THE MAHARAJA’S RUBY

Mrs. Nilu Curtis had the graciousness of a perfect host and the skills of a wonderful chef. I could not resist my temptation for the plump roast chicken, dripping with brown sauce and glistening rosemary leaves. The black mushrooms and baby roast potatoes added to the sinful richness of the dish, with heavenly smelling garlic bread and rice pilaf complementing the chicken. The Sandur hills, as the backdrop to the lively dining hall, added an ethereal charm to the entire dining experience. These hills are world famous for their Manganese and iron ores.

Mr. John Curtis wasa fine gentleman,with impeccable table manners. He even ate his chapatti with a fork and knife and wiped his mouth delicately with a serviette, while I wolfed down the delicacies with my fingers. As they say, in the presence of great food, etiquette is left way behind sometimes.  Mrs. Curtis,joyous to see me enjoy her food, offered some more. Her delicate features and the charming grace reminded me of the beautiful star Sharmila Tagore. She lived the mantraAthithiDevoBavaand caring for guests came naturally to her.

The local area abounded with great tales and folklore, and Mr. JC was a great storyteller. He had taken over the management for renovation of the Sandur palace, soon to be converted into a heritage hotel. My time spent with him was laced with memorable anecdotes. Once, he was stuck in the Hampi forests during a heavy down pour,with his car was almost submerged. Nilu, with mounting tension, started praying, while he tried to negotiate the river road!!  Water, gushing in from all sides,threatened to reach the seats. They were stuck for three hours with the engine refusing to start. With the water level rising steadily, he had to deploy all his driving skills learnt at the Bangalore racing tracks to finally get them out of the waters.  As I was thinking, “what an amazing escape”, he went on to narrate another story.

The next day, he took me for a visit to the Palace. The central dome was both imposing and welcoming as we drove through the gilt edged gates. The long drive would provide a good arrival experience for the guests, passing through the fountains. The Maharaja and Maharani suites were charming and spacious overlooking the vast rolling lawns and the pool.  The reception hall was, in fact, the main living space for the Maharaja Gorpade. The lady in bronze, with a parrot perched on her shoulder, smiled at me!  The central courtyard, which opened to the sky, was charming. I could see the whisky bar across,adorned with majestic portraits and a grand pool table in the centre. Well, the action is here, I thought – drink and play. The pool caught my fancy. As I dash to get a better view past the pool, I saw something very different and unique. It was a tiny grave with a small tombstone. Unable to control my curiosity any further, I asked, “Will someone please throw some light on what these graves are doing here, right in the middle of the magnificent lawns. Surely, the Raja would have a very good reason for this.” JC replied, “Sir, it’s the pet grave yard and the main star was Ruby, the loved golden retriever. He was the Raja’s biggest weakness.” The epitaph read- ‘Here rests my Unforgettable Ruby.’

As JC narrated the relationship between the Raja and Ruby, my mind wandered back and recreated the scene in the courtyard. “Oh where’s my Ruby? That naughty fella… forever onto mischief. I tell you, one of these days he will get all of us in trouble. Look he is so skinny, at this rate he will turn into a skeleton! Why, is there a food shortage in our palace?” the Raja asked.

“Your highness, Ruby refuses to eat from any one but your good self. He paws the food away, and he even tried to bite the head servant Mr. Hallappa, and scratched his face the other day”, said the maid. Hearing this, the Raja replied with a look of loving annoyance on his face, “I have some urgent court matters to look into and this stupid dog has to throw tantrums just now? That little scoundrel…Ok bring him here and I will feed him”. The ensuing scene was very funny, both the master and the pet playing games and cuddling away. The Raja spent a full hour, forgetting the time and important matters that lay in wait for him. Ruby was happy,his little pink snout twitching with glee.

The gleaming Mercedes halted for the Raja, he sat on the back seat majestically and waved his hand to say, “Go”. In jumped Ruby and perched on his lap. “My little devil, what’s this dirt all over your paws.Give them to me, let me clean them up. I don’t like your habit of running all over the muck, you little scoundrel,” chided the Raja lovingly. Ruby sure got royal treatment. The chauffeur was busy concentrating on the pot-holed road, not paying much attention to the drama unfolding inside between the master and the pet, as this wasthe daily scene.

The Sandur Manganese Board was in attendance for the Maharaja to tackle some difficult issues that were being tabled. The general mood was that the company should protect the staff from inflation. The Raja ordered a free ration scheme for all employees to protect them inflation, reiterating that the well being of the miners was his top priority.  Just as the meeting was concluding, in came Ruby, wagging his tail. The Raja lifted him lovingly and off they went to their world of playing and petting.

