General Manager of The Lodhi Delhi, Rajesh Namby, shares his insights on steering a team through challenging times, the future of hospitality and what’s in store for the luxury hotel that’s quickly become an indulgent oasis in the bustling capital.
Among the highlights of Rajesh Namby’s career in luxury hospitality is a 17-year-long stint with the Leela Group, during which he successfully transformed the brand’s culinary experiences in Delhi and earned The Leela Palace Udaipur several accolades. In 2020, he saw opportunity in the challenges the pandemic brought as he took on his current role as General Manager of The Lodhi, a contemporary sanctuary in Delhi elevated by attentive service, destination dining options, sensational city views and a restorative spa.
Read on for excerpts from a chat with Traveldine.
Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
During my experience of over two decades, I have been associated with luxury hospitality brands like The Leela, Hyatt, Hilton and Taj Group. My last assignment was as General Manager of The Leela Palace, Udaipur, prior to which I was the Resident Manager at The Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri.
In my career of 17 years with The Leela Group, I was an integral part of their culinary operations and played an instrumental role in transforming and overhauling their F&B by introducing new standards of service and pioneering new levels of dining experiences. At The Leela Palace, New Delhi, I spearheaded the launch of one of the most comprehensive culinary portfolios in the city. As the GM of The Leela Palace, Udaipur, I led various new developments at the hotel along with my team and the property consecutively won several accolades including the title of the ‘World’s Best Hotel’ and ‘Asia’s Best Resort’ by Travel+Leisure.
You’ve worked with several luxury properties, including the Hyatt, Leela Group, Hilton, and Taj Group. What makes The Lodhi stand out from its competitors?
The Lodhi is a proudly independent hotel with some truly distinctive and unparalleled leisure and lifestyle offerings, which make it one of the finest leading luxury hotels in the region. The hotel is all about bespoke experiences and personalised services for guests.
You stepped in as GM at a trying time for the hospitality industry. What challenges did you face when you came on board and how did you tackle them?
Yes, these are trying times, not only for hospitality but for every sector across the globe. We are all having to reinvent our strategies. As for stepping into the new role, my belief is that even in a challenging situation, there is always an opportunity to make the most of it. And that is the way I have been looking at my new role here.
When I arrived in Delhi to take over as the GM at The Lodhi, the situation was quite tough for hotels. But together as a team, we created a comprehensive strategy to tackle the challenges that stood before us. We created a thoughtful, all-encompassing approach towards enhancing our safety measures and prepared for the re-opening of the hotel.
What has been your strategy to draw patrons back during this time?
The Lodhi has always been committed towards the wellbeing of its patrons by maintaining uncompromising standards of safety and this has continued to be our foremost priority throughout this period. Keeping the pandemic situation in mind, we have designed the ‘Stay Safe Assurance’ programme to elevate our safety and cleanliness measures. We have revisited every guest touch point—right from arrival, car transfers, check-in, to rooms, restaurants, wellness, events/meetings facilities and check-out—and re-defined our sanitisation protocols across each of these areas.
During your time at the Leela Group, you revamped the culinary services across its Delhi property. Are there any plans to revamp the F&B offerings at The Lodhi?
The Lodhi will continue to delight gourmands by bringing them unique F&B experiences and constantly innovating with its offerings. We have just launched an all-new summer menu at Perbacco, our chic Italian restaurant mentored by the celebrated Michelin Star Chef Adriano Baldassarre. We have also reintroduced our popular outdoor Sunday brunches and BBQ-Whisky evenings at the courtyard at Elan, with heightened safety measures in place. Our chefs have crafted a unique gluten-free, keto and vegan menu with nutritious, immunity-boosting dishes that have been developed after extensive research. Elan will soon offer an exquisite high tea experience with an array of traditional teatime favourites, accompanied by exotic tea varieties and hand-picked coffees.
What are your plans for The Lodhi both short-term and long-term?
The Lodhi will continue to build its legacy and its journey of world-class excellence by coming up with inventive new experiences for patrons. Guest experience is everything for us and the way forward will be to innovate to connect our hotel on a more personal level to global travellers and the local community. For the short term, we are focussing on our enhanced safety strategy and adapting as per the shift in consumer behaviour, given the current situation.
Do you feel the concept of luxury travel has changed post-covid? How so? How can the hospitality industry adapt to these changes?
Though COVID-19 has led to dynamic changes in traveller requirements and expectations, creating new imperatives for luxury hospitality brands, one thing is certain—luxury travel is here to stay. It goes without saying that safety will be paramount in a travellers’ minds, more now than ever, and this will continue to dominate the industry in 2021 and beyond. People won’t change how they travel but will expect hotels to increase sanitisation measures.
As a result of the pandemic, many more travellers are actively seeking out privacy and a greater sense of calm and peacefulness. These have become the overarching trends now, and the luxury hospitality segment is perfectly positioned to meet these needs. During 2020, there was also a renewed focus on health. So hotels focusing on self-care, relaxation and wellness are set to be in high demand going forward.
The Lodhi is a stunning oasis in the midst of Delhi. What’s your favourite thing about the hotel?
Most room and suite categories at The Lodhi have a private plunge pool in the spacious balcony—this is a rare, one-of-its-kind feature amongst Delhi hotels and one of my favourite things about the hotel.