Saurabh Khanna talks about his experiences as General Manager of The Park, Calangute
A brief about your childhood, educational background and work experiences
I was born in Muzaffarpur, a small-town famous for Lychees. Post my primary education there I studied at St. Joseph’s College in picturesque Nainital and then higher school from Delhi.
During my formative years, I distinguished myself both academically and athletically, consistently maintaining a balance between my studies and passion for sports. Post 12th class I joined the prestigious Institute of Hotel Management Mumbai.
My professional journey took flight when I joined The Park Hotels as a Management Trainee. For the past 21 years, I have had the privilege of being an integral part of this renowned hospitality company. My initial 9 years were spent in Delhi where I honed my skills and developed an understanding of the industry. Subsequently, I had the pleasure of contributing to the growth and success of The Park Hotels in this enchanting Goa.
What made you decide to pursue a career in the hospitality industry?
My journey into the hospitality industry was somewhat unexpected but ultimately one of the most rewarding decisions of my life. As a child, my dream was to become an Air Force pilot, and I was passionate about joining the Defence Services. However, life often takes unexpected turns, and I found myself enrolling in a Hotel Management Institute in Mumbai.
Initially, I must admit, I was uncertain about this career path. It seemed like a departure from my childhood aspirations. However, as I delved deeper into my industry and began to gain practical experience I realised the skills I was developing and the challenges I was encountering in the hospitality industry were remarkably suited to my abilities and interests.
The hospitality industry is like a thrilling roller coaster ride, offering a dynamic and fast-paced environment that constantly challenges you to adapt and excel. I found immense satisfaction in providing exceptional service and creating memorable experiences for guests. The industry’s blend of creativity, customer service, and management resonated with me on a personal level.
My decision to pursue a career in the hospitality sector has been an immensely rewarding one. It has allowed me to channelise my skills and passion into a profession where I can make a meaningful impact, create memorable moments for guests, and thrive in a constantly evolving and exciting industry.
You started your career as a Management Trainee. Today you are the General Manager of The Park, Calangute. What motivated you to reach the position?
When I first embarked on my journey in the hospitality industry as a Management Trainee, I didn’t have a clear picture of where my career path would lead me. In fact, prior to enrolling in hotel management, I had never even set foot in a 5-star hotel. My initial motivation was simple: to gain a comprehensive understanding of this multifaceted industry.
As I immersed myself in the world of hospitality, I started to appreciate the intricate workings of this dynamic field. What began as an exploration soon transformed into a passion for leadership, team management, and the pursuit of excellence. I found myself drawn to the challenges and opportunities that came with each step of my career.
The motivation to reach the position of General Manager was fueled by a genuine passion for this industry, a desire to continuously learn and grow, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with dedicated teams, mentors, and colleagues who have inspired and guided me on this journey.
Today, as a hotel General Manager, I am proud of the path that I’ve taken and the hard work it took to get here. I remain motivated by the daily challenges and opportunities that come with this role, and I am committed to leading my team towards continued success in the ever-evolving world of hospitality.
As a General Manager, what is your leadership style?
I would describe my leadership style as a blend of determination and composure, which I often refer to as the ‘duck leader’ approach. Similar to a duck gliding smoothly on the surface of the water while paddling vigorously beneath it, I am fairly assertive in pursuing results while maintaining an even-tempered demeanor.
My background as an active sportsperson has had a significant influence on my leadership philosophy. Sports have taught me the value of teamwork, discipline, and the importance of setting and achieving goals. I bring these principles into my workplace, fostering a collaborative environment where each team member plays a crucial role in our collective success.
I believe in setting high standards and pushing my team to excel, but I also recognize the significance of providing support, guidance, and an open channel for communication. Transparency and trust are paramount in my leadership style, as they are essential for a harmonious and productive working relationship.
Ultimately, my goal is to lead by example, inspire my team to reach their full potential, and create an atmosphere where everyone is motivated to contribute their best efforts. It is about finding the right balance between drive and emotional intelligence, drawing from my experiences in both sports and the hospitality industry to achieve exceptional results while fostering a positive and cohesive work culture.
What are your greatest strengths and how could they contribute to a managerial position?
My greatest strength, without a doubt, lies in my ability to respect individuals as unique and valuable contributors. In any managerial position, people management is paramount, and I take immense pride in my capacity to nurture and empower individuals within my team.
One of the key aspects that have contributed to my success is the privilege of collaborating with exceptional individuals throughout my career. I have been fortunate to have had remarkable mentors, supportive bosses, dedicated colleagues, and talented team members who all have played pivotal roles in my professional journey. My strength in people management stems also from the valuable lessons that I have learned from the diverse array of individuals I have had the honour of working with. It is not just about the skills and knowledge I have gained, but also the perspectives, insights, and experiences that have enriched my leadership capabilities.
In a managerial position, this strength translates into the ability to build and lead cohesive, motivated teams. It allows me to create an inclusive and collaborative work environment where every team member feels valued and empowered to contribute their best. It also enables me to foster strong relationships with colleagues, superiors, and subordinates, facilitating effective communication and co-operation.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In the ever-evolving world of hotels, forecasting the future is akin to anticipating a guest’s choice of cocktail during a sundowner – it’s a delightful challenge. As for the next five years, given the dynamic nature of our industry, it’s a bit like gazing at the stars, where numerous exciting possibilities exist. I aspire to continue my journey in hospitality, leveraging my skills, experiences, and passion to further contribute to the success of our industry. While I can’t predict the exact path, I am committed to staying at the forefront of hospitality innovation and leadership.
My goals remain the same – to excel in my field, provide exceptional experiences to guests, and continue learning and adapting in this ever-changing landscape.
As I look back on my journey from a small town to the thriving world of hospitality, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities and experiences that have shaped me both personally and professionally. I eagerly anticipate the challenges and opportunities that the future holds, as I continue to make a meaningful impact in the dynamic world of hospitality. So, while I can’t provide a specific destination, I am enthusiastic about the exciting journey that lies ahead in the next five years and beyond.
What advice would you offer to those who aspire to become a GM in the hotel industry someday?
To those aspiring to attain the role of a General Manager in the dynamic world of the hotel industry, I offer the following key pieces of advice:
Prioritise continuous learning: Invest in your education and consistently expand your industry knowledge. Staying updated is essential in our ever-evolving field.
Build a strong network: Cultivate a robust professional network within the hospitality industry. Networking opens doors to opportunities and provides valuable insights.
Develop and showcase leadership skills: Take every opportunity to develop your leadership abilities. Volunteer for leadership roles whenever possible to hone your skills and demonstrate your potential.
Exemplify exceptional customer service: Regardless of your current position, prioritise delivering outstanding customer service. It is a foundation for success in the hospitality field.
Embrace change and innovation: The industry thrives on innovation. Be adaptable and open to change, seeking creative solutions to evolving challenges.
Practice patience and persistence: Climbing the career ladder takes time. Stay patient and persistent in your pursuit of advancement. Success is often the result of consistent effort over time.
Seek mentorship: Identify mentors who can provide guidance and support as you work toward your career goals. Their experience can be invaluable in your journey.
Maintain your passion: Never lose your passion for hospitality and your commitment to excellence. It is your enthusiasm that will set you apart.
By following these principles, you can not only navigate the path toward becoming a hospitality leader but also excel in your career within the vibrant and rewarding world of hospitality