As a globally leading hospitality technology provider, we have worked with many hotel brands in India and abroad, with women at the helm of day-to-day affairs. They have constantly been rising to the occasion as decisive leaders with business acumen. We have seen them achieving important milestones through senior leadership representation. This blog is dedicated to a few of them for creating impactful workplaces that are both diverse yet inclusive. Let’s look at their journey so far in the industry. Hopefully, you find it interesting and insightful. By the way, do you know that around 25% of our workforce are women?
Deepika Arora, Founder, Rosakue
Deepika is an accomplished hospitality professional with over 15 years of rich experience managing hospitality brands across sizes and categories. Under her guidance, Rosakue has become a handpicked ensemble of 11 boutique home retreats offering curated lifestyle experiences to its guests.
Monalika Bhatiya, Director, One Earth Hotels
Monalika is a marketing & communication expert turned hotelier. She conceptualized and founded One Earth Hotels in 2015. Over the last seven years, with nine properties across India, the group has grown as an eco-conscious hospitality entity.
Ruchi Uberai, Director, Amritara Hotels and Resorts
With a master’s degree in Hospitality Administration & Management from the Oxford Brookes University, Ruchi now manages the show at Amritara Hotels & Resorts. Under her leadership, the group’s 13 properties offer unforgettable memories to its guests.
Akanksha Garg, Director & CEO, Waxpol Hotels and Resorts
Akanksha started her entrepreneurial foray into the travel industry at the age of 18. She has been leading three properties of Waxpol Hotels & Resorts since 2004.
What challenges did you face as a woman when you started taking the mantle of your hospitality business in your hands? Not many women are on executive boards and not just in India. What has been your mantra for success?
Deepika Arora – Being an entrepreneur is demanding in every way. It constantly asks for all your energies, including emotional. This journey is replete with even more challenges for a woman entrepreneur, especially in the hospitality industry, traditionally dominated by men. The recent two years have been a particularly trying phase because of the pandemic. But for me, the ebb and flow have only added to the thrill. It has reinforced my belief that the winning mantra lies in the power of adaptation. There’s certainly no scope for giving up.
Monalika Bhatiya – The road which led me here where I am today was challenging. In the early days, I realized that I needed to embrace technology and the changing trends to reach even a remotely stable and successful position. There is no substitute for hard work. I was always focused on my short-term and long-term goals. Once I had this clarity of mind, it all became pretty easy. More and more women are sitting on executive boards now, and I am happy to be where I am today.
Ruchi Uberai – I, for one, don’t believe that any role or profession is gender-specific. When I started my hospitality journey with Amritara Hotels & Resorts in 2015, I looked after their Kochi property, Amritara the Poovath Heritage, as a GM. I was never handed over the Director designation straightaway. I had to climb up the ladder like everyone else and show the management that I could run the show. While the world may say that things are no different for men and women, I believe and have first-hand experience that things don’t come easy for my fellow gender. Women have to put extra effort into everything. Over the years, our male counterparts have believed or have been instilled with the thinking that women don’t make wise decisions. I strongly condemn this thought and believe that we are more rational bosses and can stand and lead from the front like anyone else. It will help if you pursue your ambitions with confidence.
Akanksha Garg – As a first-generation hotelier with two decades of experience in managing various resorts, my passion for wildlife and the wilderness was ingrained in me as a child by my parents. For our family of wildlife enthusiasts, any vacation meant a trip to one of the national parks. When I started promoting the Sundarbans with Sunderban Tiger Camp, many didn’t take me seriously as they considered me a novice because I was very young.
However, I believed in my product, team, and Sunderbans’ challenges. I promoted it for what it was and how we had made it sustainable. My perseverance and delivery of an honest product shifted perceptions, and industry leaders recognized my work. My company’s success is built on the qualities of honesty, accountability, empathy, humility, resilience, and flexibility. I believe in gender equality and have never let adversity get me down. One must expect the unexpected, even if they have planned for the best.
What are your thoughts on the Hospitality sector today and the changes that you foresee happening in the next few years?
Deepika Arora – The home-stay segment within India is still a niche with huge potential. The most significant proof is that large hotel chains are shifting gears to capitalize on this relatively unexplored space. I foresee tremendous growth in the home-stay segment in the next few years, and we’re pioneers and already in it for the long haul.
Pandemic fatigue has triggered the onset of the work-leisure model, and unexplored destinations are finally having their moment. The future dictates a more robust move towards leisure destinations, with large hotel chains creating extensive inventories. The industry is ready to witness a significant transformation…one that will last.
Monalika Bhatiya – Although slowly bouncing back from the last three waves of the pandemic, the hospitality sector is showing an encouraging trend for recovery. Travel is gradually becoming stable, and I see hotels attaining better occupancies and RevPAR. Earlier, just as the pandemic waves got over, we saw a significant influx of tourists rushing out to the closest destinations that we had termed “Revenge Tourism,” but as that phenomenon has subsided and travel has settled, I am sure we will be reaching occupancies which we saw before March 2020. My company is taking baby steps, only adding 125 -150 keys per year as we purely operate on a lease model. We already have 179 keys signed up for the coming financial year, which I think is a little bullish for us. But I am hopeful that the next three years will be great with the industry showing robust growth. Hoteliers with the right creative bend of mind, technology, and understanding the importance of changing customer behavior will succeed.
