Escalate

Keep an eye on the competition, but don’t let it drive you

  • Strictly business
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Feb 19, 2018-

Amir K Pradhananga was drawn towards the hospitality industry early on. While growing up, Pradhananga often visited hotels in the Valley with his family and says was drawn to the business without even registering it at first.

In 1996, after completing his high school, he travelled to Chennai to pursue his degree in hotel management and landed a job as a management trainee at the Everest Hotel thereafter.

During his tenure at Everest, he served as an assistant manager, room division manager and eventually director of sales. After leaving Everest in 2013, he worked with few hotels as a consultant and later joined Grand Hotel as a resident manager.

Since 2017, Pradhananga has been serving as the general manager of the newly-opened Hotel Mulberry in Thamel.

In this interview with The Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Pradhananga talks about some of the characteristics a manager should acquire and about the importance of customer service. Excerpts:

With the number of schools specialising in the hospitality sector on the rise, so are fresh graduates looking for jobs. What does Hotel Mulberry look for in incoming employees?

Unlike any other profession, the hospitality industry is different. The reason is very clear: To become a part of this sector, you don’t have to be a college topper; you just need to have a top attitude. If you have a positive, focused attitude it really goes the distance here. In fact, this industry is such that new, exciting things keep happening and the opportunities for people to grow are tremendous. When hiring candidates, we see if the candidate is adaptable and keen on learning. With the experiences I have had in the past, I believe that one can only become a successful hotelier if you are a quick thinker and react to situations well. For instance, when a guest asks you for something, you need to have the confidence to speak the right thing immediately and react accordingly. Also, the candidate needs to be a good observer. You need to notice even the smallest of things because sometimes, it’s the small things that make or break a guest’s experience and perception of the establishment. Sometimes, offering a cup of tea can delight a guest whereas, sometimes, it could ruin their day as well as yours. A candidate needs to be observant. They need to be so observant so, that they know what a guest wants merely by observing their body language and facial expressions.

Mulberry is a new establishment that is just beginning to forge an identity in the industry. How do you ensure that there is uniformity in the employees’ values and the service provided. And how do you keep them motivated?

At Mulberry most of our employees are fresh hospitality management graduates. Hiring fresh talents is a win-win situation for both the employees and for us. New talents are raw and that is a great motivating factor for us because we are investing our time on training them. New graduates learn and develop skills quickly and this helps them grow personally and professionally. Giving opportunities to fresh graduates not only helps boost their self-confidence but it also helps them focus on the work at hand and perform. They all have a point to prove. Besides, young people come in with good vibes and positive energy and especially, for a new hotel like ours, we could definitely use some of that. That being said, appreciating them for their hard work is essential. If they are happy, we are happy and in the end it is the hotel that prospers as a result. 

In the hospitality industry, customer service is paramount. What are Mulberry’s customer service values? And how is it instilled in new employees?

The main goal of the hospitality sector is to make guests feel home away from home. We need to make our guests feel as comfortable as possible and if need be, sometimes, you should go beyond your limits to make them happy. I think at Mulberry, we have different sort of strategies to attract customers and make our guests feel at home. For instance, we have small cards placed in every room of ours which mentions, ‘I forgot’, ‘Please remind me’ and others. I think small things make a huge difference. 

What kind of leadership skills should a leader possess and what are your management mantras?

To work in the hospitality sector, you need to be a good team leader and very observant. A leader must have the skill to keep their team members motivated and be ready to spring to action at all times. The entire team needs to have a common goal, which is to say, they need to stay true to the mission and vision of the hotel. 

There are many international and local brands that are now entering the Nepali market. How do you plan to maintain your brand image in this competitive market?

This is a watershed moment for the hospitality industry in Nepal as many hotels are mushrooming within the Valley and outside. I think more the competition,the merrier it is for us. We do keep an eye on our competitors but we cannot let them lead us. We need to build our own image and be known for our unique identity. With all the international franchises coming in, it’s definitely an opportunity for us to get better at our game as we have to try to excel to their standards. From a small hotel to a five star hotel, everyone is our competitor. Keeping the booming sector and the competition in mind, we have been rigorously training our employees to aspire for the highest standards. 

There are no room for mistakes in this sector. As a general manager, what kind of  strategies do you use to prevent errors in service delivery?

There are three factors: Physical structure, administration and human errors. Structure wise, we do a lot of preventive maintenances. We do regular follow ups. We believe that guests should never feel that the hotel is lacking in anything. Opening a new hotel is a big challenge. I believe that we have maintained a high standard, structure wise. As I said, we do trainings and briefings regularly so that we don’t leave room for any kind of mistakes. Human errors are natural, and if one does occur at Mulberry, we go out of our way to make it up to the guests. 

What advice do you have for fresh graduates who plan to join the hospitality industry?

Hotel industry is very demanding, you need to be dedicated. If you are looking merely for a job then hospitality sector is not your place. You need passion if you want to join this sector. More than hard work, you need to be able to perform smart work if you want to succeed in the hospitality industry. 

Published: 19-02-2018 09:22

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