company, adherence of SOPs and ensuring that all team members are subscribing to the company’s vision and mission ensures that the team works together for a common goal. The support management provided through upgradation of knowledge, skills and technology provides the staff with motivation to be more productive and move towards excellence.

As management of the unit, we will be coming up with a structured monitoring and feedback system which will provide our staff with a 360 degree assessment. The management hierarchy will be trained to analyse these feedbacks and provide staff with very clear and understandable points to improve upon.

The KRAs and KPIs will be provided on a regular basis with targets which are difficult but achievable. Targets will be divided into smaller steps spread over a year, so as to ensure less burden and enough time to achieve each step. Each achievement will be celebrated within each department to motivate them further and combined achievements will be announced and celebrated in a Monthly Town Hall meet.

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Mentor and team builder

What we have discussed till now is a theory which can be implemented only when supported by the whole team in a hierarchical manner. In any organisation every person has some weaknesses and some strengths, we must ensure that our employees are trained to do their self SWOT analysis and are able to discuss freely with their managers. This way proper training can be imparted to the staff to work on their weaknesses.

Usually the training departments are shortly manned and may have one-two persons, this requires that we create a team that imparts personal trainings, do monitoring and reviews. The team will consist of the following:

  • Masters – These can be the departmental managers or executives who would co-ordinate with the training department, the mentors for effective training of employees. They will also conduct the regular appraisals of all people below them. These masters will also provide skill trainings to the employees on the skills in which they have strengths and good knowledge.
  • Mentors – These are the supervisors to senior staff within a team who will supervise the training and development of the team and will provide answers to their queries. They will also conduct job trainings for their immediate needs and provide a KPI and KRA achievement analysis to the masters and training department.
  • Buddies – Employees who have been with us for a long time and who are well trained and are aligned with the vision, mission and processes of the organisation are assigned as buddies to new employees or employees being upgraded in coming months.

Anoop Suri, GM, TGB – The Grand Bhagwati Surat

(As told to Rituparna Chatterjee)


‘We plan to invest more in reinforcing data security’

Strategy for 2015

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Anuraag Bhatnagar

It is an extraordinary time for us. Among all industries, upscale hospitality is ranking near the top in its attention to customers. Because guest expectations are high, quality is not just a goal, it is the very essence of the business. At Starwood Hotels & Resorts, we believe that this is ‘the age of great change’ and hence the strategy for 2015 will be to focus on quality measures with a three-pronged approach: improving the Guest Satisfaction Index, increasing revenue, and controlling costs.

The strategy will be to invest in Talent Management by engaging the employees with the brand and delivering consistent standards of customer service across global portfolios. We will develop innovative talent programmes and re-design operating models to effectively execute the talent strategy. We aim to upgrade with self healing technology. As a global hotel brand we are tasked with responding to increasingly sophisticated guests no matter where in the world they are or where they are from. Today that means acting as a portal to a destination’s local culture, arming travellers with technology to make smart decisions quickly, and creating a company culture that encourages our staff to step outside their defined roles. Starwood Hotels and Resorts is the first hotel brand to introduce a Google Glass app, an Apple Watch app, a robotic staff member, and stellar social customer service.

We plan to invest more in reinforcing data security; to ensure that as an organisation we have taken all the necessary safeguards to protect guests and the reputation of the brand. Yield management tools will be developed and extended to improve cost management. We will minimise the shocks of unpredictable events and reconfigure each crisis as an opportunity to reinforce brand values and enhance consumer relationship.

Operational excellence

At Starwood Hotels and Resorts we have the Opex (Operational Excellence) Projects which aims at improving the quality circle. The problem resolution is done in a very scientific manner; the problem areas are identified, brain-storming exercises are conducted based on the different causes by the key stakeholders who are the front liners and guest facing employees. The Root Cause Analysis is done by using the Fish Bone model. The solutions are identified for the root cause and by using the Diamond model, the appropriate solution is identified and a SMART plan is prepared. Once the plan is prepared the same is executed. The results are monitored. Once the results are witnessed a SOP is created for the process.

