|Dictating Qualitative Standards
Hotel Istana’s General Manager, Praba G. Menon, extols the virtues of sound leadership skills, as he moves the hospitality industry to adopt improved service standard and zero tolerance.
by Sharmini M Rethinasamy
||What are the strategies adopted by Hotel Istana to retain its position in the hospitality industry and what are the challenges associated with demonstrating and retaining this position?
Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur is a household hospitality brand name which is no longer a stranger in the eyes of many, locally and internationally. It was never an overnight achievement. Forward planning was one of the strategies in making sure that our goals and business objectives are aligned and successful. We are always competing against time and striving to be ahead of the game in order to provide our guests with the highest standards of hospitality.
One of the challenges that we face would be meeting the expectations of guests from different and universal walks of life. Hence, in our operations, we always place a high priority in meeting the needs and standards of our guests while maintaining the quality service of our people. We want to give our guests a memorable stay under our hosting and hence, it’s important that we care for their needs because before the existence of expectations or wants, needs are the necessities that are required to be attended to firstly and above all.
Furthermore, we practise transparent management to create one vision, one objective, one management, one team and one voice that transpires throughout the organisation. This is our core value to ensure that our guests enjoy consistent quality hospitality under Hotel Istana’s roof.
Besides these, we are constantly upgrading ourselves and we have renovated our rooms, ballrooms and meeting rooms, and hotel facilities to be on par with international benchmarks. Also, our menus and hotel activities are ever-changing to always create new things for people to look forward to.
The culture that we cultivate into every individual within our organisation helps to bring us to the next level. Through this practice, we are gearing ahead to position ourselves as the ‘local most hospitable hotel with international recognition and standards’.
What has the company identified as a business strategy for growth; can you broadly highlight your plans on this?
Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur drives towards being one of the top choice corporate city lifestyle hotels in town. The strategies that we have adopted are upholding our quality standards in service, and upgrading and maintaining our facilities.
As mentioned, we believe in forward planning as it directs us to where we are heading in terms of developing new business opportunities for ourselves and capturing the market share. We identify our markets and create new packages that are specially catered to their corporate needs.
While engaging experienced sales personnel, when guests are in our hotel, we commit ourselves to providing excellent hospitality that makes every guest feel welcome and at home. By giving our guests good memories, it will create repeat stays and word of mouth, which gives us a good testament that speaks better than just putting ourselves on advertisements.
We believe that to be competitive in the hotel industry, brand name has to be built through giving enjoyable experiences that will last longer and eventually will result in guest loyalty.
What best practices have you identified and implemented for Hotel Istana?
My management team and I believe in cultivating these core values in all our associates; transparent management, integrity, professionalism, ownership and responsibility, respect, passion and creativity, guest-oriented, teamwork with transparent leadership, profitability for all and community outreach. We foster the idea of self-responsibility in creating your own opportunity in terms of career growth, GOP, bonus and service point. We recognize working, moving and growing as a team. It’s a ‘WE’ and never ‘ME’ organisation.
What are your top priorities for the coming years?
To be able to stay in the game in the ever changing and competitive market, our priorities that we have targeted achieving are international brand status, generating sound revenue for the owners, shareholders and organisation, and to remain as one of the top choice city lifestyle hotel in town.
What can you tell us about the management style in Hotel Istana?
I see myself as someone who is a dictator in managing my hotel and organisation. I am hands on in all levels of operation and administration and I believe in total transparent management where communication of our vision, business objective and hospitality standards are transpired from the managers to the supervisors to the associates.
I also believe in sharing with all my associates our operations, profit and loss, GOP and direction of the hotel. Through this nature of transparency, everyone is clear about the business focus and moves towards achieving one goal, which is being a leader in the hospitality industry.
Lastly, I practise a management style that recognises the talent of each individual associate and has the right person at the right place. Their strength will be the hotel’s wings to soar ahead.
How did you develop an interest in the field?
I never saw myself having a career in the hotel industry. Coming from a small family, this business was never in my mind. Like any other kid, I had the usual thought to go for the “regular” careers – teacher, doctor, lawyer, engineer.