A few months later Maharaja’s health took a sudden turn for the worse, causing everyone to worry. “Ranimaji, I am afraid the Maharaja’s health is deteriorating, we need to shift him to Bangalore. The facilities are better there and the treatment suggested is very effective and elaborate,” said the chief of the palace administration.  After few weeks of uneasy stay in Bangalore, the Raja’s health still did not improve, and his craving for Rubygrew. The Raja missed his naughty pranks and love. The yearning grew stronger, and many a times he wouldn’t even touch his dinner plate! Meanwhile, Ruby, as quiet as a sick mongoose, would be seen near the pool deck staring at the Maharajas suite pitifully. Ruby’s diet was just some milk taken erratically. All the playfulness had vanished and the palace staff felt the soulful whimpering. Many a times, he would be seen besides the throne in the Durbar hall, the majestic stuffed animals didn’t seem to frighten him nor did the awesome display of swords and guns. With a fading look in his eyes, Ruby continued to yearn for his master.

One day, the driver parked the dog van besides Ruby’s kennel and called out for him. Ruby peeped out and ran back inside. “Ruby, come baby,” Called out the driver, “Our Highness wants you in Bangalore, be ready for a nice long ride, and I will give you a juicy bone”. Ruby ignored him and looked the other way. Any amount of cajoling or pushing proved futile. Ruby wouldn’t budge, for he was made of a sterner stuff, engrossed at looking at his master’s bedroom above.

The driver went to the head servant and said, “I will have to sedate him and tie him up as there is no other means.” The head servant, aghast, replied, “His Highness will definitely not like it you fool, remember his fondness for the pet. Wait, I have a better idea that is sure to work,” and he whispered into the driver’s ears.  The driver’s eyes brightened as he rushed out happily.

The gleaming Mercedes stopped in front of Ruby’s kennel after an hour and in he jumped happily, wagging his tail.

Venu Rao
Director – Peacock Hospitality.

Opportunities Galore: Grab Them Before They Fly Off

A favourable or advantageous combination of circumstances; a chance for progress or advancement.

To look into the world of opportunities is an art in itself, they say. Ever wondered how many pass by each hour silently, without even striking us. Are we utilising these opportunities judiciously or even engaging them? Maybe that’s our mistake. We slip them conveniently down our well designed procrastination chute – deep and narrow. Our thought flows and actions seem like waves – they go away, but how sure are we that they will return? “Oh! We can always perform that action later,” is our oft repeated thought, but most of the times, ‘later’ becomes ‘never’.  Great ideas disappear faster than they can come – at the speed of light. A brilliant thought vanishes in a flash and so does a great opportunity. It, unfortunately, leads to a great moment being wasted.

So what are these opportunities? They can be:

Possible  To write is an awesome opportunity, but one that I keep putting off, incessantly. “Oh, some other day/time maybe; why spend time writing when a lot more can happen over wine?” It is possible to use an opportunity to pen a great article- but one that I procrastinate on.  Similarly, when we travel or simply go out to meet someone, an opportunity can crop up. It always happens, however minute that opportunity might be. Way back, about 15 years ago, we went on a drive with our team to a new developmental area in Bangalore named Kanakapura road. The area was still struggling with infrastructure issues. However, we saw to our amazement that a very smart hotel was taking shape – a shell almost ready. So we stopped and peeped in. I introduced myself to the owner (I was lucky he was around), and started exchanging pleasantries and information. The chemistry was just right and, miraculously, that single chance meeting became a new business opportunity. It became one of the signature hotels that I set up in Bangalore, and I continue to have a great relationship with the owner till date.

Feasible: Similarly, an idea is always a feasible candidate; give it some push and lo it may bloom into a fully supported magical opportunity. One never ceases to wonder how an opportunity crops up. A star is born and it culminates into a supernova!  That happens when its opportunities run out. However, it must have created a planetary system before going into the black hole mode, thereby using up its last opportunity! Albeit a celestial one, the simile is pertinent here. Whether it’s a big ticket or a miniscule idea, there is an opportunity to grab at. The sun, they say, had a brother named Nemesis. It appears that they are connected once in 27 million years.  Interesting  indeed! However, the story doesn’t end there – the hypothesis is that he was stolen by a passing star! Talk about opportunity at an astronomical level – the rogue star devoured our own Sun’s brother!

Even the tiniest flower is a work of art by nature. The beauty in this little flower is amazing, the fine details are exquisite, but due to their size we miss out the opportunity of enjoying them. When you do take the time to look closely, you see a totally new and exciting world in that tiny miracle.

Take the case of a baby, for instance. How does it create an opportunity – simple: it cries its head out. The young mom runs to it – and lo the breast is thrust into the eager, hungry, tiny mouth. So when a baby creates such wonderful moments, what stops us? Nothing, but our silly ego or laziness!

Gayab (lost) opportunities

We have a way of losing out on most of the great opportunities that come our way. We miss the opportunity and end up giving excuses such as:

Lack of resources: The oft repeated excuse – “Oh! How I wish I had plenty of resources! Wish I had a big bank balance…” and so on, and so forth. We keep having these thoughts despite the fact that most of the times we may be able to complete the task with little or no money!

