Madhav Sehgal gets candid about his journey and being the general manager of luxury hotel brand, Andaz Delhi
Madhav Sehgal, the general manager of Andaz Delhi, powers the luxury brand that has attempted to redefine city experiences and what hotels offer business travellers, in exciting new ways.
What led you to the hospitality industry?
For me, hospitality is much more than just a career choice — it is an emotion. I grew up in New Delhi, where we have some of the most iconic hotels. Since my initial exposure to the industry was as a young guest, it fascinated and intrigued me. When I got the opportunity to embrace hospitality as a way of life, I did not hesitate.
What have been the big changes that the hospitality industry has gone through, particularly the world of luxury hotels, since you first began your career?
India’s luxury hotels have evolved commendably over the last two decades. While the best luxury-leisure hotels continue to be in India, luxury business hotels in our cities continue to adapt to the global mindset. Few have been able to establish a genuine connect and understanding of the busy global traveler, who looks for sustainability, wants authentic experiences, and seamless and barrier-free interactions. This is where boutique hospitality concepts such Andaz Delhi come in; it is establishing a clearly differentiated positioning.
Luxury is truly personal. In the past few years, the definition of luxury has evolved into much more than expensive ingredients and imported labels, limited edition wines or white gloved service — luxury in today’s day is about experiences. It’s about what stays back with you after the tangible product or service has been consumed — from the feel-good factor of making a difference to the community by eating a meal crafted with locally sourced ingredients, or opting for a personalised curated tour of old Delhi, which is full of interactive and real experiences.
What has been your experience working with in hotels in India and across the world?
I have been extremely fortunate to experience the diverse work cultures, markets and brands in India, Canada and the Middle East. These roles — from a front office manager to a general manager in various large and small hotels and geographical markets, have helped me become more adaptable to our volatile and complex world, and be more empathetic. A better understanding is the first step to delivering true hospitality.
What were some of the lessons learnt?
Your team is your biggest asset and this applies to every team member in the organisation. Situations — good and bad are constant in any industry, but what will ultimately ensure continuity and goodwill are the people and the culture within. It is important to understand that (a GM) can never delegate his role — especially the responsibility that it brings. Thus, a leader can amass feedback and views but the responsibility of decision making is squarely his.
Great design is at the core of Andaz Delhi
How did you translate those lessons while running Andaz Delhi?
At Andaz Delhi, communication and ideas flow freely, and there is no hesitation while sharing feedback or taking initiatives that help foster a culture of care and an environment of creativity. The sense of belonging that is instilled in each employee helps make us a great place to work in and a great hotel to stay in.
What is the Delhi market like for design-led experiential boutique hotels such as Andaz Dehi?
The Delhi market is mature and appreciative of design-led experiences. Andaz Delhi brings to life #401reasonstolove Delhi every day. The hotel is a tribute to the ever-evolving capital. We foster a spontaneous environment, free of both physical and mental barriers, leading to new discoveries and ultimately to unforgettable memories. Being the only luxury lifestyle hotel in India, we have been extremely fortunate to be embraced by the locals as well as visitors.
From locally inspired food and beverage offerings to the chakra stories at the spa, opening the first gin bar in India or the iconic Hong Kong Club — each of our distinct offerings have been received wonderfully by our discerning audiences. We have taken away the scripted hotel experience and given guests a barrier-free, seamless environment that stimulates all the senses. Being the only luxury-lifestyle hotel in India, easily accessible from business and residential hubs of Delhi and Gurgaon, differentiates us from traditional hotels we are set amidst.
F&B is at the foundation of Andaz Delhi's stay experiences
AnnaMaya, your all-day dining, has gone on to gain a lot of critical acclaim in the culinary world in Delhi. What sets it apart
Inspired by the colours and flavours of India, AnnaMaya, inspires guests to ‘Eat Mindful. Shop Artisanal. Raise Awareness’. Like many European food halls, AnnaMaya is a place where food is served and interesting artisanal produce and items are available for sale. The foodhall follows the ‘Made in India’ concept, as all products used have to be produced in India, must have a socially inspiring story behind the business execution, and their current business module must be socially relevant in order to help communities and their respective environments. The essence of AnnaMaya lies in helping society and encouraging a healthy lifestyle through mindful meals and exceptional experiences. Our guests come here not just for the food but also because they feel a social responsibility towards the people and places around them. We achieve all this while having some fun along the way through bold flavours, freshness and creativity in the kitchen.
How do you think technology has changed the hospitality industry? What role does technology play in luxury hotels of today?
Technology has helped enhance the efficiencies and productivity to a great extent. However, since we all know too much of anything is bad — it’s imperative to strike that balance between being savvy versus being dependent. In the hospitality industry, we cannot negate the role and importance of the human touch.
In the world of social media and hyperconnectivity, how do you think guest experiences and services have changed?
It has helped bring people — both internal and external stakeholders, closer to each other. Owing to social media and review sites, a GM can today engage with every guest personally, making it a memorable experience for both guests as well as prospective audiences looking for reviews of a certain hotel for an upcoming stay. It also fosters better coordination between stakeholders as information is easily accessible.
Hong Kong club lounge bar offers a global lounge experience
What are the key issues the hospitality industry is struggling with?
One of the ongoing challenges is shortage of skilled workforce as well as a robust vendor network. From a vendor management scenario, we have widened our horizon to work closely with local suppliers and farmers as much as possible for sourcing food and
other related supplies.
How has the role of a general manager evolved over the years?
The role of a general manager is a multifaceted one — being a mentor, a guide, a warden, a strategist, a salesperson, a marketer, a friend, and at times just another empathetic colleague. It has evolved to become more inclusive and multidimensional. I love ideating with my team as I firmly believe the best ideas and results happen with cohesive energy and all minds together. I have a collaborative approach to work, yet I offer the team space to let them do their best.
What goes into making of a good GM?
Empathy, humility, knowledge and strategic thinking helps to make a good leader and subsequently a respected and loved general
manager. The application of design thinking and innovation is the most effective way to find creative solutions. In any industry,
diverse set of problems co-exist; using the steps of design thinking in every aspect of decision making supported by knowledge and confidence is the mantra to succeed.
What’s the best and worst thing about being boss?
Being a boss for me is like being a friend or a coach; I have been fortunate to enjoy this relationship with my mentors and I do my best to ensure I create a similar environment for my team as well. The one thing I would like to change about the industry is the traditional
mindset of a sub-servient culture that needs to go away completely. It does not do justice to the personality as well as potential of the Indian hospitality industry.
If you had one piece of advice to give someone starting out, what would you say?
In any situation in life, you must learn to be yourself and never ever stop learning.
What does success mean to you?
To me, success is the by-product of a healthy work culture, happy employees and loyal guests.