However, coming from a poor family, they were out of reach for me. While in the process of doing my MCE, I did part time work in a hotel and found it interesting but then still had never thought of it as a career. As time passed by, my passion grew for this industry which I’ve decided to build my career in.
What sustains you personally to take on such huge challenges in this field and not be shaken?
Challenges to me are my drive in my daily life. It’s something that I look forward to facing every day of my life and being in this industry gives me this satisfaction. My character is such that I hate to lose. Losing is never in my blood and since young I have always played to win.
Hence, in whatever I do, I will always learn and understand the entire ballgame of the industry to have my finger on the pulse.
You manage a large number of employees. What is the key to your success?
The culture of my management that I instill in all my associates is to have one vision and go toward the same direction with me when it comes to taking our hotel to the next level. In order to achieve a large scale of success, transparency in managing is my working style.
As a leader, I will set the objectives and share it with my associates while being constantly involved with their execution and plans in achieving those objectives. We work as a team and I believe that a leader should never fail its people in terms of continuation in guiding and building them into better hoteliers.
All in all, these two values, transparency and strong leadership, are my key to success.
Would you say that 'teachability' is a vital characteristic for an employee who wants to move forward in his or her career?
Personally, any individual is able to move forward as long as they have passion in their work, determination to strive for success, openness to criticism for improvement and always have the desire to want to do more than what is given to them. One must never give up when faced with a challenge or failure but challenge themselves further.
These are the traits and treats for a person to achieve a successful career.
Is there a commitment to transparency and openness in your organisation? If yes, are these your personal traits?
Yes, and this is the culture that I strongly instil in each and every one of my department heads so that they too can inculcate this trait to their downliners. Transparency also strengthens the working relationship of all associates within this organisation.
How do you describe the hotel’s evolution at this stage?
The hotel has taken itself to the next level to be recognised internationally within the hospitality industry. Now, we are benchmarking the consistency of our service quality and upgrading of facilities.
Could you please tell us your point of view regarding management?
Management is a word that encompasses responsibility, leadership and opening up pathways for opportunity, not only for yourself but those who are working with you. Management creates the success story of an organisation.
What do you consider to be the most significant recent change in your field of expertise to have occurred in the last 10 years?
The industry has grown to be widely sought after through demands of frequent business and leisure travelling. Thus, technology has played a significant role in influencing the industry in terms of fast check-ins, on-line bookings and facilities within the hotel which people of today expect.
What do you consider to be the most significant future challenge that the hospitality industry must deal with in the coming years?
The challenges that we will face as I predict it will no longer be of only generating revenue for the organisation but will be of constantly creating new and exciting experiences that will make people want to come back to your hotel. As technology is playing a big part in our society and is slowly taking over our management, I also foresee that there will be a lack of human interaction and touch in the hotel industry.
How do you see solutions fitting into your portfolio?
As a hotel is like a second home to a traveller, we try to instil our guests with house values in terms of being eco-friendly. One of the daily “Go Green” activities in the hotel is to encourage our guests to re-use towels and save water. This little act will do a lot for the preservation of Mother Nature.
What is it about your strategies that excited you?
What excites me is seeing the iconic name of Hotel Istana recognised as an international hotel brand. At the moment, we are only known as a local 5-star hotel but we are not yet an international icon.
How has the social media and the internet changed the nature of competition, innovation and company operations?
Social media and the Internet have become the future of the industry. It opens up many business opportunities and enables direct interaction with the guest through updates of facilities and services as well as privileges.
ABOUT HOTEL ISTANA
Hotel Istana is a leading 5-star corporate address, catering the concept of “stay-work-relax” for travelers in the move as its 515 well-appointed guestrooms and suites are designed to suit every individual’s personal and corporate needs. It also offers versatile banqueting and convention facilities; and exquisite dining experience complemented by the highest level of service and carefully selected menu at its three restaurants and lounges.
The Grand Mahkota Ballroom, foyer area and 16 meeting rooms are newly refurbished and have been given a distinctive regal look. After the official opening june 3, 2011, the grand ballroom is now known as one of the largest pillarless ballrooms in Kuala Lumpur city which is able to host up to 2000 guests.
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