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Why are hotel purchasing managers facing premature deaths?

I want this at any cost and in time. I don’t care what you do…’ is probably a resonating statement that echoes with the rising heartbeats of the purchasing manager at the back of the hotel… Probably, the purchasing manager has been unprepared for this specific requirement that has to be delivered in a few hours; Probably, he or she does not know of a supplier who can meet this demand within time; Probably, he or she knows the requirement has to be flown down from elsewhere and there is not enough time… These and many such thoughts impounding the minds of many of the purchasing managers has taken a toll on their lives. “We have lost 14 such managers in the last three years. It pains me even today when I look back,” says Nitin Nagrale, founder of the Hospitality Purchasing Managers Forum, in a frank and open interview with Clean India Journal.

Why are purchase managers dying young?

Most of the 14 deceased purchasing managers, mainly from the metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Pune, were working with five-star hotels and were also members of HPMF. The eldest was only 48, the youngest was just 28. Most died of heart ailments, perhaps precipitated by stress, brought on by a lack of work life balance.

I’ve worked with two of them in the past. They were my juniors, but now they are no more. The young man who died, his son is just two years old. Carrying this young man’s body to the funeral was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

What are the reasons for these tragic, premature deaths?

I can see two-fold reasons: demands at their workplace, and inability to handle stress. But I wonder why this is happening only in the hospitality industry. I have been in touch with purchase managers in other sectors; they do not face this problem. I believe the volume of work given to hospitality purchase managers, last-minute requests, an unorganised system of working and responsibility without authority are all responsible for immense stress.

Also, managers are forced to do things they can’t do. In the process of making a guest happy, since other verticals are not organised, the burden eventually falls upon us. Many departments are friendly and plan their requirements in advance; and in departments where they are not, the purchase manager comes under stress.

The industry is going to have to come together to prevent another purchasing manager’s death. The HPMF has started analysing the reasons, and has identified stress as the main cause for premature death.

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We purchasing managers work on the backend and take on the responsibility of upholding the reputation of the organisation by meeting guests/clients requirements. While the guests get to see only what is on floor, no one gets to know what actually happens at the backend. 

— Nitin Nagrale


What way of working causes this stress?

Our industry mostly follows the principle of ‘atithi devo bhava’, where the guest is considered as a god and god can demand anything at any time. Very often, the guest’s requirements change on the day of the event. In the banqueting or marriage scenario, who has to meet this requirement? Well, it is the purchasing manager. The guest comes in and says he wants a particular variety of strawberries from a particular market, and the manager has to drop everything to source it. There are two possible reasons for this: either the guest changed his mind at the last minute, or the guest had defined his requirements and the purchasing manager was not informed. It becomes the PM’s job to make sure it is made available, even if it is midnight.

We are the backend, but we have to make sure that the reputations of hotels, restaurants and catering companies are protected. No one knows what happens at the backend. The guests only sees the good things.

In one of my previous organisations, a guest wanted a certain kind of caviar from a particular region to be served the next day. I had less than 12 hours. I had to send a person to Delhi by flight to go and pick it up. I didn’t have the choice of saying no.

If the purchasing manager understands the requirements, identifies the product and knows a supplier, then the job is easy, otherwise it is a nightmare.

How is the HPMF working to alleviate this stress?

The members of the HPMF are constantly in touch over Whats App and are able to provide instant help to each other. They put their requirements on the group and the average response time is 20 seconds. As soon as someone writes a query, one among us provides the vendor details. We share a lot of product information and market analysis. We have also compiled a coffee-table book by 22 purchasing managers, which will eventually become a training manual of sorts.

How has the Clean India Show platform helped HPMF? What are your plans for CIS2020?

The HPMF will have a two-hour knowledge session at the Clean India Show 2020, in which we will impart information and have a B2B interaction with exhibitors. We will get senior members from all the metropolitan cities. We will attempt to understand the newest technology that will help us do our jobs better. I have personally visited the show over the years along with the HPMF team. This is a Show one should not miss.

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