“I believe in sharing and inculcating a sense of pride in my team”

Dr Anmol Ahluwalia, Cluster General Manager North Goa elaborates on his new position as Area Director, Operations of IHCL – Goa

Over his remarkable tenure of 18 years with IHCL, Dr Ahluwalia has evolved as a strategic leader growing from his first assignment as an Executive Housekeeper of Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa, Goa to his current role as Cluster General Manager – North Goa.
During his journey, he has led teams at Vivanta Bengaluru, Whitefield, and Taj Chandigarh as its Executive Housekeeper and the teams at Vivanta Panaji, Goa, and Taj Lands End, Mumbai in the capacity of Accommodation Manager before being promoted as the Executive Assistant Manager of Taj Bengal. He debuted in his first general management role at Taj Wellington Mews, Mumbai AS its General Manager, where he successfully led the team to further take the service standards notches higher. Thereafter, Dr Ahluwalia took on his assignment leading IHCL hotels in North Goa as General Manager – North Goa.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the hospitality industry?
I think the reason why I chose to pursue my career in the hospitality industry is about a sense of giving. I think the industry allows us to give and pay it forward, whether it is to every stakeholder who works with you, the community and the people, guests, or every life that you touch. This industry allows you to collaborate, and enhance the lives of every person that you touch. I think that was what made me pursue a career in this industry.

You started your career with IHCL as an Executive Housekeeper at Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa. Today you are the Cluster General Manager – North Goa and Area Director, Operations, IHCL-Goa. What motivated you to reach the position?
When I started my career with IHCL as an executive housekeeper at the Taj Fort Aguada, the one thing that egged me to go forward and to continue on my journey towards success, was a determination that the success of so many people who joined hands together with me; lies on me to make this happen. My teams, the colleagues that I have worked with, my peers, my superiors, and everybody else who has partnered with me on this journey have motivated me. I think as an ode and a tribute to them, to their selfless work and dedication, to all the collaborative moments I have shared with every person I have interacted with, it has given me the motivation to reach this level and keep pursuing my way forward.

What motivates you to work in the luxury hotels segment?
I think what motivates and encourages me to work for luxury hotels is a sense of belonging, a sense of detail, a sense of ‘Tajness’ which connects the dots and makes every heart swell with pride, every eye twinkle with joy, and every face light up with a smile. I think the sheer joy of welcoming a guest to our hotel and sending them back with memories and experiences that make them come back and return as a family member to our hotels is something that gives a sense of pride to work in these beautiful luxury hotels of IHCL.

According to you, what factors contribute to excellent customer service?
Some factors that contribute to excellent customer service are our roles in trying to do things for guests without them having to ask for it. I think the fact that we can pre-empt a service, to understand the hidden messages and construct a storyline out of the guest’s expectations, is beautiful. A book left in a room and a small bookmark left behind; a guest, who has traveled with a child and a baby, gets a soft toy; a traveler who has returned after a long day of sightseeing and a foot soak left behind with bath salts are some of the small gestures which make a customer smile whenever they come across those moments of truth. I think these are what make excellent customer service. Reading in between the lines, doing more than what the customer has asked for, and always being there to serve with a smile and passion.

As a hospitality leader, what is your leadership style?
My leadership style is of an open door policy and leading my teams from the front. I believe in sharing, and inculcating a sense of pride in my team while conducting a culture of openness, oneness, and ‘Tajness’.

What are your greatest strengths and how could they contribute to a managerial position?
I think one of my strengths that I would like to speak about is the ability to collaborate with people across different strata, and diversities and bring out the best in my team members. I think every single person who works with us has some unique qualities and strengths and if you can tap those qualities, hone them, polish them, and keep our colleagues sprinkled with a little pixie dust, passion, and panache; I think that can lead to a great number of success stories and that by itself becomes a managerial style of leading people with joint hands.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges that the hospitality industry faces today?
I think that one of the biggest challenges our industry faces today is getting the right skill set of people to join the industry. Today, with so many options available in the market, the younger generation is not joining hotel industries and shying away from starting from the first step and climbing the ladder or the steps forward. Finding people with the right skill sets and mindsets is the biggest challenge our industry faces today.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I think in the next five years, I see myself evolving as a hotelier, as a human being, and also as a leader working with various geographies, and people, at different locations and adding value to whatever assignment is given to me while trying to give back to the society I am working with or operating from.

What advice would you offer to those who aspire to become leaders in the hotel industry someday?
One of the best pieces of advice that I can give to a person who is aspiring to become a hospitality leader is to be able to slow down and absorb the sense of pride that you will have when everybody comes in contact with you and gets inspired by you, which by itself is awe-inspiring.
I would say; slow down, understand the people, the guests, and the concept of your hotel, and spend time in getting into the nitty gritties of running a hotel. It is only when you have the small details in hand you will be able to enjoy success in all its forms

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