Time: Or rather the lack of time is one constant excuse that we tend to give. We feel that we don’t even have time to breathe, forget about doing that mundane task. We are so busy wasting our time, but we still wish we had 28 hours in a day.

Lack of knowledge: This may be a genuine reason, but in this day and age where technology is everywhere, seeking knowledge should not be so difficult. Want some information, ask Google uncle. There are experts in every field who may be available to help, however sourcing the right person is crucial.

Not ready because of some random reason: “I am just not suitable or qualified enough to do that particular task, so I better let it pass.”  “May be another person or a different situation would work.” However, these are again convenient excuses. In the process of giving these reasons, we are really letting a significant opportunity, which could even be a life changing one, slip by.

There are times when we do let great opportunities slip by. We can then come to terms with it or repent endlessly. However, we must cut the losses and look forward for another opportunity. The famous proverb – ‘Failure is the stepping stone to success’ needs to be mandated on lost opportunities.

Finally, there is a saying in Sanskrit – Mounavaakya: Talk through silence. Ideas and opportunities may come to us silently. Sometimes we need to act on them silently and efficiently, without raising a storm. The main idea is to work in a way that best suits our situation, and helps us capitalise on an opportunity. After all, we have only one life to make use of our opportunities.

Venu Rao
Director Peacock Hospitality.

 

 

 

The saga of the super KEY

key

The Waterfront Hotel Viceroy, now the Hyderabad Marriot, is frquented by many corporate and leisure guests. With the serene Husain Sagar Lake as the backdrop, the hotel’s business has been uplifted to greater heights. The lake-facing rooms are sold at a premium owing to the enchanting view. The hazy yet scintillating city outline works as a perfect ambiance for the guests. Gaiety, the Bidri-speciality restaurant with its magnificent view couldn’t be better – a cuisine to die for, smart staff and a Greek God of a manager in Rajnish Vaidya. Patrons are at immediate ease with the young, charming and ever-smiling manager. He is the key to increase in guest satisfaction index. This was one outlet, from a total of twenty, that I didn’t have to worry too much about. All izz well.

He was also full of ideas. At one of our meetings, he suggested that that we have a cuisine caravan fest this month where there would be an interactive chef counter. So, at the October fest, we had a counter where live Bidri Kebabs and Katcha Gosht were made in front of the guests. It indeed was a runaway hit. What’s more, the chef’s friendly percussion of cookery tips caught everyone’s attention. It was a pleasure to keep the pace with this energetic man. I knew instantly that this man would go places.

Now that Rajnish had settled in, he wanted to bring his wife from Pune. “Sir I need a few days to organise my family accommodation and bring my wife from Pune. My bachelors room is fine for now but its too far and I can’t really go during the afternoon break,” he said. I agreed but requested him to plan his leave and a fine replacement as the restaurant is extremely busy. After a while, the thought of him in uniform for 16 hours a day was somehow interfering with my paper work that afternoon.

The F&B team always took a substantial amount of space in the executive locker room. Although the camaraderie of all the outlet managers was positively infectious, it got quite noisy during the break. And, everyone wanted to have a chat with their manager as he had a very pleasing personality. So, poor Rajnish was never allowed to have his forty winks during the break. I always made it a point to change in the locker room, even though my company apartment was just two minutes down the road. I felt that this helped me connect well with my team.

I was concerned that he was not getting enough rest and he was ending up groggy eyed by the evening session. Dinner ended by 2 am everyday which meant he was not getting his 6-8 hours of sleep. “Why don’t you use my flat? It’s empty during that time, my family lives in Bangalore as you know,” I told him.

“That’s very kind of you sir. I am blessed to have a boss like you. But I wouldn’t dream of troubling you. I am quite alright on this bunker bed,” said Rajnish. But I persisted and handed over the key of 204, Sai Apartments. I reuqested him to ask the hotel driver to take him to the apartment and to enjoy a blissful sleep henceforth. He reluctantly took the key and thanked me profusely for this gesture.
Sai Apartments is quite cozy, centrally located yet tucked away in a serene enclave with all the facilities. I hardly spent any time here except for a good nights sleep. The one odd time I was around the building, I came across my neighbours from 203, Mrs. Archee and Mr. Sanjay. While he always seemed a bit aloof, the lady was very warm and friendly.

She came up to me one day and said, “Sir, you are always in the hotel, enjoying exotic food and meeting interesting people”. My regular reply to this would have been, “Thank you so much, but I eat salads / dal and roti most of the time. We hoteliers aren’t rich but would end up with millionaire’s diseases if we are not careful.” But since she was a friendly and helpful person, I just laughed it off. She used to collect my milk, laundry etc… whenever possible. Archee was quite popular in the apartment and had several friends.

