One of the rare women general managers in the hospitality industry, talks about positivity and passion as the best drivers for success, regardless of gender.
The personable Nikita Ramchandani recently took over as General Manager of the JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu and has a clear vision for positioning the city hotel to meet with the changing landscape of the hospitality sector.
Ramchandani studied Hotel Management in Switzerland and worked in North America and the Middle East before joining Marriott International in the Operations vertical, coincidentally during the merger with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. While she led the Operations discipline for the 135-hotels Marriott International portfolio as Senior Area Director of Operations, she was responsible for setting the roadmap for new openings, talent development, guest experiences and F&B growth.
With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Nikita’s astute business and leadership skills have stood her in good stead at every step. She considers her years of international exposure, countless learnings and relationships with some brilliant people as not only professional triumphs, but personal as well.
A lot of expectations are riding on the first female GM of this property. The challenges are many, especially with the pandemic still on, but she sees opportunities for growth in each one of them. Excerpts from a freewheeling interview…
What, as per your understanding, are the strengths and weaknesses of this property and how do you plan to capitalise on the former and deal with the latter?
My team and I truly believe we’re very fortunate to be part of the JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu; its prime location, luxurious offerings and sheer design make it timeless. All of this together, enhanced by our people make it the iconic property it is today.
In our 20th year, we continue to thrive and grow as we endeavour to offer unique experiences to our patrons whilst capitalising on new opportunities. With everything the hospitality industry has endured in the past year, the pandemic has taught us to seek new verticals to provide more varied offerings – Marriott Bonvoy on Wheels (our food & beverage home delivery service), intimate dining experiences in unique venues within the hotel, personalised gifting, and carefully curated staycation packages.
What is your vision for the hotel, both short term and long term? Can we expect any major changes?
Our top priority as a JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu is to align with our brand values and imbibe the JW Marriott philosophies in everything we do. We believe in putting people first and building the foundation for our associates to learn and grow to enable them to truly craft memorable experiences for our guests.
As business travel may not happen full-fledged for a while, how have you re-strategised? What are the new avenues of revenue?
Marriott Bonvoy on Wheels, our food & beverage home delivery service, has been a key contributor to our revenue stream this past year. We want to ensure that people celebrate their special moments at home which has led us to introduce celebration hampers under the ‘Celebrate with Marriott’ service, ‘JW Brunch at Home’ and festive menus for festivals such as Holi, Raksha Bandhan, Diwali, and more.
We have introduced ‘Intimate Dining Experiences’ coupled with luxury décor at unique venues in the hotel and identified personalisation opportunities in the ‘Shaadi by Marriott’ weddings segment. We continue to innovate our staycation offerings for families to ensure an elevated stay experience synonymous with the JW Marriott brand for our multi-generational guests —engaging activities for families and kids, intimate celebrations for couples and culinary delights from across the globe.
Do staycations work as a business model for you? What are the pros and cons?
Certainly, we have been fortunate enough to have been embraced by the community around us. A lot of people are opting for a luxurious home-away-from-home vacation in their own city — all-inclusive packages, outdoor dining, engaging family activities and a refreshing, rejuvenating experience overall.
A certain nostalgia surrounding international travel has set in and people are now seeking those exceptional experiences within their own city. We had introduced the ‘Drive to Phuket’ experience wherein we recreated signature iconic elements of Phuket in our hotel, thus offering a unique staycation experience. We anticipate this trend to continue for a few more months and are constantly introducing packages that appeal to our multi-generational guests.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe in a participative approach in the decision-making process. The dynamic environment demands agility and staying ahead of the curve, which drives the team to constantly explore new horizons across verticals. Needless to say, it’s pure passion and a positive attitude that drives us all, which, in my opinion, is truly a leader’s best weapon.
Have you faced any particular challenges as a woman in the hospitality industry?
I have had mentors supporting me every step along the way and have been fortunate enough to work with progressive colleagues, be it men or women. Moreover, I have a strong support system professionally and personally, which is my constant motivation.
How do you plan to maintain gender diversity in leadership positions in the property?
The reality is that talent will always supersede everything else. Women in hospitality take on larger roles across verticals with every passing year and at the JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, women hold leadership positions across most functions of the hotel.
What advice would you give to young female aspirants to managerial positions, who would like to follow in your footsteps?
It’s important to work hard and enjoy yourself just as much. In an industry that’s so assiduous and dynamic, it’s imperative that we feel passionate about every bit of what we do.
What is your favourite thing about the hotel?
The energy when I walk into the hotel every morning awakens me and truly makes me feel like I work from a place of passion. It’s the sheer potential of this hotel that encourages my team and me to do more and achieve more each day.
Is there a special/secret place at the hotel that only regulars and insiders are aware of that you could share with us?
Our unique outdoor ‘secret spot’ is a place to unwind and soak in some sea breeze with a hint of sunshine. At night, the secret spot is well-lit with a canopy of fairy lights that entirely enlivens the experience and is a must-visit for those seeking to reconnect amidst nature.