Setting The Pace

Hotelier Events

Anuraag Bhatnagar, multi-property VP-Luxury, India, Marriott International, and GM, The St. Regis Mumbai, describes the behind-the-scenes action at PIHMAA’s Pace 2017 annual conclave

It was a crisp October evening and The Leela Ambience Gurgaon was sparkling in anticipation of what lay ahead. Come 7pm and the driveway would swell with cars and the hallway of the hotel would be resonant with the meeting of minds of some of the biggest contributors and leaders of the Indian hotel industry. All of them bound by the invisible chord of IHM, Pusa, a noteworthy educational foundation of India.
Pusa, the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition (PIHMAA) in New Delhi is one of the premier hospitality institutes of the country, supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Having nurtured some of the leading stalwarts of the hospitality industry, Pusa continues to attract the best talent and most aspiring minds in India. With distinguished alumni, it was an inevitable thought to host an annual
event to meet, address and inspire the current and future generations of the hospitality industry and to create a feeling of brotherhood among past and present students.
Driven by Mandeep Lamba, MD, hotels and hospitality group, India, JLL and chaired by KB Kachru, chairman emeritus and principal advisor, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, South Asia, the second event of PIHMAA’s Annual Conclave & Exchange, titled Pace 2017, was hosted on 23rd October, 2017.
The essence of this annual event is to share and impart knowledge on a collective platform, debate and discuss the current industry concerns and challenges and to motivate and encourage talent in the present context. The pace of Pace 2017 was thus set with a focus on knowledge in the early part of the evening, a celebrity keynote speaker followed by three panel discussions. Needless to say, it was an evening charged with energy and much bonhomie.


The tone was set with a warm welcome address to the distinguished guests by KB Kachru, who is also PIHMAA’s chairman. He highlighted the fact that the endeavour was to reposition the institute and make it more useful for the industry and society at large and inspire future generations. He was delighted to see some of the leading hoteliers in the room that evening.
Some of the eminent people from the industry in attendance were Mandeep Lamba, Kapil Chopra, president of The Oberoi Group; Raj Rana, CEO, South Asia of The Carlson Rezidor; Sanjay Sethi, COO, ITC Hotels; Anil Bhandari, chairman, AB Smart Concepts and former MD of ITDC; Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor; Ashwani Nayar, multi–property general manager for The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa, and other industry stalwarts.
Suhel Seth, author, columnist and corporate advisor, followed the welcome address with a keynote on a pertinent topic – the hospitality segment espousing the spirit of Indian-ness rather than trying to ape the West. He articulated his thoughts on the need to celebrate our intrinsically Indian way of life and charged his audience with his view on marketing and promoting India as a whole and anticipating the needs and expectations of the new-age traveller. He elaborated that need of the hour for Indian hotels was creating authentic experiences, marketing India as an ethereal experiential destination and providing unobtrusive and uncluttered service. Seth signed off with his thoughts on technology in hotels, which while remaining at the forefront of experiences should remain user-friendly and not intimidating.

This year, the panel discussions were in resonance with some of the concerns of the hospitality and food business industry. The first panel, comprising CEOs, was a healthy discussion on the topic ‘With human guest contact continuously reducing in hotels because of technology, how will hotels in the future differentiate themselves?’ The panel members were Raj Menon of Marriott International, Kapil Chopra of The Oberoi Hotels, Sanjay Sethi of ITC Hotels, Mandeep Lamba of JLL India and Raj Rana of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.
The CEO panel, moderated by me, was an engaging and meaningful one. The industry torchbearers were represented among the Pusa alumni. An interesting fact to note is that five of the top hotel companies operating in India currently are led by the alumni of IHM Pusa.
The questions were in terms of how are contemporary hotels are getting ready for the inevitable future, preparing to ride the technology wave, how ready are they for the next generation customer, the millennials. It was an interesting session as there were a few curve balls for CEOs with questions like ‘Which organisation other than their own do they admire the most in terms of technology advances, how do they retain the differentiation of their brand and the uniqueness of their service offerings since technology can be a great leveller, how would they visualise rooms in 2020, high-tech versus high technology, high tradition versus high technology, high touch versus high technology’.
These were some of the points of discussion where viewpoints were received from the CEOs. What really stayed at the top as a stumbling block was free WiFi in hotels, which is a given these days. The session was a lively debate and drew a lot of interest from the audience where we had to take a few questions offline due to paucity of time.
The next discussion touched upon by the VP/GM panel was ‘Managing the Millennials – How are GMs making changes to retain a restless young work force?’ Here the panel members comprised Bhavna Verma, GM, Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon; Parmeet Singh Nayyar, GM, Shangri-La, New Delhi; Upaul Majumdar, GM, Crowne Plaza, Kathmandu; Ashwani Nayyar, multi-property GM, Westin Sohna; Nitesh Gandhi, GM, JW Marriott Aerocity, New Delhi and Shipra Sumbly Kaul, GM, Holiday Inn, Bangalore. It was an animated discussion moderated by Arindam Kaur, AGM, South India, IHG.
The lastly topic for the panel discussion was on ‘Food Business: Storytelling of journeys in differentiated food & beverage operations’. It was chaired by Nina Charath, founder, Enhance Consulting and consisted of members like Gurpreet Vohra, director, Tulip Institutional Services; Kamalaksh K M, founder, Bouquet Garni; Puneet Sikand, founder and CEO, Kitchen Art’ Rohit Khattar, MD, Old World Hospitality; Sanjay Raina, founder and Masterchef, Mealability and Padma Shri celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor.
PIHMAA ended the panel discussion with an award ceremony recognising leaders and role models of the industry. The recipients of the Hall of Fame awards included Anil Bhandari, Virender S Datta, Dr Psyche Nigam, Manmohan Singh, KB Kachru, DK Beri and Arun Agarwal, among others.
This enlightening, and insightful, evening was rounded off with old friends, seniors, colleagues and industry veterans meeting and sharing laughs over past memories and anecdotes over an array of delicious cuisine. The evening was a resounding success with a promise to make the next a bigger success.

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