How has the journey been with Leela group over the years?
It has been a great learning exercise. It has taught me to be innovative and be on my toes 24×7. Every new project comes with its own excitement and challenges. From debris stage to civil structure to doing the interiors, the processes and stages are like bringing up a baby, making it run on its own. The operations in Leela Palace Delhi are different in that being a closed property or a matchbox property, the maintenance is fairly easy. The other two places where I have worked, Leela Kovalam and Leela Palace Udaipur, are open. While we have weather hazards like rainwater in Kovalam and it is sand in Udaipur. Since the Udaipur hotel is next to the lake, it gets challenging to maintain, when the lake gets dry. But we have learned to combat these challenges and find ways of controlling the problems.
The housekeeping practices have been changing on a very large scale. High cleaning technology and mechanisation have transformed the cleaning scenario. We have automation in lighting controls and in plumbing there are a lot of new systems and fixtures.
What are the processes you follow for regular cleaning?
We have PMS (Preventive Maintenance Schedule/System) in place. It helps us in organising routine checks and cleaning schedules. For example, we do heavy duty vacuuming thrice a day for the carpets, while spotting is done round the clock. We use Diversey Taski, Vento which allows heavy suction. I do not recommend too much shampooing, as chemicals spoil carpets. We also use Diversey’s Triad™ and J-Fill series which cleans, disinfects & deodorizes hard and non-porous environmental surfaces. Deep cleaning of the swimming pool which has flamed granite flooring is done with machines, while a net is used to manually remove floating leaves or insects. As for insect control, our horticulturists spray regular pesticides. We use Citrunella in jelly or stick form and Lemongrass Diffusers are set on automation everywhere after sunset. They are in operation till midnight. Lemongrass is our signature fragrance.
What about waste management?
Newspapers are sent to vendors for recycling. Flower waste is given away to an NGO that uses it to make Holi colours and Rangoli. Plastic waste is segregated at our garbage unit where it goes through the waste management processes.
Recruitment & training must be of importance to you
Recruitment is very crucial. We route the candidates through HR and then the general manger gives the final approval. The selection is ‘Skills, Attitude and Knowledge’ based and not just ‘Perception’ based.
A blend of good service and individual details depend on housekeeping staff identifying with the hotel brand. Hence, it is important that our team is carefully chosen directly by the hotel, rather than supplied by an external company.
Training is an ongoing process. We have quiz programmes, Know Your Customer programmes and Buddy System in place. In Buddy System, the seniors train their associates. Training is then audited. The core team members from our sister hotels train the candidates on the following:
a) Consistency in Service
b) Maintaining Quality Standards
c) Maintain SOP.
Do you think housekeeping in India is on par with that of international hotels?
Of course, I would say, we are far above them. I can say that Leela properties compete with Ritz Carlton. The use of new products to improve standards of hygiene is one approach that hotels can adopt to improve housekeeping performance, but it will not be the main factor that determines efficiency or overall quality of service. Whichever products are used, it is the housekeeping staff that determines how well the service is delivered, and we in India have a dedicated approach towards service which is warm, caring and which comes from the heart. Despite the evolution of benchmark standards across the industry, the housekeeping function must be closely managed and constantly reviewed and improved. Although housekeeping is a basic necessity rather than a function where hotels can gain a clear competitive advantage, it clearly has a direct and critical impact on the guest experience. Also, as guests have become more selective about their accommodation, getting the basics of cleanliness, efficiency and friendly service right becomes more of a challenge.