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The Westin Mumbai Garden City has a very effective career development programme called Starwood Careers which is an online structured module. There are three different tracks for the associates which are entry level, mid management level and the executive level. This is a very systematically prepared programme in developing the associates for the next level. The hotel follows the Balance Score Card model and the principle of Management by Objective (MBO). The associates’ objectives are set at the start of the year which is in line with the objective of the organisation. The associates set their individual objectives in consultation with their immediate supervisor for achieving the goals of the organisation. Once the associate and his/her supervisor approve on the same goals, an agreement is signed electronically and a mid-year and year-end assessment is conducted in which the employees are rated as per the objective and the set competencies. The assessment is very objective and there is no ambiguity on the assessment as the expectations are clearly set by both the parties and the assessment is based on the achievement of the objectives.

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Mentor and team builder

This is an exciting time to join Starwood Asia Pacific. As we forge ahead with expansion, we are putting more and more focus on talent recruitment and development to fill the ever-growing need for the best and the brightest. One of the things that we do very well is not just look at hiring the best people, but seeing how we can make them more productive. This is possible with the kind of tools we have today. For example, we continuously do employee satisfaction surveys in our hotels. Our recruitment drive – Starwood Careers encourage us for high potential talent acquisition, whether at an associate level or a management level. The career development programme assist our employees with a learning track for 12 months to ensure that necessary skills and competencies are developed with mentoring and guidance, and the high-performers are rewarded with a recommendation for 18 months development track for the next level. This structure promises career growth opportunity to our existing employees and new hires during their entire tenure with Starwood.

Anuraag Bhatnagar, Area GM, The Westin Mumbai Garden City

(As told to Rituparna Chatterjee)


‘We have also factored in a hotel goodwill scorecard’

Strategy for 2015

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Sahdev Mehta

Empowerment and clearly set SMART goals will be the focus this year, where the hotel leadership team has a definite and solid buy in. It is imperative to ensure that the team keeps an eye on the ball, through frequent reinforcement of goals. The buy in is an emotional commitment where the HOD, with his or her team comes up with a strategy and plan to achieve these goals. The hotel has reached the stage in its post opening cycle where the key leadership team is now driving their departments and doing a great job. 2015 will be about taking this a notch higher and empowering them further. We have also factored in a hotel goodwill scorecard which the management has a responsibility to. As the opening GM and team, the hotel’s image and goodwill is our legacy to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pune – Chinchwad and we have done a great job so far. We want to take it up further. It’s a brand new initiative which we have rolled out.

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Operational excellence

Operational excellence largely depends on achieving guest loyalty, ensuring team member engagement, meeting revenue goals and expense budgets. Effective hotel performance is achieved through smooth coordination between departments, thereby ensuring a flawless guest experience. In addition, efficient utilisation of resources play an important role in maximising output whilst keeping costs at a minimum. It is important to create an environment that allows talent to shine through, where your team members are engaged, motivated and empowered. Communication of organisational goals, recognition of goal achievement and rewarding team members for accomplishments goes a long way towards instilling a sense of belonging and ownership within team members. This sense of belonging amongst team members inspires them to find ways to keep guests happy whilst keeping costs at a minimum. At the end of the day, it is the people that drive the organisation; and efficient people make for a successful hotel.

Mentor and team builder

At DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pune – Chinchwad, we CARE for our guests and team members. Our culture of Creating A Rewarding Experience is a brand initiative that binds everyone together in their endeavour to achieve guest loyalty and team member engagement. HR of course plays a large role in driving the mentoring and team building strategies. Effective relationships and learnings are the mainstays of organisational success. Finding meaningful ways for team members to connect is more likely to result in greater productivity, enhanced career growth and overall improvement in employee performance. Spending time together in a work as well as social environment helps team members to bond and inspires higher levels of commitment towards goal accomplishment. Ensuring that team members are given a chance to do what they do best, lets them know that their skills and contributions are valued as integral additions to the team.

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The hotel goodwill scorecard which is our latest initiative, is something we are very proud of. This scorecard supports our CARE philosophy, which talks about Creating A Rewarding Experience for guests, team members and the community. Our hotel and team represent impeccable standards and unparalleled service. We strive to maintain this image with our guests and corporate partners. Our goodwill scorecard brings people together, to serve the common goal of preserving and enhancing our image as a preferred hospitality service provider.

