Your Attitude, Not Aptitude, Determines Your Altitude

In a freewheeling chat with BW Hotelier, the first inductee into our Hall of Fame, Nakul Anand, Executive Director, ITC Limited, and Chairman, FAITH, delves into the two pillars of the management philosophy of ITC Hotels -- Absolute Delight and Responsible Luxury.

MUCH BEFORE he became an Executive Director on the Board of ITC Limited, and the Chairman of FAITH, the apex trade body of the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, Nakul Anand stood out as a thinking person's hotelier whose vision extended beyond ARRs and RevPAR numbers. He is famous for being a doer, a systems man who likes to see processes in place for each activity in every hotel within the extended ITC family. He's also a keen observer of constantly evolving technologies, a philosopher who articulates the sentiments of the times and the expectations of his guests, and a respected spokesperson for the industry. More importantly, he continues to be a firm believer in the primacy of the human touch, although there are few leaders of the industry who are as immersed in new technologies as Anand is.

After being formally inducted into the BW Hotelier Hall of Fame -- he's the first inductee -- at ITC's Green Centre in Gurugram, Anand pointed out how the advent of new technologies actually reduced the number of human interactions of hotel guests, making it that much more difficult for hotels to wow them "at every moment of truth".

In the days of the room keys, guests had to drop them off at the reception counter whenever they stepped out of a hotel. Each such occasion led to an interaction, an exchange of pleasantries, between the guest and the reception desk, and it provided an opportunity for the staff to inquire about the guest's well-being and requirements. With cards replacing the keys of the past, such opportunities to delight the guests no longer exist.

Hotels, therefore, have to reinvent constantly the ways in which they ensure the absolute delight of their guests. "The more we become dependent on technology, the more we yearn for the human touch," Anand said, explaining why he believes that the human touch is essential to ensure hotels "go beyond serving the wants" of their guests.

Earlier, during the interaction, Anand drew a distinction between Need (the minimum requirements of guests) and Want (their unsaid expectations), and Absolute Delight, which is the joy guests experience when they are pleasantly surprised by the fulfilment of a Want. For Anand, Attitude is the most important attribute of a hotelier. "It's something that cannot be taught, but in our profession, it is your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude in life," Anand said.

'Responsible Luxury' is the other big buzz phrase in Anand's life, for it flows from his company's core philosophy, which he expresses with a pithy statement: "If we don't see green, we see red." In a sense, luxury is the antithesis of responsibility, for the latter denies you the very same comforts that define the former, especially in the context of hotels. If the bed linen is not changed every day, or you are encouraged to reuse the towels to reduce the number of times they are washed, or the air-conditioner switches off automatically as soon you leave your room (which means it will take some time to cool down again when the guest walks back in), it amounts to a denial of luxury.

For those who believe in 'Responsible Luxury', leaving behind a sustainable planet for one's children and grandchildren is more important than those comforts you can live without. "It fits in beautifully with the ethos of atithi devo bhava," Anand said. "The guest's safety and well-being is the host's responsibility. It is our duty to work for a sustainable lifestyle." How does this philosophy translate into action on the ground?

Anand reminded us that the ITC Grand Chola runs entirely on wind power drawn from its own windmills. He then pointed to the Food Sherpa programme at ITC Hotels. It starts with ITC chefs scouring their locations for street food (or popular local food) and serving these iconic dishes in the sanitised environment of luxury hotels as part of their Local Love menu. From Delhi's Chhole Bhature to Kolkata's Kosha Mangsho, to Mumbai's Bohri Biryani, had these dishes not been there, according to Anand, people would have been ordering "smoked salmon". He added: "The Food Sherpa and Local Love initiatives have reduced our carbon footprint to less than 50 miles."

With Anand at the helm, ITC Hotels is in the seasoned hands of a hotelier whose heart beats for a sustainable planet and whose vision goes beyond the here and now. We at BW Hotelier feel honoured to welcome him as the first inductee of our Hall of Fame.

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