If you’ve ever wondered why anyone would want to manage a hotel, let alone the Ritz-Carlton, you should meet Nagesh Chawla.
The general manager at the Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, in Mega Kuningan lives and breathes hospitality. He doesn’t see problems, only solutions. He doesn’t spend his days putting out fires, because Chawla, who has worked in cities all over the world, spends today making sure everything will play out perfectly tomorrow.
Chawla told My Jakarta about the ins and outs of being a hotel manager, his passion for hospitality and what sets Jakarta apart from other Asian metropolises.
Many people think that perks, like great meals and free rooms, come from working in a hotel. Is there a secret perk that people might not know about?
Not really. It’s all pretty well known. And honestly, we don’t get free rooms anywhere. We do get special rates, but still we have to pay.
But for me, the greatest perk is to get to live your passion, and I can say that not everybody has got their passion as their job. I’ve always wanted to run a hotel, so now I’m living my dream every day. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
What’s a typical day for you?
My day starts pretty early in the morning, and the first half is focused toward customers; greeting them, moving around the hotel and making the rounds from there and checking the executive lounge. The morning is all about the customers. At 9 a.m., we have an executive committee meeting, a very focused senior leadership meeting where we communicate with all the hotel’s managers.
I truly believe that communication is the basis of everything; it’s the backbone of our industry. If communication is not up to standard, or if you don’t communicate enough, things will start going wrong.
What about your work week?
Typically it’s five days. It can be a 24/7 job. Even on Saturday and Sunday, we come in and spend some time at the hotel, not necessarily doing anything administrative, but taking the approach of observing.
What grinds your gears about managing a hotel?
The challenging part is to keep consistency in all of the services. There is nothing more important than providing comfort and genuine care to our premium guests.
Any advice for people out there looking to get into the hospitality business?
If you have the passion, then go for it. If you don’t have it, then you’ll never be successful. It’s an industry that needs time and devotion. It’s all about passion, about running a hotel and about people. Because our business is all about people.
Working in a hotel isn’t usually a dangerous line of work, but that’s not the case in Jakarta. Do you feel that Jakarta comes with safety concerns?
Not at all … always leave a few things to destiny [smiles].
Do you live near the hotel?
I live across the road, in an apartment above the JW Marriott. It’s a floor that belongs to the owners and was built for the managers to live in.
What about when you get outside Mega Kuningan?
Honestly, I don’t get out of Mega Kuningan much. I try and do everything I have to do in Mega Kuningan.
Is it because of the traffic?
One is traffic, but after spending some time in the city, you learn how to manage your time in traffic. I have a folder on my e-mail called ‘Traffic.’ So whenever I am traveling, I take out my laptop and keep myself busy handling all those e-mails instead of just sitting and getting frustrated about things.
You’ve worked in Shanghai, Mumbai … all around the world. Can you compare Jakarta to those cities?
Its all positive. Jakarta is what Hong Kong was 10 years ago with its economic growth, increased demand and growth of hotels’ occupation rates for the MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions] segment.
If you meet the GM of, say, the Kempinski Hotel or the Mandarin Oriental, what do you talk about?
We talk about the economy and the future, what’s happening, what businesses are they targeting, their outlook for the future, employment issues and really just day-to-day stuff.
Would you consider some of them to be rivals?
No. We all work together. This is a very small industry. If you don’t work with each other, you can’t be successful.
Nagesh Chawla was talking to Zack Petersen.