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‘COMPETITION WITH NEW ENTRANTS IN HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IS A BOON, NOT A THREAT’

Praful Narchal,Director, Sales and Marketing, Le Meridien Dhaka| Photo: Arif Mahmud Riad

Praful Narchal, with experience of more than 15 years, is a veteran professional in Sales and Marketing. Being graduated from Delhi University, he joined as the Sales Manager in Starwood Hotels and Resorts, a concern of Marriott International. With a span of 15 years, he worked in celebrated hotels in different regions of India and finally joined Marriot International in 2019. Recently he came to Bangladesh and joined as the Director of Sales and Marketing of Le Meridien Dhaka.

As a specialist in the hospitality industry, Praful shares his insights regarding the hospitality industry, growth potentials, barriers and opportunities and many more to FinTech. Here is the excerpt for the FinTech readers.

Start telling us bit about yourself. How did you start your career?

It was a very interesting journey how I landed in hotels. I was then doing my Bachelor of Arts and suddenly one of my uncles who own a hotel in Rajasthan of India told me to join there. I got surprised because I didn’t even know anything about hotels and hospitality industry was quite an alien to me. He inspired me to join and try it out. And I took it as a challenge and made soliloquy, “Let’s see, make a try”, and so I joined there. I worked there as a capacity of front office assistant or a trainee you can say. But I made a deal with my uncle that he wouldn’t tell anyone of the hotel that we know each other because I wanted to learn the ground level, otherwise people would not open with me, they would not tell me the facts rather they would treat me as owner. Then my work began and I stayed there near about six months. I found this industry very interesting.

Then I got back Jaipur of Rajasthan where I actually hailed from. I joined Mansingh Group of Hotels as sales executive. They have six hotels in Rajasthan and twos in Delhi. So in point of fact I started my career with them.After that I moved to Le Meridien Jaipur in 2005. It was a big brand during that time because it was a Starwood and Starwood used to have more than twenty branches under them. So it was a pre-opening for me and pre-opening learning is a different learning. After working in Meridien for around 2 years, I moved to Taj Group of Hotels in India which is the largest brand there. They posted me in Bhutan at TajTashi. They opened a hotel in Thimphu since I had a pre-opening learning experience. From that time till 2019 I had been with them. Almost 12 years. I got different portfolios, places etc. from them.I had to move different places. I moved to Aurangabad of Maharashtra, Agra, Calcutta and even in Bangalore.  Bangalore was my longest tent because good seven years I spent there in Taj MG Road which is called the heart of the city. It’s hotel which is known for the legacy. Then after a year I moved back to Le Meridien.

It is my gist of career journey. Now I am in Le Meridein Dhaka. I joined here on May 14 this year.

It’s been 4 years since Le Méridien Dhaka started operating its services in Bangladesh. Share us youryour achievement so far in this regard?

Since my joining, I found one thing, this market is growing. The rate of this hotel in Dhaka is charging. Ask for another competitive hotel, are the rate which was in India ten years back not that high in India now. Here in Dhaka, the demand and supply is the issue. So for next two years there’s no major supply coming up and so close is the airport. Now we all can see the growing thing in this industry.

I must say, Le Meridien Dhaka has much developed within four years at different milestones. If you ask me in case of benchmark of the hotel industry in Dhaka, we are the largest inventory hotel in the country. I can say with pride this hotel is growing highest occupancy around entire Bangladesh. The market is growing, it will further keep going but we are the market leader because there is demand coming in and if the supply comes up, the demand comes up. If both work hand in hand, it will be good for the country and industry as well. There are more brands, you see, coming to this country.

How do you see the potentials of hospitality industry of Bangladesh? How has LMD been doing so far?

Potentialities of this industry are undoubtedly rising. If you talk of only Le Meridein, we are the closest to RMV, Uttara which is the major hub of RMV and so there is no other five star hotel close to this RMV. Hence, if you have a factory in Uttara, you have to go to stay either here or to Radisson or to Gulshan area. But the closest is us. If talking about industry, we see lots of government companies keep opening now. They are getting huge in Dhaka comparing to other countries and that’s a positive vive, I should say. 5% of GDP we see is growing in Dhaka. In fact, there is a potentiality for this industry to be grown up for sure. And Le Meridein Dhaka within a very short time has been able to touch that potentiality, no doubt.

