A concierge, a lobby mascot, a security associate-doorman, a bell captain and a bell boy – Food & Hospitality World presents a glimpse into the professional lives of this blue brigade, their observations on the evolving work culture, guest profiles and guest demands in the course of their long years of service in their organisations By Rituparna Chatterjee
Over the past two decades, India has emerged from its image of being the land of the snake charmers to that of a power house of human resources. Today, our greatest resource is our people – be it our old and experienced population or our large and vibrant working youth. According to a 2012 report titled ‘Human Resources Solutions Industry – Stepping into the next decade of growth’ published by Executive Recruiters Association (ERA) and Ernst and Young, India’s human resource industry has been witnessing a growth of CAGR 21 per cent over the last four years and is now estimated to be more than Rs 228 billion. This market is rapidly moving from a highly fragmented and unorganised sector to a structured and organised industry. Narrowing down to the service industry, the working conditions in our hospitality sector is vastly different from others in this industry since it is labour-intensive. In this December 1-15 cover story, Food & Hospitality World presents a glimpse into the professional lives of the blue-collared men of this sector. A concierge, a lobby mascot, a security associate-doorman, a bell captain and a bell boy, we take a look at their observations on the evolving work culture, guest profiles and guest demands among others in the course of their long years of service at their organisations.
For Kamal Bahadur, concierge at The Leela Mumbai, his association with this Leela property dates back to 1990. His role at the hotel has been to assist guests with basically everything. “On any given day we can be expected to help with anything from making dinner reservations to organising tickets to a local theatre to helping the guest attend an event in the city. It has been an amazing journey with new experiences every day at this hotel,” shares Bahadur.
Inder Kumar, the 63 year old lobby mascot at The Imperial New Delhi, considers himself to be a symbol of added dimension in The Imperial hospitality. “With immense warmth and positivity I try to connect with the guests at The Imperial New Delhi which leaves a lasting impression on them, whenever they visit the hotel. I not only fluff the cushions and arrange the newspapers but also receive guests from the elevator and at the lobby with a smile on my face and a ‘Namaskar’!” states Kumar proudly adding that his career started with The Imperial New Delhi at the F&B department on March 10, 1975.
At the Taj Mahal New Delhi, Bijay Pal, the security associate-doorman, feels a deep sense of dignity and belonging. “I have been working with the Taj Mahal New Delhi for some time now. It feels good to be recognised for the hard work I put in. It is an honour to work in an iconic hotel like the Taj Mahal New Delhi and guests often recognise me and appreciate my assistance to them,” opines Pal.
Vance Micetech, the bell boy at ITC Windsor Bengaluru has been working for this luxury hotel since 1983. Being one of the first luxury hotels in the garden city, ITC Windsor Bengaluru was his immediate choice for beginning his hospitality career. “To get an experience in the hospitality industry and to learn the job from the best was the driving factor behind joining this property and there was no looking back since then,” explains Micetech.
For Dharmendra Singh, bell captain, The Ashok New Delhi, life has been a roller coaster ride since he joined the property in September 1990. “I have enjoyed each moment that I have spent at the hotel. It has been 25 years but it seems like as if I just joined this place yesterday. The only reason for me being here all these years is that The Ashok New Delhi has always taken good care of its employees and it is a great place to work in,” voices Singh.
Changing guest profile
During these years of service, these men have observed one significant change – the evolution of guest demographics and a change in their demands. For instance, The Imperial New Delhi has always been a luxurious abode to many eminent political personalities since its inception, but over the years there has been an influx of guests from diverse professions as well. “I have been seeing guests coming from various countries to us for many years after my joining. Earlier the hotel was frequented by political honchos and ambassadors only but today the guest list also features a healthy mix of leisure and corporate travellers along with renowned personalities,” points out Kumar.
Presently, at the Taj Mahal New Delhi, there is a wider audience with guests coming in from every part of the globe and in more numbers. Its guests today are between the age profile of 25 – 80 years and are looking for the best experience. “Hence, we have to be very alert and offer the experience that is symbolic to the Taj Group of Hotels. Since my job makes me interact with people directly, it is important to make note of their needs. Knowing and remembering their past visits and also little details about their preferences makes a huge impact on them and it helps us build their trust in us,” asserts Pal.