When Inspector Shinde met me at the station he said, “Mr. Venu, Thank your stars that I have been to Bidri restaurant before and know your manager well. Otherwise, he would have gotten into serious trouble today. I remember him very well as he was always very courteous and would ensure that my meal was perfect. There was so much commotion at the apartment today after he managed to get into your neighbours apartment with the wrong key. But I can’t really can’t blame the lady for creating a scene on seeing a stranger in her apartment. The whole situation was actually quite hilarious”. He guffawed. On one hand, I was relieved and on the other I was curious to know what had happened.

One afternoon when I was in a meeting with my boss Aijaz Ali, my secretary came in quickly and said, “Sir, Rajnish has been taken to the police station. Inspector Shinde just called and said that he wants you there urgently. It seems that Rajnish misbehaved with your neighbour Mrs. Archee.” I just froze for a minute.

When Inspector Shinde met me at the station he said, “Mr. Venu, Thank your stars that I have been to Bidri restaurant before and know your manager well. Otherwise, he would have gotten into serious trouble today. I remember him very well as he was always very courteous and would ensure that my meal was perfect. There was so much commotion at the apartment today after he managed to get into your neighbours apartment with the wrong key. But I can’t really can’t blame the lady for creating a scene on seeing a stranger in her apartment. The whole situation was actually quite hilarious”. He guffawed. On one hand, I was relieved and on the other I was curious to know what had happened.

“You can go ahead and talk to your manager,” He said. I found him sitting on the bench at the far end of the office, with a forlon look on his face. This is the first time I saw him without a smile and hands on the head. He was sweating profusely.

When I went towards him in absolute shock, he narrated the entire incident. “Sir, I can’t believe it myself. I used the key you gave me to open apartment no 203 and it opened so I simply went in, made myself comfortable and settled on the sofa to watch TV. I kicked off the shoes in anticipation of a good snooze. Mrs Archee, whom I had never met, entered and kept her key on the table and then looked at me. She froze for a minute and then screamed her guts out. I got up and asked her who she was and what was she doing at Mr Venu’s apartment. She said that it was her own apartment and directed me to some family pictures on the wall. I looked around and then realised that I was the one in the wrong apartment. My head was spinning and by the time I gathered my thoughts, she stealthily stepped out and locked me in. She alerted all the neighbouts in no time. All of them started gathering aroud the house; many of them looking menacingly from the window. Must be a rapist; call the police someone advised. All my frantic signs and broken Telugu went unheeded. They summoned Inspector Shinde which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He knew me well as he was such a regular guest at Gaiety and instantly doled me out. God! I shudder to think what would have been the outcome, if someone else had come. I am surprised that the commissioner himself didn’t come, going by the strength of the lady’s vocal cords. This was my first experience with the great lung power of beautiful girls in Hyderabad.”

Venu Rao
Director Peacock Hospitality.
www.peacockhospitality.com

Technology: Fuelling hotels of the future

tech-img
WhatsApp killed SMS and Skype ousted ISD – imagine the savings that customers have been accruing! Technology is busy replacing traditional systems and, in some cases, inadvertently making people redundant. As hoteliers we are in a fast paced, dynamic industry and the need to update our skills is paramount, else we will go the way of the good old steam boilers, made irrelevant by the high efficient combi ovens/cooking mixers/flexi chefs. Within half a decade the entire range of traditional steam generators/cooking vessels got replaced.

When we talk of updating ourselves, we are not talking about the basic skills such as PPTs, mails or simple Excel, but of the more advanced tools. For example, Acad, which is used extensively in kitchen designing, is slowly getting booted out by Revit software, in the field of architecture.

We use technology to obtain guest feedback in a stylish, yet effective, technologically driven manner. Today, the traditional papers are out and smart tabs are presented to the guests – the boss gets the juice in real time! The old housekeeping boy’s trick of chucking the GM feedback card kept in the room, because he felt that there could be a complaint, is no longer possible today.

Technology- reducing costs

Technology has played a great role in bringing about cost effectiveness in the industry:

1) Self steam generating equipment like cooking mixer machines, combi ovens, etc. have proved to help reduce fuel costs by 40 per cent. The traditional steam rooms/generators have been done away with, resulting in space reduction and the avoiding of huge equipment costs.

2) The tilting pan mechanism has replaced the huge handi (vessel) washing ritual at the pot wash! No more back-breaking episodes.

3) We use PPTs for Skype meetings; this has resulted in lesser printing costs. Personal travel, too, has been reduced to a majority extent.

4) Online travel portals such as MakeMyTrip.com, Goibibo, etc., popularly called OTAs are a major source of room business. The hotel can save significantly by allowing a reasonable discount structure, while finalising the E-contracts. This leads to large reduction of legal fees cum banking charges. The monies are directed straight to the hotel’s account; even before the guest checks in. How cool is that? The accounting follow ups and costs are well under check.