New market entrants are about to get doubled within next couple of years, are you considering this as a threat or boon?

In both ways it’s a threat and boon to us. In positive way, a threat is always good as competition is there. If the business is growing, the hotels are always there to grow. Hotels are growing and so is the country. Honestly, it’s not actually a threat rather a good thing for the country. A new brand and multinational branches are coming in, growing the business. So it’s a positive thing. I don’t consider it a threat, I see it as a scope of improvement for us and others also. Competition is always good in business. They will learn from us, we will learn from them.

Is doing business in Bangladesh about to get more competitive or together you can build a strong base of hospitality services hub in South East Asia?

Well, the answer is a big YES. Together we will do much better for sure. I came from a country like India or I can say from a city like Bangalore where my last posting was there. There were eight hotels next to my property. They were Oberoi, Taj, Hyatt, Conrad, Hilton, The Park etc. The three hotels are adjoined to my hotel. On a positive side, if you see, we all have to prior the guest satisfaction, people should start concentrating more on guest satisfaction, service level and of course the price point will come down if the inventory will be like this company.

In my previous assignment, I told my friends that it was a great chance of hotel sitting next to each other and we never used to fight. It was a group which I created here to bring most of the hotels under the same umbrella. We have started this here also. Let’s see, how far it goes.

How has technology evolved within the business modality of hospitality industry of Bangladesh?

Technology has improved I this sector definitely. But still there is scope of improvement. We have not yet reached that part in terms of technology like robots are doing room dining, robots are replacing mini bus and in US that’s happening. But it will take times to bring that technology to Dhaka. I am pretty sure other companies, they have seen the potential market in this industry. So they are smarter with the advancement of technology because most of the clients are either from UK, US or Europe and it is the potential market for Dhaka.

How has the communication mode changed so far due to the rise of social media and review platforms?

Great tool is social media till the time you misuse it. It’s an admirable tool to get information, to connect people and to socialize also between friends and PRs. People have to be educated on Instagram, Twitter because these twos are the platforms that are not taken per head over the Facebook. If we do better in this, we may do better in business. But using Instagram and Twitter is gradually increasing. Youths are seen to use Instagram, lot of stories the youths are putting in it. To me, Instagram is much easier than Facebook. Obviously, it is seen that communication mode has been changed for social media. And I think, working policy or business phase has been made favorable for having those stuffs.

Apart from accommodation services, what is the impact of culinary services in hospitality industry of Bangladesh?

You stay in a hotel for a room or for foods or for both. Of course, the room or place is important fact but that is only 50% and for food is the same. If something goes wrong in the room, it can be rectified but if wrong goes in the foods, cannot be rectified.

Culinary service is the most important department in the hotel. In a room, you have a competition. You have a ceiling that you can’t charge more than the selected rates or if you can charge also, clients may not come because they might get better deal in some other hotels. But if one comes in this hotel, he will get every master service. It’s really a vital department for this industry. I also keep saying my members that they should focus on some new innovation because innovation is the only place for you which will keep you with us. If that happens, the client will never think of the competition of the hotels.

What will be your suggestion to the young professionals in Hospitality Industry in Bangladesh? How one can develop their skills to make themselves employable in Hospitality Industry?

I must say it’s a great industry and so my suggestion to the youths that they can make their career if they want. He can go different countries; he will get different experiences as well. And of course, it’s an industry of glam world also. The young fellow can take this as career happily. It’s a good industry with brand like Marriott. If one has the intention to do work with this industry, please let him come hurriedly to join us. We want more people to join us in this sector. If one has the ability to convince and handle lot of people, it can be the bigger skill for making him employable in hospitality industry.

But the youths of today want to find shortcut way to work which is not expected. Another thing is some youths fear to take much headache but want full money. So my message to them is, hard work can take you beyond of your dream. Don’t find shortcut ways and don’t think your work as salaried job, think your work to be your better half.

Thanks a lot for your time.

Thank you too.

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