October 2013 | uk.tata.com

People's perception of luxury and their demands are constantly changing

Digvijay Singh, general manager at Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, believes that being customer-centric is critical to surviving in the hospitality industry.

How long have you worked for the Taj group of hotels?
I have been with the group for 21 years now. I started at the Taj in Mumbai and worked with the group across India in New Delhi, Chennai, and at the grand palaces in Rajasthan. I have been here in London for seven months now.

Describe your day-to-day routine.
I start with early morning rounds of the hotel to make sure everything is in place for the day ahead. Then, we have a morning meeting with the heads of departments to take stock of what happened the previous day, before discussing the plan for the day (including any specific guest-related activities). The rest of the day is packed with guest meetings (on future business and marketing activities), guest entertainment and employee engagement.

What training did you go through to get to where you are now?
I started my training at the Institute of Hotel Management in Chennai and then did management development programmes at the University of Michigan, the Indian Institute of Management at Hyderabad and the Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore. I have also done many training sessions at the Tata Management Training Centre in Pune, India.

What are the major challenges in your role?
Firstly, I have to tackle the usual challenges of managing a hotel, for example, driving quality consciousness, achieving high guest-centricity and building teamwork across (very different) departments of the hotel.

Secondly, there is the challenge of continually defining and redefining luxury — guest perceptions of luxury are constantly changing and we need to keep up with this. Today, for example, luxury can be quite discreet, but this wasn’t always the case.

Finally, I have to tackle the challenges that London itself provides, for example, the fierce competition, the diverse workforce, and the cost challenges of being in an expensive city — the profitability margins are lower than those in India. We have to be far more cost-conscious here.

What do you enjoy most about working at Taj hotels?
There is a sense of belonging to the Taj family and a real sense of security. As part of the Tata group, there is also a feeling of well-being and community. I also have a lot of pride at being associated with a brand like Tata, which is known globally for its trust and reliability.

What do you consider the most important personal attributes needed to be successful in your role?

  • Genuine service aptitude. You can be the most intelligent person in the world — but you will not do well in this role if you are not service oriented.
  • Passion for the industry.
  • Quality oriented — people will not pay the rates that you expect them to pay if you do not maintain the right quality.
  • Creativity and innovation — the shelf life of ideas in this industry is very short. People’s perception of luxury and their demands are constantly changing and we need to cater to this.
  • Team player — a hotel is a city of different people and departments. We all need to work together to be successful.

What distinguishes the Taj experience from other hospitality?
Across the world, there is a sense of warmth at Taj hotels and a need to go beyond guest expectations. This experience is recognised by our guests — we have a high rate of guest retention. Additionally, every hotel has a different character which is really attractive and interesting.

Another distinguishing factor is our application of the Tata Business Excellence Model — a Tata initiative which focuses on business excellence. The essence of this framework is about running a business effectively and efficiently, which has enabled Tata companies (including us) to continually improve operations and achieve world-class standards.

Do you think we will see more Taj hotels in London, the UK, or across Europe?
Absolutely. We have plans to expand in Europe and our business development teams are always scouting for management contracts there. We recently opened a fantastic hotel in Marrakech. We would definitely like to grow with the growing presence of Tata companies in the UK.

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