Mr. Ashwani Nayar, who has been recently appointed as the Multi – Property General Manager for The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa which are significant properties in New Delhi NCR – in the Marriott International portfolio is armed with over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Mr. Nayar joined this Global hospitality organization Marriott International (earlier Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide) in 2005 as the Area Director North – India and Nepal with the Global Sales office based in New Delhi. His first experience of managing hotel operations started in 2006 as the Executive Assistant Manager of Le Meridien Resort & Convention Centre, Cochin where, he served for two years, before moving on as the General Manager of Le Meridien Jaipur.
During his enriching journey and the time spent in Jaipur, he discovered his interest and love for Art and Culture synonymous to the brand. He also served as a General Manager at Sheraton Udaipur Palace Resort and Spa, when he was also elected as the Regional Vice President of Hotels and Restaurant Association of Rajasthan. In June 2013, he joined Le Meridien, Dhaka as a pre-opening General Manager, The hotel in a short time emerged as the market leader and also earned the unique honor of achieving six significant global hospitality awards in just over one year of opening. Mr. Nayar’s vision lies in creating equal and relevant opportunities for both genders as he strongly believes that a balanced workforce is a successful workforce. Providing a value proposition to drive business with concerned stakeholders is his core strength that enables him to create a win-win situation for both parties. With his new designation as a Multi Property General Manager he will be responsible for the overall operations, driving profitability, ensuring revenue, guest satisfaction, enhancing the strong brand positioning of the two hotels and creating a positive workforce environment.
During his time-off, he regularly engages in out-door activities and sports that keeps him rejuvenated. He takes out time to de-stress by playing Tennis, Golf and swimming.
We had an engaging conversation with him. Here are excerpts from it.
WUG: What motivated you to get into the hotel industry?
A N: Well, it just happened! There weren’t any large visions or designs of grandeur of being in a five star environment. I just chanced upon an ad about studying to become a hotelier, I applied. I got a call and the next thing I know, i was studying to be a hotelier. But now that I look back, I think it ran in my blood stream, and I just cannot imagine having had become anything but a hotelier.
WUG: How has the journey in this space been so far?
A N: It’s been phenomenal and fulfilling! In my journey of having worked with Meridian / Starwood / Marriot, I’ve worked with some very fine hotels. I’ve had the opportunity of building and being a part of one of the largest hotels in Bangladesh, which in it’s one and a half years of operation, is a market leader at the moment.
WUG: What are the qualities that are important for being a hotelier?
A N: It requires a certain attitude. Skills, we can help acquire, but the right attitude is important. A positive attitude that is! The fact that you are able to spread yourself to extreme diversities yet take it all within a single uniform framework; go through the extremests of emotions, climates, surroundings, situations, yet be unperturbed about it. There are a lot of little subtleties of being a hotelier. One has to learn to create a balance because it is very easy to get swayed away into a much larger, luxurious, glamorous looking lifestyle that one obviously cannot afford. To be a part of it without it having an overwhelming effect is the key. For example when celebrities or VIPs or heads of state walk in, you cannot be taken in. Though you have to give them their due respect and admiration, you cannot be star gazers or autograph seekers. Similarly, balance in many sitautions.
WUG: How has it been working with Westin?
A N: The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Westin Sohna, Resort and Spa, are flagship hotels in the city hotel and luxury resort space respectively. Needless to say, being a part of these is an aspirational privilege. But with that comes responsibility to keep the flag flying high because you are associated with hotels that the company and stake holders have huge expectations of. Now that I’m a part of the journey, I hope to have a long association with these hotels.
WUG: What is unique about brand Westin?
A N: The brand has found it’s own space and very strong niche as a brand that advocates wellness. It’s one of the first ones to recognise the need to have healthy food options in its menu and introduce SuperfoodsRx. Globally, the brand has certain unique and foremost concepts like the Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath amenities, which have been ground breaking and game changing! Westin took something as basic as sleeping well and feeling fresh (two essentials of staying in a hotel) to a whole new level!
WUG: What is it like being in the General Manager’s shoes?
A N: As the GM of a ship like this, responsibilities are 360 degree to all stake holders; associates, investors, the brand, staff and guests. It gives me a high and an adrenaline rush. A typical day is full of diverse moments. From shaking hands with the head of a state, to going down (quite literally!) to ensure that the sewerage system or the STP plant are working fine, one handles everything. Managing all this and coming back for the same each day is the deal. But having said that, I enjoy it and believe that if I’m positive, that’s what I create around myself.
WUG: You’ve been all over. How’s working in Gurgaon different from all other places?
A N: Gurgaon is a fast paced, high energy zone. People’s expectations are high because of the fact that they are widely travelled. Expectations are a lot for the authentic but at the same time, because of paucity of time, things tend to be a lot more disciplined here than other parts of the country. Overall what I love is the energy.
WUG: Would you like to shed light on Gurgaon’s specific challenges and opportunities.
A N: The opportunities first! The city is very high in terms of corporate and business movement. There’s residential and commercial activity and growth within the radius so as a hotelier, you know that business will continue (and hopefully grow). demand continues to increase and that keeps us in business and obviously keeps us happy. We are competing with properties (our counterparts) in other parts of the world. It’s when they reach out to us for solutions, that we feel happy to have got it right.
The challenges are that in our context, we are not a mature market, as yet. We are leaning towards it, but we are not like markets which have come to a point that the cycle of demand and supply runs smooth, for them to be able to forecast very well. It’s a a steady northward incline that they are moving towards. It’s an idealist scenario!
WUG: Would you agree that Indian hoteliers, at some point of their career choose to return to their home cities. Is our country’s social make up a deterrent to one’s growth in the industry?
A N: I beg to differ here! I can speak for myself and a lot of peers from the industry that hoteliers, infact, are most global in their outlook. If ever there is a concept of global citizenship, the first 10 would be hoteliers. Having said that, it’s pressing family reasons of a personal nature that people come back for. But, that would apply to all nationalities across the world.
WUG: What piece of advice would you give to hotel industry aspirants?
A N: This business demands a lot. Be selfless, but keep a certain amount of positive selfishness too. You’ve got to be a happy, fun loving, wanting to work hard and party hard kind of a person yourself before you exude that energy around. One should be willing to adopt as well as adapt. Also, come with a lot of integrity and honesty as that’s the key here and everywhere. Never compromise on it.
WUG: Tell us of one thing that brings a smile on your face?
A N: Perfection.
WUG: What brings a frown?
A N: Dishonesty.