As for The Leela Mumbai, the guest profile hasn’t changed significantly, the demands, however, have certainly become unpredictable and challenging. “Like arranging a baby sitter has become much more predominant these days,” states Bahadur. While Singh avers, “Earlier there were more foreigners coming and staying at The Ashok New Delhi, now we see a lot of young Indians as well. The young Indians are more conscious and expect a lot and demand services in real time. However, the foreign guests are more patient and appreciative of the hospitality extended to them. To meet the increasing expectations of the guests the hotel gives us extensive training. This has sharpened our skills to provide best services to the guests.” Singh reminisces on the time when elephants were used for welcoming guests at the hotel. Also there used to be a Royal Baggi ride for in-house guests in the early 90s. “Now only on special occasions the hotel organises these things,” he says.
Technology has changed the work culture across hotels in India. Today, hotel guests are becoming more tech-savvy with the evolution of the internet. Websites and travel blogs are enabling travellers to receive information and guidance on the spot. Hence, hotels are training not only their white and pink-collared employees but also their blue-collared employees to adapt to this trend. “With the advancement of technology, everything is gradually becoming quicker and easier. We receive regular training to help us stay updated on the technology for easy operations and to help us provide better experiences to our guests,” states Pal. Also with the advent of modern equipment, a lot of manual hard work has got reduced. “We now have trolleys which enable all luggage to be carried at once thereby saving a lot of our time and manual effort,” highlights Micetech.
Likewise, at The Leela Mumbai there is constant investment in technology. “Guest service is the most significant tool for the hospitality industry, without which the hotel can never survive. Our guest service is enhanced by constant investments in technology. For example, our customer database allows us to anticipate guest desires and preferences before they arrive,” mentions Bahadur, adding, “But nothing beats the personal touch and understanding of a concierge.”
Prioritising employee recognition is crucial to ensuring a positive, productive, innovative organisational climate. For these veterans, their service recognition has been both tangible and intangible in nature. “Completing 32 years at ITC Windsor Bengaluru in itself is the biggest reward to me. Over the course of my tenure I have had many fond memories and have made some precious relationships for a lifetime with colleagues whom I work with, the guests I serve and definitely the management,” states Micetech, adding that, in terms of tangible recognitions he has earned several awards for his long service, and dedication and excellence. “There is recognition of your services in the form of long service awards after every five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years and 30 years. Also there are awards for your dedication and excellence in your field of work. I can boast of winning quite a few,” he states proudly.
For Kumar, appreciation is the key to motivation. “Rewards from guests as well as from The Imperial management helps me perform to the best of my abilities even after 40 years of service,” he adds.
As for Pal, he has been honored with Long Service Awards at the Taj Mahal New Delhi. “It feels good to be able to train the new associates and teach them from my own experience. In addition, I have been recognised in various internal forums/HR activities, etc,” he adds.
While for Singh, his greatest reward was getting the opportunity to work in an esteemed hotel like The Ashok New Delhi. “The most valuable reward for me are the appreciations that I have time and again received from the guests, my seniors and colleagues for my work. The best pleasure is when I receive cheerful smiles from the guests when they feel amazed on how quick their baggage have reached their rooms. Personally, I think that by being at The Ashok New Delhi I have come to know the world and its people, having seen and met guests and conference delegates from all across the world. And this has been a great experience for me,” believes Singh.
When asked about their advice to new recruits joining similar positions, Bahadur states, “Assisting the guest with everything is the most important quality. The new recruits must always be patient and cooperative. Dedication is the second most important quality because one can spend a lot of time beyond working hours to learn new things so that one can talk to the guest about it with immediate knowledge.” Reiterating the same, Kumar advices the future talent to be honest and dedicated in their service. While Pal advices his juniors to focus on the basics. “This industry and our job is built on human interactions, hence we must learn to be patient and respectful to all. The new recruits should also be hungry to learn more. That will help them grow and prosper,” advocates Pal. As for Micetech his advice is also to work hard and efficiently. “If you do so you will definitely be appreciated and recognised. One should never settle for short term gains as money or such,” he states. As for Singh, his advice for the next generation is to work hard and have a proactive approach towards the work. “Follow it as your religion and you will be rewarded with the best appreciations in your life. Execute your work with a smile along with a polite tone, you will never be tired of your work and will cherish it always,” he explains.