5) Smartphones: The handy mobile phones have touched our lives in every angle, and are yet another invaluable opportunity to improve our customer service, and for transfer of information. All the hotel chains worldwide offer guests the ability to check in and out, select their room, check maps and make extra requests or purchases, from their smart phones.

6) Smart appliances: Sylvan Labs, the Bengaluru based automation company, offers high tech facilities such as lighting, temperature, blinds, alarms, TV, radio, etc. through a single tablet device, or from a single app that guests can download and login to, from their own devices. This has proved very effective in our Jayanagar hotel.

Guest technology

tech
It’s predicted that the advent of futuristic hotels is just around the corner, and, when that happens, our experience will be not just an away from home one, but one of an alternate reality which may include check-in kiosks, holographs, and infrared sensors that can control literally anything. Robots could possibly start stirring Martinis – bond style, not shaken. The cherry could be a LED plum, not the juicy type we are used to.

Technical updates should enhance the guest’s experience to create the wow factor. Social media and the internet has made information readily available, and reviews – good or bad, can have an immediate effect on a hotel. Lady guests, especially, do online searches on references before proceeding to book – statistics show that the numbers have increased from 18 per cent in 2013 to 46per cent in December, 2015.

Some of the latest innovations really help:

  • Guest customised Check-ins facilitate seamless experiences and reduce costs. Staff members are not needed for the guest’s check in,
  • Few hotels are already built with techno walls, which enable 100 per cent audio streaming and 200 per cent Wi-Fi effectiveness.
  • The Hi-tech music lamp is, again, a great feature that allows guests to listen to music via Bluetooth or recharge mobile phones. They might even be able to activate phone calls through flat screen television. In one of the hotels here in Bangalore, we can even order room service on the TV!
  • Shower walls which turn from clear to frosted at the touch of an I-pad.
  • Smart keys are great sources of seeking room guest history. They can also have functional roles such as to open the room’s windows and doors. External assistance which leads to huge power and man power costs, can be thus avoided. A must for any smart hotel.
  • Motion detectors instruct the thermostat to adapt the temperature to keep it optimum, thereby controlling the net maintenance costs.

Personal tech skills set

We must constantly endeavour to get the latest tools towards creating work-life balance skills. The road to success on the personal tech front is quite simple:

1) Social media or business sites such as LinkedIn: We, hoteliers, need to be clearly responsible in choosing our social media platforms carefully; this needs to be based on the target audience, and not on a ‘me too’ approach. Facebook is still the favourite site for promoting the hotel’s F&B services or facilities, through quality pictures and catchily designed posts.

2) WhatsApp groups: Again a great tool for ease of communication, eliciting direct info from our hotel guests. A simple message or a well-designed picture/art work can be sent promptly. Care has to be taken that you don’t get into the sending forwards mode, or else the guest will simply WISH you out!

Seventy six per cent of the respondents’ in future smart cities such as Bengaluru, Gurugram and Raipur, feel that hotels need to quickly adapt to the new guest check in options or log out. We are heading to a high-tech era where hotels will have smart tabs replacing guest folders, smartphones in place of room keys, apps for remote controls and receptionist with Samurai or Confucius Robots.

As in any other industry, technology in hotels is a necessary partner – use it judiciously and reap benefits, or ignore it at your own peril. This reminds us of the famous statement that the VP of Nokia had said in an emotional outburst, “Ladies and Gentlemen, with deep sadness we announce the closure of our ops, but want to stress on the fact that we didn’t do anything wrong!” To which, one of the smart reporters retorted, “Agreed Sir, but Nokia didn’t do anything right either – i.e. you people didn’t update your technology.”

Venu Rao
Director – Peacock Hospitality.

A Hotelier’s Love Life

shareI had recently attended a seminar where the Guru said,“Your life is transient and temporary; the only thing you take back is love. Your actions are remembered.”It set me thinking, both on the personal and career front. Do we love our work, people and the company? Of course we do – if there was no love, the work we do would be meaningless and mechanical. But, we are so caught up in our manic schedules, that we don’t spare enough time to ponder over these thoughts, or go deeper into them.

So, let’s pause for a while and reflect on the various love components in our work environment. This could be the success intelligence we need to evolve. Let Revpars and recipes go to the deep walk-in for a while.

 

Love your Work

jobWe spend much more time in the hotelthan at home – in fact 72% more.So, our love for work is natural. Of course, there are a few who are forced to work by their Hitler bosses, but these are exceptions. Our primary reason for work is the love of it;the driving force – not the need for survival.

