Rajat Sethi, alumnus of IHM Chandigarh, and an industry veteran with over 19 years in the hospitality industry. Currently working as a General manager at The Grand – New Delhi.
In this exclusive interview with acadman.in he has shared his experiences.
How would you like to introduce yourself?
I am a hotel professional with 19 years of experience. I have more than 5 years of experience as a General Manager. I have done pre-openings. I have also worked with different brands ranging from domestic to international.
Currently, I’m heading a hotel which was not professionally managed. So I took the challenge of turning it around.
How was your experience at the college?
I graduated from IHM Chandigarh in 1997. College life is all about fun. You should not worry about anything else at the college. The management training time also should be enjoyed because once you start working as an assistant manager you become accountable.
Which was the first hotel you joined as a full-time employee?
I started with the Hotel Jaipur Palace, Tonk Road as a management trainee. Carlson Hotel at that time was a newcomer in India and as I was gone through the management training, I took up the assignment because everybody after completing the hotel management degree or diploma wants to get in the management trainee but I think that now after being in the industry for so long I don’t think that makes any difference.
So if you get into Hotel as a food and beverage assistant or as a front office assistant and if you work hard and if you are focused you can make it to the assistant manager level in 2 years time.
Of all the places where you have worked which were the most memorable one for you?
I think Oberoi Hotels by far was the best. I was there for almost 8 years which is almost 50% of my career so far. My learning had been immense during those years at the Oberoi Hotels. I feel that Oberoi hotels are the best institution in terms of hotels in India. So you cannot get better than that.
How you came working with the Hilton Hotel?
It was actually a pre-opening hotel. I always wanted to open a hotel as a General Manager and I was getting this opportunity at the Hilton. Pre-opening is a different Ball game altogether.
Prior to joining as a pre-opening GM, I was GM at the Trident Gurgaon, which is an iconic hotel and I was actually heading the operation of the entire hotel.
How would you describe your current job at the The Grand Hotel, New Delhi?
The Grand – New Delhi is one of the biggest hotel operation in Delhi with 390 rooms and 8 F&B outlets. It has been quite a challenge so far. We have a great team of HOD which helps me bring the hotel up to the right standard and we are quite confident that we will take this hotel to a new height.
What are your views about the working hours in the hotel industry?
Initially, when you join hotel industry you should not be looking at the working hours or the salary. That is my Mantra. Because you join it for the purpose of exposure and learning. So as hard you work, as you learn. It’s practical industry. More situation you handle, more knowledge you gain.
There are no specific work hours. I’m the one the first senior management to reach the hotel (8 am) and I’m one of the last to leave. I don’t leave before 8:30 pm.
Sir, but several trainees complain that they have to work for 16-18 hours. What would you say?
People who complain that they have to work for 16-18 hours in a day, I think they are not in the right industry. They will have to change the industry. In this industry, you can not work by your watch. It’s a 24-hour operation. It’s not a stall which opens at 8 am and closes at 6 pm.
In this industry, there is no fixed time for leaving. You can leave in nine hours or you can leave in twelve or thirteen hours. But if you choose to leave in nine hours then you can not rise in this industry, you will not be promoted because somebody who is working harder deserves that post more than you. I have worked 22 hours, non-stop, for days; because I wanted to rise faster than my colleagues.
Sir, means working in an organization for 16 hours is good?
It is not good. you finish your work and you can go. If you can’t finish your work you would have to work for 20 hours or change the industry.
We often hear that sexual harassment is very common in the hotel industry. Recently we saw the case in a Delhi’s 5 star hotel. What is your view about it?
The hotel industry is one of the most secured industry because it has a 24-hour operation. Everything is being monitored 24 hours through the CCTVs.
We have well-educated staffs. We have senior managers available 24 hours. It was one unfortunate event but in general, no such thing takes place. Hotels makes sure that their employees be dropped securely at their home after 8pm.
What are the attributes you look for while hiring a fresher?
I am just going to look at his attitude, whether he has got a positive attitude or not and whether he has got the passion for his work or not. I don’t look at technical aspect. Technical skills can be improved but you can not change somebody’s attitude.