TMS. How did you get into the hospitality industry? Please tell us about your professional journey so far, including the challenges you’ve faced and the milestones you’ve reached.
Rajni Nair Deb. I am actually very proud to tell my story because it has all the elements of a potboiler!
During my childhood education and reading were given absolute priority and I studied in one of the finest schools in the city of Kolkata. I had an excellent diet of culture, literature, and feminist values growing up.
But when it came to picking a college, I found myself sitting in front of educators of hotel management and answering questions about my outlook of life – and I fell in love with hospitality. I started out as a Food & Beverage Supervisor and grew up personally and professionally in hotels. I have learned that while there are many challenges along the way, a strong value system and a genuine sense of respect for peers and colleagues hold us in good stead. I have had the privilege of completing 9 preopening exercises so far in my career. I took a 6-year hiatus to be an expat wife and came back to opening hotels and convention centre. It has been a long, tough yet vibrant journey filled with learning to be recognized as one of the leading MICE specialists in the country; and I have just gotten started.
TMS. What do you think is the most distinguishing or unique aspect of the Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn? What best represents the hotel’s personality, in your opinion?
Rajni Nair Deb. The Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn Bengaluru Embassy Manyata Business Park is a confluence of diverse experiences. Located in the heart of Bengaluru’s premier business district, the Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn Bengaluru Embassy Manyata Business Park offers the comfort and convenience which every contemporary traveler seeks. With 619 rooms, five dining options,18 event venues housed in 60,000 sq. ft. of convention space, and a retail zone within the premises, you will find that there’s something for everyone. This is what best represents our hotel complex’s personality. Thoughtful, mindful, friendly, and reliable that offers a great deal of personalization in our offerings. This is reflected in our culinary creations, in the various price points we offer, in the expansive beverage menu we offer, and even our extensive alfresco seating. Amongst South India’s largest; nestled in the heart of North Bengaluru, the hotel complex is an easy drive from the airport. A host of amenities include a 24-hour fitness center, an open-air temperature-controlled swimming pool, concierge services, in-room dining, and an executive lounge. Ample open spaces and alfresco settings make the hotel’s restaurants and bars, ideal locations for dine-in meetings. At the Hilton Hotels, Embassy Manyata, each culinary experience reflects its philosophy – Food – Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served. Guests can choose to have a limited contact arrival experience using the secure Digital key feature via the Hilton Honors app. With easy access to the city centre and places of interest, this upper-upscale hospitality destination offers efficient, easy, and technology-enabled business and leisure experiences. The hotel has put sustainability at the core of its business operations through its ‘travel with purpose’ measures.
TMS. What are your differential offerings for MICE and weddings and which one is a bigger revenue generator for you?
Rajni Nair Deb. Our convention Centre offers 18 venues housed in 60000 square feet area. Our strength is our ability to cater for 2 to 2000 guests with great scope for custom-made event arrangements. We offer seamless scalability and technology integration. We host conventions, events, meetings, ceremonies, and weddings. We offer two premium venues – The Grandball room and Terrace which are perfect for big fat weddings and award shows. Since we have an expansive venue offering, all types of events can be accommodated, be it a global industry convention or a bespoke 1000 pax 3-day in-house wedding celebration.
We have specialist wedding and conventions event planning teams that have expertise in managing large-scale requirements right from the initial inquiry stage and can work with event organizers across time zones and locations. As a dual-branded hotel complex and Convention Centre, we offer a choice of price points, room types, venue, and catering services all under one roof with close proximity to the airport. Also, in commitment to our travel with purpose goals, our complex has sustainable business operations in place that ensure meetings and events are conducted mindfully. While every piece of business contributes definitely to the commercial goals, being Bengaluru’s largest convention hotel complex, we have the product to cater to large-scale events and conventions unlike any other player in the market. Further, we have brought a shift in the culture of competitive cooperation with our partners in the city- be it fellow hotels, travel and logistics providers, and event production companies. Through our “Meet with Purpose” program, Hilton is paving the way to a net zero future and enhancing our social impact. We recognize our obligation to protect the planet and also support our corporate partners in their endeavors towards carbon-neutral events.
TMS. What should hotels be thinking beyond health and hygiene to attract guests?
