Visheshwar Raj Singh is striking the right balance between standardizing operations and pursuing innovation at The Oberoi Bengaluru.
The hotel industry has arguably seen more disruption in the last two years than in the last two decades. During the pandemic, the stakes were higher than ever; initiatives were launched by the dozen to keep the business running. The pandemic nearly destroyed the hotel leadership, zapping their energy and clouding their decision. In most cases, the anxiety led to poor performance.
For Visheshwar Raj Singh, who has spent nearly 25 years in The Oberoi Group, anxiety wasn’t counterproductive. The Vice President and General Manager of The Oberoi, Bengaluru, embraced agile principles during the pandemic. By doing so, he struck the right balance between standardizing operations and pursuing innovation.
On one hand, Singh built a brand that continuously outpaced competitors. On the other, he built a culture in which employees are fast on their feet by adapting to new working models and technologies.
“In 2020, the emphasis was on creating and sustaining new revenue streams through staycations, home dining menus, and reliable food delivery services. In 2021, we specifically focused on our open-air hotel design and how it really works well for putting our guests at ease while stepping out for a staycation or a meal. We revised table layouts to create more distance between guests in our restaurants. We also created new event spaces in our outdoor garden area called the Lapis Deck and Bamboo Grove,” says Singh.
The knowledge acquired during the pandemic was manifold. Singh learned to distinguish between the possible and the probable. He learned to structure his time and take small meaningful actions.
“It’s important to be nimble and flexible while keeping the brand identity intact. We must have the kinetic energy to adapt to a changing market environment without compromising the brand’s core philosophy,” he says.
Leading with empathy
For the past two years, hotel general managers have been shouldering a big emotional burden: To help their staff and vendors recover from the loss of the pandemic. They have been conveying stability and hope even when they themselves were uncertain about the future.
“My leadership approach has been put to the test much more than ever before in the last two years. To navigate such uncertain times, we need to remain mindful of evolving market conditions, continue to stay guest-focused and detail-oriented while being sensitive to the team’s fears and aspirations. We have to be strong-willed and rooted in strong personal and professional values,” says Singh.
To enhance customer experience and to motivate excellence during tough times, the hotel has adopted the best practice of amplifying positive guest praise and reviews (both online and offline) with the teams.
“We create recognition huddles at all levels to praise great work, new ideas, and achievements. There are also regular forums where we listen to any challenges from shop floor employees and then come up with possible solutions using their inputs,” says Singh.
Several new technologies were introduced at the hotel in the past two years.
“Technological intervention to enhance guest experiences had been a part of our upgrades well before the advent of the pandemic. This helped our transition across 2020 to 2021,” says Singh.
The hotel introduced QR code-based restaurant menus and contactless payment options. The hotel’s digital check-in process kept the manual interventions to a minimum. The in-room iPad-enhanced software allowed a seamless stay experience from operating room lights, ordering room service to even opening the room door, remotely. The hotel also put in place a digital billing and payment process for our restaurants and rooms using a company called Ecobillz. Table management software is now used in all restaurants at the property.
“Our team will continue to think according to the times and execute ahead of the competition. We will optimise resources while never compromising on the delivery of The Oberoi brand promise and guest expectations,” says Singh.