Lord Hanuman’s love for his work is legendary and iconic; everything else would pale in comparisonto the task given to him by the Lord himself. He sought special skills,executed the job and reported to the master. He travelled over the sea,cunningly avoided the demon Lankini, and tracedSita Mata. He practised the strategy, ‘look before you leap.’ He appeared as a baby monkey, so that Sita Mata wouldn’t get scared, and he burnt Lanka – all in a bid to save her. We know the story, but what we can also learn is that the enormous risk he took was for the love of work.

It is for this love of work that we go miles to move our careers up in the hotel. If Rafik Shivji rose to the level of Director of Orange County, from that of a humble entry level staff, working with the Taj and The Oberoi earlier,it was because of his hard work and the love for it. Studies prove that 65% of hotel employees rise to senior levelsin around fifteen years. Similarly, aTandoor chef works in an environment where he has to face 350 degrees of heat constantlybecause of the pure unadulterated love for his cooking.

One in five people in India love their job so much that they would work for free, says an international survey by the online career firm, Monster India. According to the survey, 55 per cent of workers in India love their work — placing India third in international happiness rankings, behind Canada (64 per cent) and the Netherlands (57 per cent).

 

Love your Colleagues

loveWhile competing with our colleagues can help us rise in our careers, complementing them will help increase the bond of love tremendously. Our work is smooth when there is cooperation and bonhomie. We split the huge task blocks into bits and bytes and, in the process,share love. There is a kind of internal satisfaction when this is achieved amongstcolleagues. A sense of belongingness happens. A shift begins.

In a pre-opening hotel, the staff comes from varied backgrounds – getting them on the same page is quite a challenge. But when love and collaboration become an important part of the induction/ training process, the team’s friendship is sealed steadily. We thus induce a sense of belonging and love.

However, restraint and caution should also be taken with colleagues from the opposite sex – by showering too much love, you wouldn’t want wedding vows to be exchanged instead of ideas. Mixing emotions and work is not ideal as it leads to distraction and complicates the work atmosphere.

Some interesting tips to make your colleagues love you:

  • Smile and greet- bond
  • Learn their tea/coffee preferences
  • Don’t be a work hermit, give few compliments
  • Don’t be an office flirt and tread carefully with newbies.
  • Keep strong opinions to yourself and don’t complain unless…
  • And count to ten….. Inside. You know what I am trying to say!

Love your competition

They are the driving force for our constant creativity. We strive for the on-going competitionbecause of them.Hence, we should appreciate them and learn to accept. Compete,definitely, but collaborate as well. Take the example ofSamsung and Apple who decided to work together to develop new products. This would have been unheard of some 20 years back, but if Apple is to increase its market share to 55%, it needs to complement and cooperate.

As good neighbouringhoteliers, we pass the overflow rooms to our competition hotels during a big residential conference. The idea behind this is simple – we can’taccommodate the huge demand. As they receive our business there arelotsof warm exchanges between the hotels. It’s a win- win situation.

There is astory of an efficient Doctor who really hated competition. He worked extra hard to drive out the last doctor from his village and finally felt on top of the world. Bad luck struck soon and he got sick terribly and died shortly. Alas, there was no doctor to treat him, you see!

Have a look at these proactive actions that can help build a close knit, healthy competition.

  • The general managers can have a friendly lunch every quarter to discuss trends and share news.
  • Sporting activitiescan be organised between the hotels’ staff teams.
  • Hotels can send staff members to represent them at seminars, quizzes and exhibitions in other cities. These hotels should be seen as one to represent their home city.

Simply put, competition makes you confident, creative, compassionate and alert.

 

Love your Guests

love_guest‘Love all and Serve all’ should be our motto. Our love for work generates thelove for our guests, doesn’t it? As our elders say, alochana maadi, which means think clearly and concisely? Love for guests equals to our career, work and everything else. A loving mind equals humble service. Our budding hotelier Ms Jayashree is a true example of this. She goes out of her way to help the guests – meeting and greeting during arrivals, sending miss you messages, maintaining guest history etc.

Some interesting Pointers that can be looked into:

  • Saying yes to guests every time- any time.
  • 59per centof the repeat guests return only due to the great service; in fact they demand to be taken care of by the individual who had been at their service the previous time.
  • 43% still come to the hotel due to the locational advantage or the brand factor, but fade away if there is ZERO love shown by the employees. Recognition and passion are the true bindingfor the guests to stay.
  • Saying yes to guest requests and needs. It can be anything – simple amenity requirements, travel itineraries, etc.

Sometimes we do make the ultimate sacrifice to save our guest’s life – the terrorist attack at the Taj Mumbai in 2008 is a true testimony to this.  In a bid to save his guests, the General Manager lost his family by the time he could get back to save them.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘Customers are the reason for your existence, they are the most important elements of your business, and without them the business would not survive even for a minute.’ The love for your work, your colleagues, competition and customershelps create the recipe for a happy work environment. This, in turn, leads to a successful and satisfied one.