Our management mantra is to create an environment which nurtures and develops talent. Obviously this begins right from day one. New recruits are assigned a mentor to help ease them into their new surroundings. We organise extracurricular activities to help build team spirit. Our DoubleTree Premier League of champions have a blast when they gear up for an exciting challenge every week in the team member cafeteria. We also help bring team members up-to-date in term of technology by teaching basics of computers and emails to team members who have not had a chance to work on computers. We have also started an education fund to help children of our team members.

Sahdev Mehta, GM, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pune – Chinchwad

(As told to Rituparna Chatterjee)


‘Efficiency in operations leads to a great guest experience’

Strategy for 2015

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Punit Sheth

As part of Starwood Hotel and Resorts our key strategy is Global Personalisation at Starwood (GPS) – we connect, sell and deliver. Being the top brand in the city with a parent like the Sheraton brand, the name Four Points by Sheraton distinguishes us in a big way. We have the power of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) one of the world’s best loyalty programmes for guests and the brand Four Points does a lot that helps us in our overall strategy. There are many USPs as a branded hotel, a big one being the Four Points Signature Bed, and other programmes like Sweet Treat, TLC etc. As an upscale business hotel with mostly corporate transient travel, our biggest strategy is to provide honest, uncomplicated comfort to all our guests which further leads to overall business growth. On the property we always listen to our customers and we adapt accordingly, be it more amenities, customised menus, great long stay packages and benefits. I personally believe word of mouth is the best marketing strategy but these days that is not enough, hence we are very active on social media, print media and have maintained a number one ranking on TripAdvisor further promoting the property. Revenue management and digital marketing are extremely important as we continue to push our top strategy of Drive to Web. F&B performance is critical as breakfast is included in most rate plans. Having said that the basic of having great breakfast through our ‘What’s for Breakfast’ brand programme, is just the start. Besides wowing the in house guests with our signature venue EATERY, In-Room Dining, Nuevo and Fresco meeting space, we do outdoor catering and have done weddings and corporate functions of over 1500 people spanning five days, real money makers. Hence a lot of importance is given to the F&B department as part of the overall strategy and even more so from a marketing perspective as it continuously pulls in walk in and city guests.

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Operational excellence

At Starwood we believe that in this age of great change to be agile is extremely vital, you have to move like a hyena and not like a hippo, even though you may be as big as a Fortune 500 company, hence getting it done fast is more important than to just try for perfection with no results. Operational excellence is a very important part of all Starwood hotels and we apply it to our day to day operations with a lot of support from our regional and divisional teams. Efficiency in our operations leads to a great guest experience and not mere grandeur of the task at hand. A senior in the industry once told me “Activity is not achievements, you have to follow through”, so I consistently give a 100 per cent at all the activities that I prioritise strategically to make sure at the end of the day, month, quarter or year they become achievements. We have a companywide initiative of going green where we are looking at reducing our utility consumption by over 20 per cent by 2020 thereby tackling an important global issue. Hence, leading by example, is another personal management mantra.

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Mentoring and teambuilding

One thing I have noticed from my earlier bosses (GMs) is that they were all great orators but not all of them were good listeners. My endeavour is to listen more, then analyse and then speak or act accordingly. All teams or department heads have the basic technical skills, what makes them good or bad is their engagement in the business and how they treat their associates, in turn what the associates will do for the hotel and its guests. Hence as a mentor I only guide and engage on what they may be already doing. We have Starwood Careers programme that further facilitates this process. I like to connect as a mentor and team leader and promote the idea of work life integration.

Punit Sheth, GM, Four Points by Sheraton, Ahmedabad

(As told to Steena Joy)


‘We will focus on consolidating our core businesses’

Strategy for 2015

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Eric Weber

I wish for three things: that the shift in mood since the last Indian general election will actually translate into sustained business demand going forward, that the new government will push infrastructure development across the country and that it will make it much easier for people to travel in and out of India. In spite of that, the world at large continues to be rather unstable and unpredictable, and as a result I foresee general booking patterns and demand to continuously fluctuate and remain very short notice. Therefore, we will focus on consolidating our core businesses in various segments whilst using good revenue management practices every day to maximise top lines.

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Operational excellence

The commitment and support of our associates in living Hyatt values every day. Hiring and having the right person for the right job at the right time is also essential. I believe consistency in our service deliveries as well as giving each associate room for innovation and the freedom to express her- / himself are key to create a productive and efficient workforce. Giving people opportunity, fair pay, support and commitment increases job satisfaction and reduces turnover, which in turn leads to more consistent service deliveries. Never forget that nobody is perfect, so the willingness to admit mistakes and learn from them are also important aspects of achieving excellence.

