I have always said that the biggest perk of blogging is getting the opportunity to meet some very interesting people. Just a couple of weeks ago I met Mr. Indrajeet Banerjee who has been awarded ‘The Iconic Hotelier of 2017’. IB, as he is fondly called by his friends, family and colleagues, spoke to Munni of all Trades at length and gave us some insights into his life as well as the luxury hotel industry. Hope you enjoy the interview.
How difficult was it to enter the hospitality industry when you started out seeing the overwhelming pressure that people in my generation have to pursue the sciences?
I started my career representing United Airlines and got my first break at The Hyatt Regency Kolkata as a core member of the pre-opening team. As a hardcore sales guy at heart I believed that if I can sell an airline, I can sell a hotel too. Must say the last 20 years were not easy, I am like the rusted knife that having got beaten against the stone has sharpened over the years. I unlearned to learn. The myth of the glamour struck luxury hoteliering broke when realization hit of the fiercely competitive hospitality industry. My journey of two decades will tell the story of failures, rejections and phases where I questioned myself if I was good enough. The only attribute that kept me going was the promise I had made to myself that I shall lift myself up after every fall and gradually I started to crawl, take baby steps and walk. The journey was not easy but at the end it all added up and was all worth it.
Professionally, what do you consider to be your biggest achievement?
The journey of a average Kolkata boy who worked as an office coordinator for Rs. 1800 to being the alumni of the Cornell University Ithaca and finally being felicitated as “The Most Influential Sales & Marketing Leader of the Decade” and “The Iconic Hotelier of 2017”.
The greatest success stories of my last 24 years are also stories of great failures. There is no one milestone. My life is made of moments of recognitions and many more moments of rejection. I just gathered enough courage to prove my critics wrong and perhaps the universe bowed to this stubborn soul.
What would be your advice to an aspiring professional entering the hospitality industry?
Luxury Hospitality is a great space to be in. It is rare that in any profession one gets to meet the crème de la crème of industry leaders who one lands up interacting with in this industry. If one has the passion to deliver excellence and serve with error free precision, hoteliering is a dream job.
My advise would be :
- Don’t stop searching for excellence – there is always space to raise the bar. There is nothing called ultimate service.
- Luxury never goes out of fashion – there is always a market!
- Re-skill yourselves – tomorrow belongs to digitization. You no longer deliver your brand when the guest walks into the lobby, today your brand perception is formed when the guest looks at your brand website and reads guest reviews. Make sure your digital footprints deliver your brand promise effectively.
Do you see any trends that are going to revolutionize the industry in the next decade?
Power is moving from brands to people.
Tomorrow belongs to Digitalization and Experiential Buying in the luxury space.
The delivery of the brand is aggressively shifting towards the online space. How effectively has one been able to project its brands promise and narrow the gap between the “aspired” and “perceived” brand positioning in the online space will determine the leaders of tomorrow.
In the luxury space “guest experience” will really the game changer. Hotels need to raise the bar of guest experiences and find a way to effectively communicate personalized experiences at every guest touch point. There is no such thing as “ultimate service”, guest delight is a journey where one needs to continuously innovate to raise the bar.
How much has the hospitality industry changed since you started your career in the sector?
The industry today has evolved, customers are far more informed, have greater choices, are much more vocal about their experiences and the hotels ability to stroke the business through one on one interaction is far less. We dont see a substantial percentage of our customers today – such is the impact of automation. Globally guests book through online channels and self-booking tools. The masterstroke lies in effectively understanding the online buying behavior and projecting the brand based on target market and the promise it demands.
As always I love to end any interview with a rapid fire as it helps me get to know people better. Here we go!
Favorite street side food: Bengali Kathi Rolls
Best place to live in: Home with mom.
If not hospitality, what would you have pursued: Speaker, author… in search of excellence.
A song or a book that motivates you: There is a Hero – Mariah Carey.
Your guilty pleasure: Addiction to Diet Coke and a foodie
Biggest perk of being a part of the hospitality industry : At the end, you are really a part of an industry which is always striving for excellence and innovating to raise the bar. In the bargain, excellence becomes a way of life which in turn elevates one self as a professional and as a human being
I hope you, just like Munni of all Trades, had a great time getting to know IB. Do you have any questions for him? Let me know in the comments below 🙂