I walked into a packed auditorium with half an hour to go for the next show to begin. The movie ‘RIO’ was being screened. Right outside the auditorium, the scene was more interesting as Shashikant Bagwe, Manager-Housekeeping at Inox Leisure, was getting ready with his team for the cleaning act in between shows.
At thirty minutes past four, the exit doors opened. The next show was to be screened at 4.40pm. Shashikant and his janitorial team had just five-seven minutes to spruce up the entire auditorium. Standing at the top row of the auditorium, the whole place looked a complete mess. “Do not panic, just do your job” was Shashikant’s final advice before the team set on ‘Mission Clean”. As soon as Shashikant’s thumbs went up, the janitor team splits in couples – one with the back-pack vacuum and the other with a caddie & waste bag. Two janitors ran towards the back row and two to the front row.
Having rehearsed their role several times before, the teams equipped with wipes, dusters, gloves and other cleaning tools got to work, as the time kept ticking fast. At the strike of 4.40pm, the janitors left the area clean and ready for the next show.
This practice comes with a lot of training. When a housekeeping boy/ janitor joins, he undergoes training for 15 days. In this programme, two-three hours are dedicated everyday for ‘auditorium cleaning’. He is taught techniques of cleaning using vacuum cleaner, spot cleaning, removing stains in case of vomit or urine and ways to collect & dispose off thrash. “At the beginning of the training session, the janitors take a good 20-25 minutes to clean the area, but with constant practice they learn to clean the entire auditorium within the specified time-frame. While cleaning, janitors also come across valuables like mobiles, watches, wallets and even gold/silver ornaments left behind or under the seat/auditorium. We train them, how to handle such situations also,” says Anita.
While the janitors/housekeepers are provided by the housekeeping agency, the supervisors and the housekeeping executives are their in-house staff. At present, the housekeeping service at Inox is outsourced to Sanjay Maintenance Service (SMS), SS Synergy and Express Housekeeping. SMS maintains 17 properties of Inox including Pune, Kolkata, Baroda, Indore, Goa and three multiplexes in Mumbai. In the South, SS Synergy maintains the multiplexes and Express Housekeeping looks after the Jaipur & Faridabad multiplex.
Inox has 39 properties spread across in India and in every property, there are at least 18 housekeeping staff looking after the general maintenance of the multiplex. Anita cites an example of Inox’s multiplex cum mall format at Pune which has a capacity of 420 chairs. Pune Inox has four-five janitors with one supervisor; the janitors are provided with two Rodak Swiss Trade Mark back-pack vacuum cleaners (and one in case of break-down) and two janitors are assigned for clearing the waste. In case of a houseful show, besides the housekeeping staff, even the ushering staff members are called to collect waste. The wet & dry back-pack vacuum easily sucks coke/water spills. Besides, the janitors also have a caddie of tools, cleaning equipment, chemicals and thinner for removing the chewing gum from the carpet.”
In case of spillage on the carpet, say coke/beverage, the janitor would immediately rush and soaks up the excess liquid with paper before people walk over it and mess up the whole area. “It becomes tough to completely clean and dry the carpet between two shows due to time constraint. We have scheduled deep cleaning at night after vacuuming the auditorium. We work on the seats and carpets at nights so that they get dry before the morning shows. We use the hard scourer, Taski’s TR101 & TR103 and a gum spotter to clean the place. We have also invested on industrial pedestal chairs, so that the chairs as well as carpet dry fast.” The chairs are shampooed once in two months.
The food counters are thoroughly cleaned at night by the housekeepers. The staff at the food counter is provided with cleaning chemicals like the R2 and R7 solutions dusters, mops, wipes, squeegees, dust-pans, bins and a brushes in case of spillages.
At present, Nilfisk and Innovative industrial vacuum cleaners are deployed at Inox Mumbai. Every multiplex requires a minimum of two back-packs, one single-disc, a wet & dry vacuum cleaner and an industrial vac. Janitors are well trained in deep cleaning, spring cleaning and general cleaning.During school/college examinations and important cricket matches, the occupancy rate fluctuates. It is during this time, general maintenance/deep cleaning, shampooing, spotting, high-rise/cob-web cleaning and painting or polishing activities are undertaken at the auditorium.
While the carpet cleaning contract has been outsourced to Hindustan Carpets, there are local vendors who do just the carpet shampooing at Inox. The aisles, passages and the area in front of the screen are shampooed every fortnight. “We have specifically asked the contracting agency to do injection-extraction in the auditorium once in 15 days. The common areas like lobby are done once in two months only. Because of the traffic, these areas cannot be blocked for cleaning. Moreover, if the carpet does not dry, the area could turn messy. It is a challenge to keep the carpeted lobbies clean, especially at the Nariman Point (Mumbai), Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad properties, but our staff is trained and even our contractors understand our needs.”
Pests especially cockroaches and rodents are a major issue in the multiplexes. Inox conducts pest control treatment four times in a month. “When any patron complains about insect bites, we immediately check the seats for bugs. Immediately, bug treatment is done in the front row, back row and in the infected row. There are instances when we have done bug treatment for the entire auditorium like in our Nariman Point facility in Mumbai and in Kolkata. As fumigation is prohibited in the food counters, we have gel based treatments for the tea/coffee counter. Mosquito repellant is also sprayed in the high-ceiling as a part of pest control.”
Challenges in maintaining the washroom areas
“People from all strata of the society come to watch movies. Indians traditionally do not sit on the WC because it is considered unclean and unhygienic. Apart from the elite crowd, there are people who squat on the WC leaving footmarks on the toilet seats.” Anita cites example of washrooms in the South, where people have a ritual of washing their feet in the cubicle. With the result, after every use, the housekeeper has to squeeze out water from each cubicle. Inox has introduced Indian style toilets in ladies washrooms in this region. Janitors have been trained to thoroughly clean the washroom with water followed by mopping with disinfectant R2 solution.
In the gents toilet, guthka / paan stains inside the urinals pose serious problems. The urinals are choked when the remains of guthka settle in the sewer pipes over a period of time. Despite having an aerosol dispenser, the urinals emit foul smell. “We clean the bottle-traps every 15 days. The drainage pipe from all the urinals which is connected to the common drainage is completely flushed out. This helps avoid regular choke-ups and bad odour. Besides, we have also installed Best Practice Washrooms aerosol dispenser in the washroom to control odour. To avoid choke up in the washroom or guthka stains inside the auditorium, we screen people at the entrance.”
“Generally, the waste generated in the men’s washrooms consists of cigarette butts and guthka packets which are collected by the janitors. In the ladies toilet, we had introduced sanitary bins. However, we found paper towels and napkins, instead of sanitary napkins inside these bins. We have now introduced a recycled paper bag to dispose off the sanitary waste which is cleared periodically. These paper bags are hooked in accessible places like wardrobe hook of the cubicle door. The waste from the auditorium is disposed off with the municipal waste after manually crushing the plastic/paper cups and pop-corn tubs.
Inox recently bought over Fame Adlabs adding 25 more to the already 38 of the Inox properties. Anita concludes, “It is a huge task to maintain the new properties but we want to bring in the Inox standards to these too”.
“We began outsourcing FM services five years back. Lately, several FM and housekeeping companies have emerged in the market. This has resulted in high attrition rate and is adversely affecting the time and money invested in training the janitors.
“When it comes to wages, most of the multiplexes still follow ‘Shop and Establishment Act (SEA)’ but we follow ‘Cinema Wages Act’. Since the salary structure under the latter is much higher than the one offered under SEA, I definitely can demand for trained staff.”