Mentor and team builder

20150131eh90Let people do the jobs they have been hired for. Define goals and strategies together, don’t micro-manage, offer guidance and support as and when needed. For myself, be transparent and integer – as the saying goes, if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. Also, conduct yourself the way you expect your associates to conduct themselves, and treat people the way you want to be treated. Never take yourself too seriously, and make sure everyone can have fun and a good laugh every day. Finally, I apply a zero tolerance-policy on office politics – and on bad wine.

The understanding of ‘service’ and ‘luxury’ is continuously evolving. What was prevalent yesterday may no longer apply tomorrow. I believe hoteliers today can no longer simply propose brand standards to customers; we need to try and tailor products and services to the needs of each individual traveller. Some like the fuss of personal attention and gimmicks, some like respective hotel brand standards they can relate to everywhere they travel, others simply want to be left alone and have things done as quickly as possible. Bearing all this in mind, it is important to give customers an experience which is as unique and as personal as possible, facilitating the individual touch points that matter to each customer. This will create genuine customer loyalty and engagement – which is what all hotel chains are trying to achieve in the end.

Eric Weber, GM, Hyatt Regency Mumbai

(As told to Sudipta Dev)


‘We emphasise on employee satisfaction as much as guest satisfaction’

Strategy for 2015

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Biswajit Chakraborty

Sofitel Mumbai BKC has done well in the current year and 2014 has been very positive for the hotel. We have seen enhanced occupancy levels and the coming season looks buoyant in terms of both, average room rate (ARR) and occupancy levels. We endeavour to enhance our RevPar in the forthcoming year, which will be a judicious mix of volumes as well as ARR. This will be possible to achieve through quality, impeccable service, intelligent marketing and high ratio of repeat guests.

Sofitel’s unique personality is distinguished by its three brand pillars offering a three-dimensional experience: special attention to design and innovation, a constant celebration of gastronomy and wine, and a passion for culture and events. These three pillars constitute the pure essence of the Sofitel brand. In the past few months the hotel has seen a host of events supporting its brand pillars including flying down an international all-girl band from UK – the Tootsie Rollers, a mentalist from Germany Nicolai Friedrich who took guests by storm with his magical tricks, launch of the legendary star Waheeda Rehman’s biography, ‘Conversations with Waheeda’ as well as Dr. Atul Gawande’s best-selling book, ‘Being Mortal’ was launched at the hotel.

The hotel has also been credited with bringing in over six international chefs to India including Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and more to lend its guests the experience of their favourite international cuisine in the heart of Mumbai.

In the next year, we plan to amplify Sofitel’s brand pillars and provide guests with a holistic experience to make the hotel a destination in itself. The goal is to make Sofitel Mumbai BKC the luxury landmark in Mumbai as well as a cultural and entertainment hub of the city.

Operational excellence

Sofitel Mumbai BKC lives by the motto – ‘Life is Magnifique’. Being a large boutique hotel, Sofitel promises to offer guests an opportunity to experience luxury at its best. Right from the time a guest checks-in, we promise to plate up the most exquisite details that are sure to make one’s stay memorable.

We emphasise on employee satisfaction as much as guest satisfaction as we believe that only a content workforce can serve its guests with happiness and pleasure. We call our employees ‘Ambassadors’ as they are the ones who live and share with passion the values and ambitions of the Sofitel brand. At the heart of all operations are the people and they are the primary link between our guests and a luxury experience at the Sofitel Mumbai BKC, enriched with emotion. The grandeur of Sofitel Mumbai BKC is reflected in its unrivalled facilities and personalised service from the heart, which we refer to as ‘Cousu Main’ in French. An incredible sense of professionalism and generosity, combined with impeccable service that stems straight from the heart of our ambassadors helps achieve operational excellence and creates magnifique experiences for our guests. Our ambassadors’ supervisory effectiveness and synergistic teamwork enable us to create guest loyalty and Sofitel brand equity.

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The hospitality trend in India is changing rapidly. Along with basic services, it is catering to the luxury connoisseur who expects and appreciates quality and excellence.