Love considered in any sphere- personal or professional angle is like a ray of light. The intensity does not fade even a bit when it’s refracted (competition) or reflected (colleagues and guests). It brings out the luminous streak in us, leading to the next positive step; unlike hatred or jealousy which sets us back.

Venu Rao
Director Peacock Hospitality.

The Budding Hotelier

budding1
budding1
budding1
budding1
budding1
budding1

Circle of Knowledge

Experts say that the percentage of knowledge that a human brain can hold is less than ONE percent of the available information in the world. We fail to realise that 99% of the available knowledge is actually the blind spot. We don’t know that we don’t know!!  We are constantly trying to narrow this gap. Only a few extremely brilliant people scale up to the two percent knowledge mark.

I read an interesting article about photons the other day. It said that a photon takes a million light years to travel from the Sun’s core to the exterior but takes mere eight minutes to reach us. It also spoke about a parallel universe existing alongside us, where time travels in the opposite direction. Imagine going through the human life sycle in reverse order death-old age-adult-teenager-child-baby-foetus; basically tomb to womb. Wouldn’t it be amazing? So the big question then is – What are we? How do we evolve best practices of reaching out to our guests?

It is a known fact that, the more knowledgeable we are, the experience of the guest will be that much better. Lets discuss a few simple ways of improving our knowledge.

Think big-Think small syndrome

Dr Abdul Kalam always advises youngsters to ‘Think Big’.  He is absolutely right. Thinking big literally opens up the mind and helps us achieve goals beyond imagination. One could easily develop that idea into something big. For example: turning a dynamic reservation system into best BAR rate portfolio like the OTAs. It may have the potential of spinning in lot of revenue and making your hotel a market leader. The key is to make that start. We hear success stories of ordinary people coming up with very successful hotel projects. They were bold enough to make that start.

Thinking small is equally important. Even a small idea can work wonders.  Something like the Japanese Sashimi. You just take one gulp and you are done. You are supremely satisfied and the taste lingers on for a long while.  Similarly a tiny droplet gradually becomes a wave. The wave is neither big nor small but is an integral part of the ocean. Our thoughts shouldn’t be limited by the size of the idea.

Internet

As we know, Internet is a treasure trove of knowledge; something like a giant communication bottomless pit. One can Google almost anything and get a result instantly. Of course one has to use it with discretion. However a search engine can just provide you with information about how to solve the problem but cannot actually solve it for you. So, Google cannot replace a smart hotelier.

A lot of people claim that they google themselves when bored. I tried it myself and was amazed at the hundreds of Venu Rao’s in the world. Luckily, my profile pops up in the top ten. All credit to SEO optimisation. So, the Internet does give you information on almost any subject but you actually need a human to use the information practically.

Travel

A thousand mile journey starts with just a single step but the amount of planning that goes into it is unimaginable. Even with all the planning, there is so much you learn on the actual trip. And, if its something like a conference, there is an information overload.

Travel plays a part of a game changer in our hotel industry. A large percentage of guests are well travelled and well informed. We actually learn so much from them.

Conversation

We have grown up listening to different people talk, be it our teachers, professors, political leaders, parents, siblings and so on…  This has an impact on our thinking either positively or negatively. Engaging in a positive conversation can be a good source of information and can be productive. For example: the quick morning meetings or briefings.

Guests are a big source of knowledge, since they come from all walks of life. Engaging with guests works like a double-edged sword. While it keeps us abreast of current trends, it makes the guests feel special as we spend more time with them.

I am reminded of my conversations with my grandfather when I was a teenager. When I would ask for pocket money, my grandfather would say, “Don’t ask for any pocket money my boy. The future is bright when the money is tight.”

Reading habit

The current generation is still growing up with books, but soon a time will come when books will be outdated. Information might soon be stored in a small chip in our body. Books have always been a tremendous source of knowledge and entertainment. Enid Blyton was one of my personal favourites as a child.  Vivid descriptions in books like Famous Five hold good even in today’s Internet world. How can one forget comics like Phantom or Mandrake?

Even religious books are a valuable source of information. It is through these books that we discovered how various civilisations survived the test of time. Whatever religious beliefs we have today came from these books.

To cut the long story short, we should constantly try to improve our knowledge.

Reading is good, doing is great

 

Venu Rao
Director Peacock Hospitality.

MALAYALEE MASALA

As the plane touched down at the Cochin International Airport, the majestic terminal building swung into view. The sight of the coconut treetops from the plane had enlivened our senses, and anticipating the scenic drive, we walked eagerly to meet our host Abdul, who escorted us to the limousine.

