Sanjay Kaw | Managing Director | Xenious Hotels | Part One

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Sanjay Kaw, a dynamic and experienced professional in the hospitality industry, hails from the beautiful and serene Valley of Kashmir. With a career of over 34 years, he has worked with Taj Group of Hotels, Radisson Hotels, Lemon Tree and Berggruen (Keys Hotels, Sterling Days Inn Hotels in India). He also headed few hospitality projects in Thailand and Tashkent.

An alumnus of one of the most renowned schools in the Valley, CMS Tyndale Biscoe School, he share few pages from his personal and professional life.

In conversation with Rajesh Prothi, he shares his professional challenges and growth over the years.

 

Apart from your professional pursuits, what other interests do you have?

I was an avid sportsperson back in my days and with the passage of time have restricted my physical activities to walking. My hotel management degree also makes me a good cook and I like to cook Kashmiri delicacies for my family.

I still enjoy watching cricket and playing golf when time permits. I have played cricket on a district level in Srinagar and do rounds of golf  with professional friends and mentors

Can you share some significant turning points in your personal and professional life that have influenced your approach towards both?

The major shift in both professional Life came during !988 when I was selected Taj group of Hotels for their Management Trainee program and personal life  during the exodus of Kashmiri pandits in 1991. My family  had to migrate from city to city while living with our relatives settled outside Kashmir, the exodus brought in a great deal of trauma and an opportunity to grow since we were moving to the national capital.

It is true that the trauma outweighs the opportunity but we as Kashmiri pandits, do try and search for the brighter things in life.

Professionally, one of the life changing decisions to move from being employed by one of the leading hotel chain  in India to starting my own hospitality venture was quite an exhilarating one. We have seen our share of ups and downs especially when the hospitality industry got hit by COVID but we are poised to make a strong comeback with the hospitality industry to grow multi-folds in the coming decade

What motivated you to pursue a career in the hospitality industry, and how did you enter this field?

Kashmir was poised to be one of the leading tourist destinations if terrorism had subsided and people in Kashmir could do business without constant military interruptions.

Kashmiris are also very hospitable and warm, trait which is also embedded in me. The combination of the opportunity for a land like Kashmir when it concerns the travel and tourism industry as well as my embedded trait of being hospitable made me gravitate towards the hospitality industry.

One of the most important aspects of preserving our cultural heritage is to make sure our children inherit the same.

As the MD of your company, how do you inspire and motivate your team to achieve their goals?

We have a team of highly motivated and skilled individuals who are proficient in their respective fields or domains. Our inspiration is reflected in the brand values of our company, we would like to uplift your hospitality experience from good to great.

We believe in doing beyond our duty and making sure that each and every customer need is met and fulfilled. Freedom is absolutely essential to keep your team mates inspired and motivated. We have a group who is extremely proficient in what they do and we like to give them the freedom to run their vertical as they believe would best suit the company.

What metrics do you use to measure the success of your hotel, and how do you track its performance?

We like to view success when we are able to not only deliver on the expectations of our client but also create the room for the customer to want more from us. Our success is a measure on how often a customer recommends us to his peer network and often decides to stay in our properties because he knows that we will push the extra mile to make sure he’s satisfied.

In your opinion, what are the most significant challenges currently facing the hotel industry, and what strategies do you have in place to address them?

The most significant challenge that the hotel industry is facing right now is possibly how we can set ourselves up for success in the coming decade. The pandemic is over and we are beginning to see growth in the industry at pre-covid levels but the central question is how we can sustain this growth and perhaps proliferate it in the coming decade.

COVID in itself has posed another question on the hospitality industry. Are we ready for another pandemic like COVID-19?

The hospitality industry needs to be resilient and future-proof for similar pandemics in the future and identify ways in which they can pivot quickly to save on costs while maintaining service quality.

How do you envision the hospitality industry evolving in the next 5-10 years, and what measures is your hotel taking to stay ahead of the curve?

The Hospitality industry needs to rebuild the foundation especially for a market like India where each and every region has its own peculiarities. It not only needs to incorporate the local needs of the destination but also embed business continuity practices to be more resilient.

We believe technology is a vital aspect for the hospitality industry in the coming decade both from an operational and management perspective. Transformation of the back end systems as well as having a centralised view of these systems is critical. Adoption of new age technology is another vital ingredient for the success of the hospitality industry in the coming decade.