Sofitel Mumbai BKC is known to bring these attributes to the table and offers a genuine experience of French ‘art de vivre’ and the best of local culture, coupled with sophistication and elegance. For this industry, it is extremely vital that guests are treated with the services that they need, cocooned in the opulence they desire.

Mentor and team builder

It is a privilege for me to be associated with a brand that has constantly reinvented itself providing innovative, high-quality products and services for the benefit of its guests, creating a niche of its own, Sofitel Mumbai BKC has successfully introduced Mumbai to a unique mélange of French elegance and warm Indian hospitality. I see myself as the catalyst in crafting the pathway to make Sofitel Mumbai BKC a luxury and cultural landmark in the city. A large part of running a five-star luxury property is to inspire its people and success in hospitality is a direct result of effective team work.

In our rapidly changing world, the ability to exceed customer expectations will be the only differentiating force in this competitive luxury hospitality segment.

Biswajit Chakraborty, GM, Sofitel Mumbai BKC

(As told to Sudipta Dev)


‘ Young and diverse employees inject a variety of perspectives’

Strategy for 2015

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Philippe Charraudeau

The sky is the limit when enhancing luxury levels in the hospitality business, with new introductions to superior services for the discerning traveller, offering a distinct experience from the moment a reservation is made. Predominantly, this is to sustain a competitive edge, and to ensure that basics are effectively carried out, prompting a natural extension to a fine experience. For me, it is a two–fold strategy; for us to anticipate and surpass guest expectations, while retaining a commitment to excellence.

  • Talent retention in an extremely competitive environment
  • Re-investment in products and services through refurbishment, up-gradation and renovations
  • Staying focused on quality and superior guest service
  • Innovating to stay ahead of our competitive set
  • Take advantage of ITC lineage to its full potential
  • Be cognizant of increasing competition, not panicking, but using it to our advantage
  • Keep investing in training and development

To fulfil the key objectives above, our efforts will focus on acquiring a high-quality workforce. It is now an industry norm that organisations practice building and engaging a workforce that improves their morale and productivity. Companies have also realised that a happy workforce leads to increased output and greater customer satisfaction, both of which boost the bottom line.

Operational excellence

Indeed, we firmly believe that the secret of achieving operational excellence is through an integrated approach of People, Policy and Product. Our focus

  • Think and provide quality in all we do, leading to guest satisfaction and retention
  • Improve on the existing already excellent 75 per cent repeat-guest ratio
  • Deliver what is promised to guests.

Mentor and team builder

Since the hospitality industry attracts youth, fresh from colleges, we can groom them into insightful operators. With proliferation of technology at work, it is a challenge as well as an opportunity to impart real-time training to this dynamic generation. The idea is to channel their imaginative thought-process to enhance offerings to the modern luxury traveller. Young and diverse employees inject a variety of perspectives and greater range of thought, prompting us make a more informed decision, and probably solving problems more effectively.

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To speak of this pioneering spirit, I delve deep into my years of learning from the industry and as a mentor and team builder; I believe in leading by example, being present on the shop-floor to assist my staff. When they falter, support and stand by them and when they excel, take a step back for they have gained confidence.

It is difficult to keep the team in line with our vision at all times. Though the processes are in place, it is challenging to keep it real. My plan is to stay on track and not let the team stray away from the ‘bigger picture’ because there will be many short-term goals. We must not lose the momentum. It is a responsibility that each one of us has to shoulder to achieve a larger market share in this extremely competitive arena.

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With growing competition, it is not only imperative to sustain our existing clientele, but to expand and increase business, offering a tailor-made experience to each guest. Undeniably, guests are and will be diverse, yet all of them demand exacting standards of excellence. We definitely will continue to leverage the brand-equity of ITC. Since its opening in 2001, ITC Maratha has enjoyed a remarkable reputation. It’s rooted to the soil architecture; quality of service, amazing food and ambience has always been well documented and universally accepted. Building on these strengths, we are confident about steadily increasing both patronage and repeat business.

Philippe Charraudeau, VP West & GM, ITC Maratha

(As told to Sudipta Dev)


‘Operational excellence is best achieved by empowering the team’

Strategy for 2015

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Hemant Tenneti

The key strategy is to align everyone towards the desired business results of 2015. This will be achieved with clear, defined communication very early in the year.

