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Rahul Kanungo – Hospitality Industry Was Not on My Bucket List!

Rahul Kanungo

The Hotel Management graduate from (IHMCTAN) Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Applied Nutrition Rahul belongs to a small town in West Bengal. While he wanted to become an engineer just like his dad, his aunt guided him into the hospitality industry which he never dreamt of becoming a part of it. FNH team connected with Mr Rahul to find out more about his journey. 

Tell us something about your early days and how you got into this field.

I belong to a small town in West Bengal and I am also a part of a society where parents have only the aim that their kids would become a Doctor or Engineers. Since my Dad was in TISCO, I was influenced by colonial life and the privileges the Engineers / Managers used to enjoy in those days, including large bungalows with beautiful Gardens, and other Perks and facilities. Actually, I wanted to become an Engineer and I had gone to appear for an entrance exam at IIT but my Aunt drew my attention to the advertisement in the TOI for the entrance to the IIHMCTAN and that changed my whole life. 

What do you think is your greatest strength and what is your biggest weakness?

My greatest strength is my interpersonal relationship with all the stakeholders and colleagues. I always try to maintain a pure and spontaneous relationship with the Guests, Owners, Senior Management Team, and Vendors. I also believe strongly in the eye for detail and delivering the highest quality of service to our Guests. I always try to understand the market and trends and with sincere anticipations, move towards meeting all the verticals of the Balance scorecards 

As far as the weakness is concerned, sometimes I am not being able to control my emotions, especially in situations where the Guests are not happy with any of our services or products, where the same was anticipated much before and also happened due to the sheer carelessness.

As a Leader, how do you cope with Bad business Days and keep your team motivated? 

Fortunately, we have not seen the bad days at any point in time. In my earlier stints with the Royal Orchid hotels or Keys Hotels or the Radisson and the present property, we have always been blessed with a good top line and bottom line. I always adopted a strong shop floor approach and get connected to the business closely also a strong focus on the expenses always helped to maintain a good GOP though I was always averse to the idea of pushing GOP compromising on the Guest or staff facilities. 

I guess the biggest challenge for any Hotelier was the pandemic however we adopted a very strong and aggressive approach during the Covid and I am also thankful to a like-minded team who always supported my initiatives wholeheartedly. Even during the Covid, we adopted numerous initiatives like Home delivery, a food festival for the home delivery menu, Food by kilos, Party menus, allocating the complete floor for group movements, a dish of the Day and numerous initiatives which actually helped us to maintain a positive bottom line even during the Covid and I am sincerely thankful to the Team who completely supported in all the initiatives. 

I guess one needs to lead from the front to motivate the Team. During Corvid every team member was apprehensive about the outcome of the disease however some of the senior members and a selected few also accompanied me to the office and we had a very frugal meal for all the staff members during that period and we all shared the same food to make the team understand that we all stand together through the thick and thin and to balance the business we had to bear the pay cut and we ensured that the junior staffs were paid before the senior Management Team. We also had great support from the Ownership and Senior Management Team to tide us over this trying time. 

I guess this helped us to retain the staff strength post covid era and we could see the surge in the business during this period, I am glad that we did not lose any of our colleagues due to Covid. 

What are the key USP of Fern Belagavi as a hotel and how have you nurtured the unique traits? 

USP of the UK 27 the Fern Belagavi is numerous which includes, Location: we are located in the heart of the City. Luxurious rooms: Basic room starts from 350 sqft and guest up to 1000 sqft Suites. F&B: multiple F&B outlets serving great food accompanied by impeccable service. People: we strongly believe in the age-old concept and our team members go the extra mile to make our guests happy. Process: The strong focus on the process implementation is driven by the dynamic  SOP. 

Do you position yourself as a budget luxury Hotel or business class budget Hotel?

UK 27 the Fern Belagavi is an affordable luxury hotel having Spacious rooms clubbed with a choice of F&B outlets which includes A Specialty Pan Asian Restaurant – Yaki, An all-day Dining Restaurant serving world cuisine. A beautiful 125 Covers Lounge Bar on the 9th floor offers a breathtaking view of the City and serves a wide variety of Beverages and food. Besides the F&B outlets, we also offer two beautifully decorated Banquet Halls, a Meeting room and a state-of-the-art Board room and the Disco which is operated on the weekends and the world-renowned DJs played in the pre covid era. 

How do you think Goa’s tourism industry helps the business flowing to Belagavi and what are the plans you have to promote your business in Goa 

Goa being a popular destination in the world has a good tourist flow from domestic and International and there are good numbers of Domestic travellers do travel to Goa by road from Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and other cities like Hyderabad, Kolhapur, Satara, Karad etc. We are seeing positive trends of domestic travellers using our F&B and occasionally rooms also.  Residents of Goa are also very frequent to Belagavi as they do come for the shopping and also to take a break especially when Goa is full of Tourists. 

Since we have a good presence in Goa, we will take advantage of the same and promote our properties through various modes like Lobby stands, Tent cards in the rooms and also approach the Tour operators in the various strategic locations.

What are the Hotels apart from Fern Belagavi do you personally appreciate? 

Since I had a long association with the Taj, my favourites include Taj Coromandel, Taj Vizag, Taj Madurai, and Taj Benares and also I was instrumental in the complete revamp of the Dukes Retreat at Khandala for which I always have a very soft corner. I was also the pre-opening GM for Radisson Salem and it was literally seeing the hotel getting into shape from the empty shell.  

What are the events/activities are you planning for the season to keep fern Belagavi always buzzing with the Guests ?? 

UK 27 The fern Belagavi is always a very active and buzzing hotel.  Our F&B outlets are quite busy and also our Banquets. We also get international and national level artists for the Club and we have the list of top DJs like Nikhil Chinnapa played at UK 27 The Fern Belagavi. We also plan of doing the activities like Food festivals, Promotions and Celebrity artists playing at the Fern Belagavi. We are also offering various Packages targeting Social events. especially weddings which is a big source of business for any hotel and we have beautiful Lawns which can cater for such events. 

How much do you think Social media and influencers and Media help in spreading the word for business these days?? 

In today’s world, Social Media has a big role to play in doing business.  Social media has a wider reach and affordable cost factors. Influencers are also encouraged to experience the Hotel’s services, especially for the Rooms, Food promos/festivals etc. where they can cover a focused clientele for any particular services. 

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?? 

Concept Hospitality is one of the fastest-growing Hotel chains and already has 90 properties in 75 locations across the country and the world. With this rate, we can surely hope double the number if not more in the next 5 years. The Fern Belagavi with its future plans will surely retain the position of the market leader in the region with its unmatched product and services and we will continue to win over the loyalty of our Guests.

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