Ruchi Uberai – The last two years have brought in a seismic shift to how the hospitality industry used to function. While ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ remains at the heart of the Indian Hospitality Industry, the working culture and how hotels were looked upon pre-covid times have drastically changed. 2022 will be a milestone year for this industry. As the second year of the pandemic ends, we will witness a transformed version of the hospitality industry. This will set the tone for the future with noteworthy changes in management, servicing, and consumer preferences. 2021 saw many new trends such as workcation, revenge travel, and bleisure trips. In 2022, we will see which of these trends would sustain. I am optimistic for the times to come.
Akanksha Garg – In 10-15 years, the hotel business will appear very different from how we see it today. To suit the business/leisure traveler, hotels will need to be even more technologically advanced. The tendency continues to favor more personalized and localized travel experiences. That is one of the reasons why wilderness accommodations have seen an increase in popularity in the last two years.
How did you manage the show at your hotels during the Covid time?
Deepika Arora – Unprecedented is not just one of the buzzwords born out of the pandemic. It is for real, and each of us has witnessed it. Naturally, travel and hospitality were the worst hit. With customers away and competition lying low, it was the best time to make smart decisions, reboot, take stock, and prepare for a first-mover advantage. We invested our resources in all of that.
Our differentiator is not conventional ‘hotels’ but lifestyle ‘homes’ offering traditional hospitality, including comfort, safety, and familiarity. As our properties are compact-sized homes, we focused on binding our team with compassion, care, concern, and connectivity. We were able to forge the trust of our customers and sustain their patronage by staying connected with them. Our guests also proved to be our prime ambassadors, and the referrals provided just the mileage to help us tide over.
Monalika Bhatiya – We kept our heads low and just tried to stay afloat. We took care of our people to the best of our ability and did not panic.
Ruchi Uberai – For us, the first phase of COVID was difficult since we significantly rely on inbound travel. We could generate only 20 percent of our business through domestic travelers since their spending capacity has always been lower than their international counterparts. Nevertheless, we turned these circumstances into our stride and focused marketing campaigns on appealing to domestic or outbound travelers whose spending capacity was high. We attracted those who used to go out on international leisure trips but could not travel due to the restrictions. Our hotels are in some of the most exotic locations in India that attract this chunk of business. Therefore, we didn’t witness differences in our ARR due to high-end domestic travelers. In fact, we did better in terms of numbers.
Akanksha Garg – “Necessity is the mother of all inventions” – Albert Einstein.
Our lives were predetermined before the outbreak of the epidemic. The daily grind and the drive to stay one step ahead of the pack persisted. Everything came to a halt at that moment. Initially, it was difficult to figure out what to do at home once the business had paused. And as the saying goes, an empty mind is a devil’s workshop; we decided to return to work. Our break from the break was over! Because of this, my team and I were free to revise and rewrite our plans for the future and make better use of our resources to maintain the company’s viability.
We had to develop new ideas and make plans for the next five years as most businesses were either closing or adapting to the new normal. We trained our staff on safety and hygiene protocols during the lockdown. We installed manual contactless hand sanitizing equipment in some areas to eliminate potential hazards for visitors. We took appropriate steps to reduce seating capacity to maintain social and physical distance. We also realized that computerized menus and order-taking systems mitigate the necessity of face-to-face interaction between customers and employees.
A special covid officer was assigned to each of our resorts to provide the required assistance to the staff. We made it mandatory to use the infrared thermometer twice a day to measure the body temperature of our employees. All our staff members were asked to use masks and sanitizers regularly.
Waxpol Hotels and Resorts also led industry preparedness by developing safety and sanitation requirements for the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI), the Responsible Tourism Society of India (RTSOI), and Tour Operators for Tigers (TOFT). Sanitation has always been an integral part of our company’s long-term profitability and responsibilities.
What do you want to say to those budding women entrepreneurs out there?
Deepika Arora – Being an entrepreneur is not about glamor. It is about guts and glory. Flex those financial muscles, show emotional concern for people, embrace patience, and practice perseverance. But more than anything else, pledge to outlive and outlast.
Monalika Bhatiya – This industry is all set to see new heights with the domestic and inbound travel opening and the season time almost upon us. Be positive and keep your faith alive. Understand the industry’s changing environment and be open to the changes in customer behavior. Become as tech-savvy as you can and devise new ways to engage with your customers. Remember, nothing can replace hard work.
Ruchi Uberai – Own up to your decisions and ensure that you execute them almost seamlessly. The world is not an easy audience to please, and it will judge you at every step you take. Make sure you put in that extra effort and lead your teams in the most efficient and empathetic way.
Akanksha Garg – Every challenge is an opportunity to learn, innovate, and put your knowledge and abilities to the test. Be a good leader with integrity, empathy, humility, and vision. According to Steve Jobs, Management is about persuading people to do things they don’t want to do. We will survive, and our sector will revive because the hotel industry is complex. Just as there is no blueprint for life, there is no manual for the service industry. Every customer and situation are unique. A hospitality professional learns everything and is constantly ready, and that is what makes them prosper.