Operational excellence

Operational excellence is best achieved by empowering the team. Once the goals are defined, it should be left to the team to decide on their own strategies in order to achieve those results. This leads to innovation and improvisation.

Mentor and team builder

The most effective way to mentor in my opinion is to support the decisions made by your team. Bad decisions can be made sometimes, but as a mentor you ensure that they are learning from them. However, at no point should the team feel that they cannot make decisions. In complex situations, as a mentor, you step in and do the necessary fine tuning. Team building is best achieved when each member of the team is convinced that his/ her contribution to the result has been significant and that it has been recognised. Every single member has a role to play, it is important that the tasks are not being discriminated as trivial or complex. Each task leads to the end result. It is essential to connect with each member of the team emotionally, to be able to get better productivity out of them.

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As a leader it is extremely important to be able to have a vision and follow through all the way to see the vision become a reality. Some strategies, plans, sometimes backfire, and it becomes essential to lead the change immediately. Sometimes strategies if applied for a very long period of time, give average results. As a general manger it is extremely important to have the foresight of when is the right time to change the strategy.

Hemant Tenneti, GM, Courtyard by Marriott Pune Chakan

(As told to Rituparna Chatterjee)


‘Operational excellence emerges when a guest leaves your property completely satisfied’

Strategy for 2015

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Ashish Kumar Rai

I want to inculcate within my team at The Leela Mumbai a sense of freedom of expression ensuring that when an employee needs to talk, whatever the reason, time is set aside to do so. Put your work aside for a moment, put down your smartphone, and focus on the person standing in front of you. That is my strategy for 2015.

Operational excellence

Operational excellence in the hotel industry emerges only when a guest leaves your property completely satisfied. This is usually achieved through a very basic human virtue of effective listening. It is commonly missed as the staff gets too engrossed in following standard operating procedures and fails to stop and listen to the guest.

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Mentor and team builder

A successful mentor/ mentee relationship takes birth when the mentee feels comfortable to connect on a wide range of topics beyond following orders. These activities are instrumental in empowering the employee in reality and not just talking about employee empowerment. This will unleash a widespread desire in your employees to lead and step up to the occasion.

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I feel strongly about creating for my staff a home away from home. An industry such as ours is demanding in terms of hours of work and hence it is crucial to foster a sense of deeper relationship within your staff, a platform where the employee can share his/ her highs and lows. It is an investment that I am willing to make knowing the returns are positively high.

Ashish Kumar Rai, GM, The Leela Mumbai

(As told to Rituparna Chatterjee)


‘Millennials have become the fastest growing customer segment’

Strategy for 2015

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Rex AG Nijhof

Our strategies for 2015 is divided into four major categories: guest experience, training talent, growth of our people and repositioning Marriott Executive Apartments.

One of our most important focus points for 2015 will be to increase our focus on our ‘Millennial customers’. For this, we, will base our strategies on not only delivering on all services, but also increase our presence on digital and tech innovations.

Millennials have become the fastest growing customer segment within the hospitality industry. For them, the focus is more on unique experiences, dynamic discoveries and stimulating interactions and for this, they are ready to pay more. Renaissance Hotels, as a brand is based on discovery. For the independent-minded traveller who values originality, Renaissance is the only hotel brand that inspires and provokes its guests to discover something different—each and every time they stay— so that no trip ever feels routine.

With unique innovations, including the recently launched Marriott International App like the Mobile Check-in App, Meetings expert App, R Navigator App, our aim is to provide our guests with all their requirements just on their smart phones – from booking a spa appointment, to check-ins and check-outs, room service or even finding information of places nearby. The rise of this digital traveller requires the hotel industry to balance the expectation of personalisation while enhancing the need to remain independent.

The second most important strategy will be training people. We focus a lot on training our executives on job. We believe in identifying strengths of each of our employees and emphasise on providing them with adequate opportunity and training. For example, for one of Marriott International’s upcoming hotel launch in Mumbai, we trained 40 people at Renaissance Mumbai for the new property – JW Marriott Sahar, Mumbai.

Growth of our people is quite significant. We are committed to providing an environment where our associates have the opportunity to achieve their potential, are highly engaged and are empowered to deliver great guest service. People who are making a career at Marriott India, have begun their journey at Renaissance Mumbai. We take pride in ourselves in the growth opportunities provided to people who have started their career in the industry.

