Aman Grover is the General Manager at Hilton Goa Resort, Saipem and we got in a candid conversation with him to understand his journey into the hospitality line and also about goals for the hotel.
Q: Tell us something about your journey.
A: Well, I call myself an accidental hotelier, because I still relate to me being a cricketer. Hospitality happened to me by chance, I was very sure of getting selected for a league but for a few personal reasons, I could not pursue the same. That’s when my coach suggested I work in hospitality as I seemed to be a friendly person. So I visited this consultancy in Hyderabad and the rest as they say is history.
It’s been close to 25 years in hospitality now, but cricket is still my first love and will always remain. But my wife is my complete support system. She is my punching bag and I think whatever I am able to do today is because of her. I can focus so much on my work because I know she is right behind me.
Q. So do you have any regrets about not being able to pursue cricket?
A: No, no I love what I’m doing, I absolutely enjoy and cherish what I do and I don’t think I can do anything better than what I am doing right now.
Q. You did not choose hospitality, but hospitality chose you right?
A: Well it all happened by chance for sure, but I think I have always been hospitable, even as a kid I remember I used to treat guests at home in a very warm and hospitable manner. I remember an incident when my parents were not at home and we had these guests over, so I served them water, some biscuits and looked after them. They were pretty impressed with me as a kid for doing so much and like people used to day that ‘isme hai kuch hospitality wala’
I’m an outgoing person and I love meeting people, getting to know about different cultures and all so it didn’t take long for me to like what I did but like rightly said that it was not something I chose.
Q. So how did it all start then?
A: I pursued a diploma in Switzerland and my first job was as steward, coincidentally in an Indian restaurant. I enjoyed it thoroughly because I realised that there is no job that is small, I literally washed utensils, cleaned toilets served people and took pride in whatever I did. I wanted to make my parents proud. Within 3 months of my job, I was made in charge of that restaurant and since then there has been no looking back. With progress in my career I got a chance to work in almost all aspects of the hotel industry, whether as a steward or in the kitchen, in the f&b department, banquets, bartending, I have done it all. But yes, rooms division has been my strength. But even today I find all jobs equal, I will still not shy away from picking a bag, or cleaning a room and I have learnt all this from some very amazing peers of mine.
I remember during the opening of hotels where we used to actually scrub floors just a night before the hotels opening and it was not just us, it was our leaders who were doing it with us and that taught me that by going up in the ladder you don’t forget where you belong from. This has always kept me very grounded.
Q: So as per you what’s your greatest strength in this managerial position?
A: People management and pre-openings give me a lot more grey hair but I love it. I believe in developing talent and growing my team along with me.
Q: You come across as a happy go lucky person, so how do you deal with bad days in business?
A: Yeah it’s tough at times, but I think the years of experience has taught me to remain calm and one thing I’ve really cultivated is trying to know when to switch off and not take too much stress. I give a lot of credit to my wife as well because she kind of keeps me sane. Plus life has so much worse going on everywhere that I say to myself nothing can be worse than this and move on. Apart from this, another very important factor is that being a leader there are hundreds of people who look up to you so you really can’t afford to lose the plot. You have to set the right kind of example and think your biggest victory as a leader lies in the fact of how you overcome your worst days and yet be a cheerleader for others. Also, I am a firm believer that nothing is permanent if good days don’t last, nor do the bad days!
Q. How do you think Goa’s hospitality is different from other places?
A: I love the way Goa functions as a city with hotels and hospitality. From the youngest to the elderly, Goa has got a bit of everything for everyone. Be it beaches, casinos, nightlife, different kinds of food, adventure, water sports and the most peaceful places, Goa has it all. It’s a happy go-to place for all ages and all sexes.
Q. What do you think is Hilton Goa Resort’s biggest USP and how have you nurtured it further?
A: Hilton Goa Resort as property has plenty of USPs but you know for us that one thing which has been cultivated and is also very close to my heart is a home away from home feeling. Especially during the current times where people are very reluctant to leave their own bubbles or home, for us, it’s important to give them a safe and comfortable environment.
Speaking of other things, we gave the biggest rooms in North Goa, 4 pools and collaborations with local agencies that help give unique experiences to our clients like E-bike tours, fishing, cruises, and a lot more. We want to give people more than the regular BBC (Beach, Booze, Casino). Lastly, we have some in house experiences that are unique, like the balcony experience. From private dining to making a cocktail, to yoga and kickboxing sessions, we offer plenty of options to make the balcony experience a memorable one and given the current times, It has been working really well.
Q: What are the prime contributors from your end for excelling at customer service?
A: I would not want to take the entire credit for myself, it’s a bit of both, the hotel’s USPs as well as a great set of team members who were very passionate. As I said the most important thing was cultivating a culture of being grounded and working together as a cohesive unit. Once we got that right, it has been easy. We treat people the same way as if they are visiting our home, sending someone back with a smile and giving them that home away from home feeling has been the motto of our customer service.
Q: Hilton just held Mouni Roy’s wedding celebrations, so do you think influencer marketing helps?
A: Well absolutely, I think if everything is marketed in the right way it surely helps. Although I am from an old school of thought, working with some like-minded people who trained me on all this, I have come to realise that digital marketing is the only way forward because today when most people work from home, the only way they connect to things is via social media. I think if you have the right kind of content out there, people do look at it and it gets the right kind of promotion.
Q: A tricky question, but which hotels would you recommend apart from Hilton that you personally like?
A: Hilton, Hilton, and Hilton, thank you so much I am I’m an absolute loyalist. I respect all the hotels out there and I wish them all the best. I pray that all of them do well because we have all been through tough times but when it comes to promoting, I will 100% promote Hilton Goa Resort, a property that I am absolutely attached to.
Q: Do you ever go and check your competitions on what they are doing and take feedback or inputs to discuss with your team?
A: Not really, for us, there is no competition, every hotel has its own USP and I think it’s just important to focus on that because I think the moment you digress on your USP, the direction changes and I feel it’s important to keep the focus on what you are good at rather than trying to see what others are doing.
Q. Lastly what’s your plan for the future?
A: As for personal, obviously, everybody likes to grow in their career and that’s something which I want to do as well but from the hotel’s perspective, I’d like it to be positioned as not just one of the best in goa but one of the best resorts in India as well.