'Follow your passion, think big and dream'
Kanika Hasrat, Area Director of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand at IHCL and GM of Taj Lakefront Bhopal talks about smart choices that have taken her to greater heights
With an illustrious career spanning nearly 25 years, the Area Director of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand at IHCL, Kanika Hasrat has been instrumental in transforming the overall operations of the hotels and positioning them as market leaders. Hasrat’s portfolio spans from the heights of the Himalayas in the north to the City of Lakes, Bhopal in central India. With hotels like the Taj Rishikesh Resort and Spa, the Taj Nadesar Palace, the newly opened Pilibhit House, Haridwar – an IHCL SeleQtions hotel and the regions she is responsible for, has hotels covering all key aspects of travel – wellness, spirituality, heritage, luxury and Nature.
Her key role is to support these hotels and the General Managers in each of these properties to achieve the goals of the respetive property while staying authentic to the brand and its values. With experts in each hotel, Hasrat plays the role of a mentor to build a stimulating and supportive environment so that each team excels in their own unique ways. “The three states have immense potential, especially Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh where many a hotel chains are yet to make a mark and establish their presence. The region offers myriad opportunities for the growth of amã Stays & Trails, an IHCL offering. The brand comprises untouched experiential escapes, ranging from charming residences to mesmerising trails at unique locations. Combining elegance with homely comfort and warm service, amã Stays & Trails offer immersive and authentic local experiences to guests,” she says.
Taj Lake Front Bhopal
The diverse portfolio that she has taken charge of in February 2021 came with the challenge of the pandemic. Every state had different rules and its own spate of challenges with changing government guidelines. “However, it gave us an opportunity to learn from each other, build synergies across geographies and ensure hotels got the support as and when required,” she puts in.
Hasrat also spearheads the Taj Lakefront Bhopal as its General Manager. Located on the banks of the Upper Lake, the hotel offers mesmerising views of the lake from its rooms and suites and is home to two of IHCL’s signature restaurants – the fabled Machan and the legendary House of Ming, clubbed with the rooftop Infinity Lounge that pays homage to the setting sun, offering a sumptuous selection of cocktails. “With a rich culinary repertoire of legendary restaurants overlooking the calming lake, the largest banquet space in a luxury hotel in Madhya Pradesh, the award winning Jiva Spa and a club with a tennis court, I am excited to be opening the doors of this stunning hotel in Bhopal,” she shares.
Taj View Agra
ENHANCING GUEST EXPERIENCE
With well-informed guests nowadays, the hotelier’s task of elevating their experience further has changed. Hasrat believes that, as hoteliers, they need to be continuously engaged and be aware of what’s new and of interest in their cities and surroundings while offering the services. “At IHCL, our people are our true strength and continue to be our brand ambassadors – be it the trail of unique experiences recommended by the hotel concierge, the associate serving breakfast or the gardener in the lawns. Each one of us constantly endeavours to offer a memorable experience to the guests,” she says.
Hasrat informs us that she has received “Thank You” notes from guests who have written back to say: “How an observant doorman, or durban as they call him, got them a bottle of holy Gangaajal when he heard that they had forgotten to pick-up some before their departure from Rishikesh, or a guest who got a bowl of jamun after a jungle drive in Corbett or a chef at Taj Mahal Lucknow who has been serving a family from the times when the child was 12 and is now a father himself. These experiences are timeless indeed.”
As technology plays a crucial role in today’s times, Hasrat shares on how the Group is capitalising on these technological advancements. With IZest implementation across hotels, they offer zero-touch check-ins and check-outs, digital invoicing, online payment options and QR codes for digital menus at the restaurants. “Technological features like facial recognition attendance systems, chatbots and daily reports based on artificial intelligence have become a way of life,” she says.
Taj Usha Kiran Palace
Being in-charge of three different regions is challenging for Hasrat but with the help of group calling platforms, she keeps a tab on each property. “Platforms like MS Teams and other group calling options aid the hybrid work culture. With a geographically diverse portfolio, these have enabled me to stay connected, have face-to-face meetings and share a laugh while being miles apart. It is this same technology that has helped us consolidate resources. We recently launched a Learning and Development Hub for the area based out of Agra. With a team of three managers, we conduct virtual trainings and workshops for all the hotels in the region. This has helped build teamwork, share best practices, enhance team engagement and build camaraderie while helping us increase productivity,” she informs.
Hasrat plans to consolidate the reservations set up to enable all teams to work together and facilitate all the hotels in the region while working out of their home or parent hotel. This will help the hotels to not only give flexibility to its teams, build capabilities and synergising effectively but offer 24x7 access to the guests as well.
Taj Mahal Lucknow
WOMEN IN HOSPITALITY
The hospitality industry has been through a difficult year and whilst the future remains uncertain, Hasrat believes the industry continues to be a place where women have an equal opportunity to shine. “Building an emotional connect with the guests is the key to success. Women have always had strong emotional intelligence, tend to multitask more effectively and are more open to taking feedbacks and learnings. We live at a time where more organisations are looking at women taking on larger roles and growing so a message to all women in the hospitality business: Believe in yourself, follow your passion, think big and dream to lead,” she adds.
Hasrat enjoys the opportunities her job brings with it – from meeting people from all walks of life, travelling to amazing places, innovating and building experiences the world treasures. “I enjoy interacting with my colleagues, being creative and empowering teams to achieve goals. Each day brings something new to the table – that’s what I love the most,” she says.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Being a hotelier, like any profession has its own set of challenges but is a highly rewarding experience, shares Hasrat “My personal belief has been to be enthusiastic, have an eye for detail and a passion to learn and improve every day. Always be curious and learn from the experiences and people around, add your unique streak to whatever you do and never stop believing in yourself,” Hasrat concludes.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'SMART MANTRAS ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 4'
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