Lakeside Chalet Marriott Executive Apartments in Mumbai has been refurbished. Our guests are not only expat visitors but also professionals who travel from different parts of India. We would like to promote the unique facilities that are provided in the refurbished apartments, the interiors which include latest amenities like microwave, hot plates for cooking, laundry room in each floor, kid’s play area, and recreation facilities like outdoor pool, Club Renaissance, Yoga, tennis court, jogging trail and private dining area only for the apartment residents called Crimson.

Operational excellence

At Marriott International, our core values make us who we are and I have always given it importance when it comes to achieving operational excellence. Mr. Marriott said, “Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers.” The Marriott culture is what makes the brand so popular and successful. Culture like giving our associates opportunities to grow and succeed, letting our associates follow their dreams. Solving the unique problems close to the hearts of our associates and their communities. People management is also an important aspect. Productivity increases in a good working environment and when their presence is valued in the company.

Mentor and team builder

Well, this is a question that you could ask my associates. I would love to know their thoughts about me as well. I have always tried to be a conspicuous leader and throw challenges to the team to develop themselves. A lot of people at different levels have grown under me. People who were my juniors are now working as general managers at different Marriott properties across the globe. It is a great thing to see people grow under you. I am still in touch with most of them and serve as a mentor when it comes to guiding my subordinates in professional matters. I like benchmarking goals for my team. You could say I have high expectations on performance standards and can be a task master at times. I personally think that is extremely important to keep the overall business objectives in mind while even planning our daily tasks. Being in the hospitality industry, it is extremely important for us to deliver on the highest levels of customer service, and pay great attention to detail.

Marriott’s workforce includes nearly 200,000 associates working at corporate offices and managed properties in nearly 80 countries. Marriott associates participate in approximately 10,000 training classes every year, 4,500 of which are formal learning programmes. Over half of our formal learning programs are eLearning, with the balance being instructor-led or blended programmes.

Rex AG Nijhof, GM, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel & Lakeside Chalet – Marriott Executive Apartments

(As told to Sudipta Dev)


‘I have a great deal of respect for the ‘general’ in my designation’

Strategy for 2015

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Siddharth Savkur

Goa’s tourism landscape is going through a transition. My key strategy for 2015 is to find the right balance in our market mix so as to maximise yield.

Operational excellence

Operational excellence is based on a blend of well-defined core processes and staff empowerment. It is important to me that my colleagues clearly know what is expected of them and how to do it (i.e. core processes) as well as feel empowered to take on-the-spot decisions when handling a guest. Exception handling, after all, is a part and parcel of our jobs.

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Mentor and team builder

I have a great deal of respect for the ‘general’ in my designation, and see my role as a generic facilitator. If I can enable my colleagues to fully demonstrate their own skill sets, then I would consider myself to be effective. Since we often work under stress, I also think it is crucial in my role to keep a calm head and not take oneself too seriously. This is good for team morale.

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In today’s competitive and constantly evolving business environment, it is crucial that we stay innovative. The average guest today is well travelled, well informed and very discerning. We at Alila Diwa Goa are constantly inspired by our motto – ‘Surprisingly Different’. For instance, we offer a one-of-its-kind concept once a week at Spice Studio called ‘Dine in the Dark’. All lights in this award-winning Indian restaurant are turned off at dinner, any ambient light source is masked and guests are invited to have dinner in pitch darkness. The choice is between a vegetarian and non-vegetarian thali and we do not disclose the dishes on the plate. Guests are asked to use their sense of touch and taste to explore the various specialties through the meal. I am proud to say that we are the only place in the world offering this unique experience as a pop-up concept and it has been very well received both by in-house guests as well as local diners. Another unique idea that gives me great pride is that during Christmas, we honour one of our many beautiful trees on the property as the designated Christmas tree. It is a far more eco-friendly option than to use a plastic tree and adds a lot of character to our festivities. In 2013, we had an over 200-year old banyan tree as our Christmas tree replete with traditional decor and lights. Last year, an elegant spathodea tree had earned the distinction. Travellers today are seeking more than beautiful hotels and good food, they want to return home with unique experiences.

Siddharth Savkur, GM, Alila Diwa Goa

(As told to Sudipta Dev)

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