With over 20 years of experience across various hospitality companies, in both local and international markets, Manish Garg, GM, Hilton Bangalore Embassy GolfLinks, started his career with Hilton in the year 2011 as the director of operations for Hilton Chennai. He kept rising in ranks within the company for his fine sense of business dynamics in both pre-opening and turning around existing properties and in-depth knowledge of F&B. He now leads Hilton Bangalore Embassy GolfLinks – a 247-key hotel. In conversation with Akshay Nayak, he talks about his initial challenges and opportunities in his hospitality career and his stint with Hilton
How have you excelled in turning around an existing property vs pre-opening during your assignment with Hilton Worldwide?
Both have their own set of challenges. In a pre-opening environment, you have to be far more structured and far more adaptable. While working for an existing hotel, one takes the amenities already in place for granted, whereas in the case of a pre-opening property, you enter the shell and nothing is there. Pre-opening tests your imagination a tad bit more, but turning around an existing hotel is again a great deal. It’s all about the people that we work for and how we manage our resources.
What were the opportunities and shortcomings that you faced during your past 20 years in the industry?
I started my career with Sterling Holidays & Resorts, and then moved to Four Seasons in Sydney, following which I joined Marriott. I with Marriott for nearly nine years. And now, eight years with Hilton. In the past 20 years, the hotel industry has evolved from the time I started to now. With the Gen-Y coming in, the working environment has changed a lot now. In Hilton, the work culture is like everybody was called by their first name, but back then, I don’t think so that I could ever call my GM by his first name. The people now have a lot more options to work, which wasn’t as flexible for employees during that time. As an employer, we have further evolved by having work-life balance and retaining people because they have various options now outside. Also, within the hotel industry and outside it, people have more job opportunities. Work is fun.
Your view about Bengaluru as a hospitality market?
Bengaluru has a very vibrant and changing environment. That is why, it is a given that no two days are the same here, which poses its challenges and opportunities for us. There is enough movement in the city, both from corporates and leisure guests, so that drives the business in Bengaluru. Also, moving forward to the growth of the airport in Bengaluru helps us in a big way as the city becomes more accessible. The challenge that India at large majorly faces is poor infrastructure, and it is slightly more in Bengaluru especially in terms of road connectivity which could get better. While we cannot do much about the traffic, we’ve made our guest’s transfer hassle-free with wifi, television and snacks and beverages available in the car.
How about Hilton’s technological updates at the hotel?
We have always been changing and evolving to leverage the guest experience. The recent one that we’ve put in action is the digital key wherein the guests can use their phones as a virtual key to access their rooms, hence double-checking security. We are bringing it in a phased manner in the old hotels, while the new hotels by Hilton are already coming equipped with the tech updates. Hilton is also looking to tying up with Netflix internationally. We are looking to bring in something which is not implemented in this hotel as yet, wherein we have made more seamless check-in through wifi, so the guests feel home away from home. We also have the virtual concierge, and the order will be delivered in the room. We have a very robust customer management tool through which we are always recording guest preferences. Our in-house OnQ software gives us great competitive results.
Which are the key overseas markets for the hotel?
India, UK, USA, Australia and the Middle East are key markets for our hotel.
Future focus of hotel?
We curate experiences for the guests with our unique F&B outlets. We had the World Cup being hosted at the bar which has a big screen. Apart from that, in the last 12 months we have presented Malaysian, Burmese, Turkish, Kashmiri and other cuisines for which we had flown in chefs from Hilton hotels in those locations, to provide our guests with the unique global gastronomy on their plate at Hilton Bangalore Embassy Golflinks. Also, we keep changing our buffet menus quarterly in a year. We do around mid-75 per cent occupancy. There is new competition coming in. However, the demand will also keep increasing. We are looking to revamp the F&B offerings over the next couple of years. The reason being, we need to give unique experiences to our guests. So F&B remains at the forefront for us in driving newer experiences for our guests in the near future.
Your management mantra
Keeps things simple. Simple is beautiful!