The monthly meeting of NIPM for the month of August was held in Hotel Ramanashree. Richmond Circle, Bangalore and the speaker was the Chairman of the Ramanashree group of hotels, Mr Shadakshari. In a way it was an interesting proposition as it is not often that we get to listen to leaders from the hotel industry.The challenges and priorities of the said industry could be totally different from that of manufacturing or for that matter, IT. Even as he started out, the speaker made it clear that all that he would be doing is share experiences from his life. "Do not expect theories from my talk, that is something you are already familiar with, being professionals in the industry".
The first Ramanashree hotel was started on 28th January 1991 and presently there are four hotels in the Group. Mr Shadakshari stated that one thing that came out clearly from his experience was that it is not easy to predict human nature.As for example you cannot predict that a person from a poor economic background is likely to be dishonest or that a more educated person is likely to be honest.He shared real life experiences to drive home the point.
About a decade back, an employee, let's call him Ram,working as a house keeper in the Group's Mysore Road hotel, requested for a loan of Rs 25000/to meet expenses of his mother's treatment.The company policy at that time did not allow it. The employee was earning only Rs 3500/ per month.The amount requested was too many times more than his earnings.After deliberations, he was offered Rs 10000/ which he refused.
A week later there was a call from the GM of the hotel. He informed Mr Shadakshari that a guest who was a foreigner had left his wallet containing over a Lakh of Rupees, passport and other important documents in the hotel room and forgotten to take them while checking out. Ram had promptly deposited everything to the hotel authorities for returning to the customer.The customer was overjoyed and wanted to reward Ram with Rs 25000/ but he was refusing to accept it. Based on the discussions over the phone, initially Ram was advised to accept the money as it was given willingly from a place of gratitude, straight from the heart. But Ram was clear in his mind- "No one can purchase my honesty" he said. "If it was for money, I could have kept the entire one lakh of rupees..". The GM advised the customer to give the amount to Ram as a loan which was not acceptable to him. Finally, the customer was convinced to give the amount as a loan to Ram.This time the offer was accepted and the loan repaid with interest.
Now, the other incident when the son of a manager working in Bangalore was diagnosed with a hole in his heart.The child underwent an operation at Jayadeva institute of cardiovascular sciences and research, a reputed Government funded hospital in Bangalore.Post operation, the patient was required to take medicines worth Rs 2000/ per month.In this connection a meeting was held to see if any assistance could be given and it was decided to pay the sum of Rs 2000/ additionally to the employee for a period of 18 months to tide over the crisis. Months later, management received a letter informing that the child of the manager had expired a year ago but he was continuing to draw the additional sum towards treatment. When confronted, the manager admitted that his son had expired but felt that it was okay to to continue to receive the additional sum in view of his loyal service for many years.When he was asked to pay back the excess amount drawn, he resigned from the company.
Mr Shadakshari then revealed that he enjoyed visiting and talking to young children in schools. The one question that he regularly asked them was "What do you want to become in life?". At a Government school in Yelahanka, when this question was asked, he got the usual answers that could come from young innocent minds.A boy said he would like to be a 'Bus conductor'- He can travel everyday to the city and have a bag full of money on his shoulders.( He believed that the money is for him to take!). Other responses included wanting to become a police inspector or a cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar. One girl however, said she wanted to become a doctor. When asked "Why?" she replied, "I want to cure cancer. My father a mason, died of cancer last year and recently my mother also died of the same disease and I am now in an orphanage. I don't want any child to be an orphan."
Cut to a few years later in 2011, when the speaker was visiting the Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, he was in conversation with a lively young woman. After some time she said "Sir, do you remember you visited our school many years ago and asked questions on our dreams in life? Today, I am working here as a research assistant and doing research on breast cancer, something close to my heart." Mr Shadakshari said that he was stunned and yet happy to hear this. He underscored the importance of dreams and actively pursuing them for success in life.
The speaker also related an incident that had occurred during his visit to JC College of Engineering, Mysore to participate in a three day program on "Software for Success." During the program as is his wont, Mr Shadakshari had mentioned his favourite quote- “Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. “At the end of the program a girl came up to him and said “Sir, by your talk today you have touched my life in a big way and forever. All through, I have been a rank student, recently I failed in a subject. I was witness to seeing my brother committing suicide; saw his hanging body. I have been so depressed that I had decided to go his way. But today listening to your talk, I have changed my mind and decided to face life squarely. The speaker said that it is moments like these that give a real meaning to one’s life when you are able to make a positive influence on another.
Mr Shadakshari finally shared an anecdote involving our former President and scientist Dr Abdul Kalam. The speaker was present at a function in which Dr Kalam interacted with medical students. We all know that Dr Kalam has adorned many roles including that of a teacher. One of the students asked a question “Sir, if you were to be reborn, who would you wish to be reborn as? “. The speaker threw the question to us and asked us to speculate as to what could have been the answer of the people’s President. None of us were anywhere near what Dr Kalam had replied to the student. He had said “I would like to be a good human being. If I am a good human being, I will be a good whatever other role.” All our efforts throughout life are for becoming a good human being.
Continuing on a similar vein, he discussed the conversation between a husband and wife to highlight the importance of appreciation and living life in the present:
Husband: If I were to die tomorrow what kind of funeral would you arrange for me?
Wife : Dear, I would arrange for a rosewood coffin, especially designed epitaph, beautiful wreaths and the best preacher to speak about your good qualities...
Husband : You are prepared to do all this and spend around Rs 8 lakhs when I am gone. Why not give me a rose bud when I am alive?
The speaker then turned to the student members in the audience and asked them "On how many occasions or days have you told your mother "Amma today the food was superb? He asked the other members whether they told their spouses frequently "I love you dear? " We tend to take those close to us for granted and fail to acknowledge and appreciate their contribution.
In the question and answer session that followed Mr Shadakshari was asked what prompted him to venture in to the business? He replied "I like hotel food but hate paying bills.As the owner I can eat to my heart's content without the problem of bill." Approaching the question more seriously, the speaker said that he was an electrical engineer working for Bajaj Electricals. His frequent visits to the Delhi office on Mansingh road, drew his attention to the building next door that of The Taj Mansingh Hotel.The seed was put in the mind and heart around that time to be owner of a quality hotel. Later an opportunity came for acquiring a property in Bangalore and start the hotel. It takes about 5 to 6 years to stabilize and earn profits.
To another question as to the challenges of dealing with people with reference to the hotel industry, the speaker said it was important for you to meet your customers directly. The employees have to be treated as human beings with love and respect . They are the ones directly connected to the guests and their approach can be crucial for the success of your organization.
The entire talk of Mr Shadakshari was laced with humour, often leaving the audience in splits and it was a treat to listen to him.