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Shekhar Divadkar – The Industry Trend is Changing As Travelers Getting Tech Savy

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Born and raised in the posh locality of the business hub of India, Mumbai, Shekhar Divadkar has led a very active lifestyle being involved in sports and bodybuilding. He wanted to become an engineer but his destiny had led him into the Hospitality Industry. He worked very extensively across the various properties in Goa before settling down at Hotel Delmon where he handles 3 properties. Here are the excerpts from the Interview.          

Please tell us about your early days and your background.

I completed my schooling and college in Mumbai. I was very active in sports and athletics, outdoor activities, cycling, badminton, beach football, cricket and body-building. Residing very close to the seashore at Juhu in Mumbai was a blessing and this went a long way in being fit & energetic as I grew up and took up employment in an industry that I was most comfortable and happy in.

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How did you choose Hospitality as a Career, was it intentional or happened by chance?

Initially, I had enrolled in engineering but since I was more comfortable and looking forward to working with people, communicating and resolving their issues, so the crossover from engineering to a catering course. I started my career with hotels in Mumbai in 1987. Worked through Housekeeping, Front Office assignments, in the Hotels around Juhu, Mumbai and later the journey took me to the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, Mumbai in the Food and Beverage Service department.

I shifted to Goa in 1994 and continued with Food and Beverage service assignment. In 2000 I was promoted as Executive Assistant Manager, subsequently to General Manager and thereafter I have held responsibilities for different entities in various senior management roles.

How is this entire experience has been for you and what are the challenges you faced while in this position?

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Every day brings about different situations and it is a learning experience all the time. One has to be receptive, listen to what is being communicated, pre-empt as much as possible to prevent issues from cropping up, use common sense, and be practical. I have made myself approachable without barriers for all and this has assisted in averting major issues in the course of work activities. 

Handling staff responsibly and getting the best out of them is a major challenge. Retaining your staff and avoiding attrition is again a major challenge over time. Relationship build-up matters and can go a long way in building up a good team that gives quality services on a sustained basis. Entity reputation management is critical and needs to be taken care of without any let-up. The quality and consistency of the food items offered need constant monitoring.

What are your greatest strengths and your biggest weaknesses?

Strengths – I consciously listen to what the guests have to say. I work on their suggestions, pre-empt situations that may come about, work along with the staff and give them support and motivation, ensure their growth, and focus on the primary targets – quality, revenue, cost, and profitability.

Weaknesses – I’m always in a hurry to get the work done and tick off the next task on the list. 

As a team leader, how do you cope with bad business days and keep your team motivated?

Over the years, we have seen 9/11, the recession, 26/11, and also Covid. It’s been a learning experience where businesses have had to be adapted so as to be viable and to ensure employment and sustainability. 9/11 caused disruption in the hospitality and travel business. International tourist inflow dwindled and the business models for the state of Goa had to be redefined. 

The focus shifted to encouraging Domestic tourism, subsequent to this Goa tourism also came about with the Dil Chahta Hai campaign and helped in the growth of domestic tourism. Then the state of Goa saw an increase in inbound tourism and good days for the industry. Post this we had to face the recession and 26/11. This once again resulted in a huge fall in inbound tourism to the State which affected the industry in a big way. 

However, once again the revenue focus shifted to Domestic and MICE tourism, and weddings. Goa came to be looked upon as a hotspot for destination weddings. The facilities required for such events were available and the hotels were able to give memorable services. The industry was seeing good growth till we came across Covid. Here again, we saw three waves over a period of one and a half years and the industry took a big hit. There was a massive loss of employment, wage cuts, etc. We got used to working with minimum numbers. We managed to keep connected with the staff through an employment rollover system while holding on to the core team keeping in mind long-term goals. 

The guests during this period were also open to self-service, not being pampered. It was a win-win situation for both the industry and the guests. However, presently the situation is where the business is rolling back but the hotels are finding it very difficult to offer quality services as was being done pre – Covid as there is a massive shortage of human resource availability.

What are the key USPs of the property that you are currently associated with, and how have you nurtured

It is a business hotel, conveniently located in the heart of the business centre with all the required facilities being available within walking distance. Being close to the offshore casinos has also been a big plus as a revenue source. The food served in the restaurant is well-appreciated and conveniently priced. Guest satisfaction is also well taken care of.

How do you think Goa’s tourism business is different from other parts of the country?

Goa has been blessed and featured as a top destination for a holiday, celebrations, relaxation, rejuvenation, etc. Destination weddings and MICE tourism also form a major part of the revenue source for the industry. The geographical location, and climate, are major factors that go a long way in boosting tourism.

Goa has rooms to offer all the categories of tourists right from budget to high end and that too in big numbers. Goa also has convention centres with more setups being added on. IFFI, Wine festivals, Serendipity, and many such art festivals feature on the Goa calendar year after year.

Which Hotels & Resorts do you personally appreciate in Goa or beyond?

The Taj Group, ITC, Hyatt, Marriott and other brands provide quality services and ensure that there is enough focus on high-end tourism which has also given great recognition to Goa as a tourist destination by being awarded internationally and nationally for their contributions and achievements. They offer major convention facilities and are also important venues for MICE and weddings.

How much do you think social media and influencers help in spreading the word for businesses these days?

Today we cannot overlook social media and the success of most businesses are majorly dependent on their social media participation. How effectively they can use this medium majorly decides the success of the entity. Presence on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, etc. is a major winner for a whole lot of businesses across categories. Today travellers are tech-savvy, glued to their mobile phones and surfing content for holidays, food and beverage requirements, adventure activities, etc. Information is available at the click of a button helps direct business queries to the entities. Influencers talking about the product, short video clips, and stories, go a long way in boosting the interest levels of prospective clients.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

Consulting businesses for their success and sustainability is something that I look forward to in the long run, as also, as mentoring and guiding the younger aspirants for a successful career in the hospitality industry. This would be a primary task that I would assign myself.

Rajesh Ghadge
Rajesh Ghadge
Rajesh’s long journey began with an early realization of his writing skills and nearly superhuman power of vivid imagination; which together led to the birth of a successful media portal. His never-ending spree of learning has made him efficient in varied fields like coding, designing, and also marketing. He fuels himself with continuous reading being a history fanatic and bouts of music and movies. Acting as a one-man army he prizes work over almost everything.

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