We were on our way to Thekkady, the country’s largest wildlife sanctuary. I was looking forward to all the sights that Thekkady had to offer and had done much research on it. Thekkady is a haven for nature lovers, with its ample tropical flora and fauna. It is also home to rich, indigenous tribes.  One of the main attractions in Thekkady is the 120 years old ‘Surki’ dam built across the Periyar Lake. The huge artificial fresh water lake attracts thousands of animals from the surrounding sanctuary, making it a great watering hole and a perfect setting. The government of Kerala has also launched an innovative cruise that takes tourists close to view the animals, while they come to the banks of the lake to quench their thirst. It is very exciting to see these animals in their natural habitat, however sometimes visitors forget the need to remain calm and rush to spot them, rocking the boat precariously. The dried trees that jut out of the great water body are beautiful, but also provide navigational challenges to the boat driver.

As I recalled all that I had read, speeding along the green belt of grass, I felt a slight drizzle on my face.  Mistry, the architect, was explaining the architecture of the resort, which was being set up atop a hillock in Thekkady. He described the pool built right on the summit, with its vast view of the lush greenery. Soaking in the passing sights and sounds, I smiled at the thought of how some of the finer architectural details just went over my head.

In my broken Malayalam, I asked our bearded driver the name of the town we had passed, and he said “Pala.” My mind connected the word to the Malayalam word for milk, paal. The weather was just perfect for a glass of piping hot paal chaya. We pulled up in front of an extremely neat Malayalee version of a dhaba. Rubbing my hands gleefully, I called out to the Mundu clad waiter and ordered ‘masala tea’ for all of us.

Soon, we were discussing the resort’s sloping roofs and the temple designs for the main building. I wanted a state of the art, efficient kitchen. Someone asked how the guests would trudge all the way to the top to get the pool, to which, another person replied, “Oh it’s easy to do so in bikinis, especially in the winter!” We chuckled and waited eagerly for our tea, but there was no sight of the warm brew yet. Looking anxiously around, I enquired politely, “Just five more minutes,” the waiter said. With the beautiful surroundings, we didn’t mind the five-minute.

Soon the waiter arrived with four yera glasses brimming with the dark greenish hot liquid. I took a sip of the brew and called out, ‘Yende Eshwara!’ My God! This hot spicy liquid would just not go down my throat. With tears flowing down my eyes, I asked, “Yendha idhu?” What is this? The owner gave me a weird look and replied, “You asked for a masala tea alle? We added chilies, onions, coriander and a bit of ginger to help your throat. We usually put these special ingredients in our masala omelets too…

Venu Rao
Director Peacock Hospitality.

Clean India- Swatchh Bharat

Swatchh BharatFew thoughts from a young citizen on what she feels on cleanliness…..

I’ve always had these thoughts in my mind as to what is India lacking in today’s times? A constant thought that crops to my mind- Cleanliness and the citizen’s responsibility towards her motherland. Even before our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had said in his Independence Day speech that cleanliness is a big mission, these thoughts were already in my mind. As a young citizen I’ve been disturbed and disheartened as to how irresponsible we all can be when it comes to polluting our streets!! Now why I would say that? I don’t believe in just playing the blame game, since I am also a citizen of this country. We throw all sorts of things on the roads such as waste papers, empty chips packets or chocolate wrappers or even garbage. We are so impatient that we can’t search for a dustbin. We just throw it where we are, but when it comes to travel abroad, it’s like we are a different person altogether, we just admire the beauty of the surroundings in that country and quietly follow their rules with a second thought.

When we are visitors to other countries, we should ensure that we follow their rules and take their example, nations such as Singapore have stringent punishments : certain number of lashings for throwing things or even spitting on the roads, not only their citizens join hands to punish an offender when they catch them red handed polluting their city. But it doesn’t stop there!!!
The million dollar question to be asked here is why don’t we do the same thing here in our Country as well? Why am I saying this? It’s because we keep seeing big dumps of garbage thrown and unattended in big posh places of cities such as Bangalore. Also when it comes to our religious offerings we tend to put those in rivers. The Ganges is the most polluted river in today’s times, if we consider that river holy; why can’t we leave it – spick and span. Allow me to take the example of the recently concluded Ganesh Chaturthi festival, how many of us immerse our idols in rivers, tanks and ponds- polluting them because of the artificial colors on these idols.

One small request to everyone would be that please don’t depend on your local municipal corporation or don’t keep blaming the government that it doesn’t do anything. Remember each one of us as a citizen is duty bound towards our great country; and not only will help keep our place clean, but also helps in preventing diseases. We do not want to scare our foreign tourists away; they should appreciate the clean and green surroundings. We must avoid their complaints of our country being dirty. They will come back again to enjoy a beautiful and friendly India; we thus pay our tribute to the father of our nation.

– Aabana Rao

THE BUDDING HOTELIER

THE BUDDING HOTELIER
THE BUDDING HOTELIER
THE BUDDING HOTELIER
THE BUDDING HOTELIER
THE BUDDING HOTELIER
THE BUDDING HOTELIER
THE BUDDING HOTELIER
THE BUDDING HOTELIER