Rajni Nair Deb. Post-pandemic, health, and hygiene have become mandatory base standard that has been brought to the forefront. As the hospitality industry in India is returning close to pre-pandemic occupancy levels, our approach to this complex opening has been to run a business operation that has sustainability in its core. To back this objective, we have multifold initiatives in place across functions. A significant portion of our energy needs is met through green sources- solar and hydroelectricity. Our in-house solar energy-enabled plant generates 15k litres of water everyday. In order to completely eliminate usage of single-use plastic we have in place a bulk amenities program and in-house water bottling plant.
We have worked with our brand-approved partner to design an exclusive line of bath amenities dispensed in elegant large canisters for each room. Our in-house water bottling plant generates approximately 2500 bottles everyday for our guests. Further, all our in-room and meeting-room tea coffee trays feature crockery made of organic reconstituted coffee and tea husk which are dishwasher friendly too. So, our philosophy is sustainable operations is not an option and cannot be considered a CSR activity anymore. Incorporating it into our daily business operations is the only responsible way forward.
TMS. What have been your biggest takeaways from the industry?
Rajni Nair Deb. Hospitality is a passion – the emotions that you go through every day, would not qualify this choice as a job. The importance of good grooming started me off on my journey into the industry. Treat every person right, be fair and forthright, harbor an environment of meritocracy and gender-neutral decisions are a given. Being a part of hospitality during COVID taught me life is fragile, relationships are your lifeline, whatever the peril – show up at work – you motivate a lot of lives.
TMS. In the age of social media and online marketing, hotels are increasingly interacting with their guests on these platforms. How well have your social media and online marketing strategies worked for you? In addition, how do exhibitions contribute to the promotion of business?
Rajni Nair Deb. Our overarching launch campaign #somethingforeveryone has been successfully delivered as an integrated campaign with focus on digital tactics. It was very successfully received by our social community and local companies in the Manyata ecosystem. Our campaign created an effective recall with our audience as we had focused messaging and interactive content across social handles. We showcased how our complex could cater to different needs and types of customers and had a well-defined channel presence. We also invested in print ads with trade magazines and association publications that connected us with a defined readership base. Exhibitions play a critical role in promoting hospitality brands with extensive event spaces like ours as they provide a platform to network and showcase our offering in person to an invested audience from different locations under one roof. They also offer an opportunity to meet existing and potential customers.
TMS. What novelties shall we be expecting at Hilton hotel in the upcoming years?
Rajni Nair Deb. We are proud to have placed Bengaluru as a potential destination on the MICE Map of India through our complex opening. In close corporation with relevant stakeholders, North Bengaluru will emerge as the preferred MICE destination with Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn Bengaluru Embassy Manyata Business Park in the heart of it.
TMS. If you could bring any change into force what would it be and why?
Rajni Nair Deb. Normalize woman and LGBTQ + members at workforce and leadership, for them to be treated as people at work. There are societal and biological forces at play which are natural impediments in their careers, hence a bit of a “greenhouse” environment is required to give them some assistance. But inclusive people at the helm of a think tank will come up with better solutions than any which are one sided.
TMS. What have been your most memorable moments in the last 10 years? Please share your hobbies, what keeps you busy when you are away from work?
Rajni Nair Deb. I took a break from work in 2013 and was away from the country for 6 years. During that time, I got to scuba dive in Phuket, deep dives in Maldives, dark cave explorations in Batu Caves, Malaysia, learn French, and explore South East Asia with my spouse. It was a truly enriching and recharging experience. I came back to India to preopening an iconic hotel and run a convention centre in Gandhinagar and subsequently I came to Bengaluru to pre-open this gorgeous dual branded complex. Coming back to work, embracing the changes in the business and learning to build a glorious team and leading them to success is the treasure that I cherish. I love to travel, to cook and to be a “pawrent” to my feline kids Felix and Fuzz. I immensely value work-life balance and invest my leisure time traveling around the world to experience vibrant cultures and cuisines. My best professional memories lie in the experience of planning and executing marquee MICE events in the country that has provided the platform for me to perform as one amongst India’s leading MICE specialists. However, I truly believe that the slate needs to be kept clean at the start of everyday as an opportunity to start all over again, learn and raise the bar consistently. I am passionate about mentoring women in leadership roles. I take pride in being a vocal advocate for enhancing diversity and inclusion and am responsible for spearheading several initiatives targeted at building gender parity and flexibility at the workplace.
TMS. What message would you like to share with the Indian travel trade fraternity?
Rajni Nair Deb. We are your partners and we value every opportunity to connect and work with you. North Bengaluru offers a culture of co-operation. We bring an integrated approach to MICE that makes Bengaluru a MICE destination with high potential in the months ahead.