WINNERS SPEAK

Megha Ajgaonkar

It has been over six years since Megha Ajgaonkar won Hotelier India’s ‘Sales Leader of the Year’ award in 2011. But this trophy is still very close to her heart as it was the first industry award that she bagged. She believes it to be even more exceptional since it was from a publication that is considered to be amongst the most reputed media houses in the country. Attaining this award was a testimony to the hard work put in by Westin Pune Koregaon Park’s team, where she was then the director of sales and marketing, and her team's efforts to pull up the hotel’s marketshare and topline revenues. The recognition also resulted in her being acknowledged as the Sales Leader for Asia Pacific (excluding China) for 2011 by Starwood Hotels & Resorts (now Marriott International).


Harinder Kishore

Harinder Kishore still remembers the moment she walked up to the stage to receive her Hotelier India ‘Housekeeper of the Year’ award in 2015. Winning this trophy was a special moment as, in her own words, it is considered a prestigious one in the hospitality industry. Professionally, it gave her the boost and recognition while presenting herself on any platform. Personally, it was also very motivating for her and her entire team, because though it was an individual award, she believes in this industry one gets any recognition only if one has a strong team that supports you to achieve one’s targets and goals. She advises aspiring nominees to immerse themselves in their chosen field, adapt to changes as per their organisation’s requirements, stay ahead of the time and adapt to technology without forgetting the human touch that is the cornerstone of Indian hospitality.


Vikram Choubal

Vikram Choubal won the Hotelier Award for Sustainability in 2014 when he was VP, projects at Indian Hotels Corporation Ltd. Quiz him about the attributes that might have compelled the jurists to pick him over other contenders and he thinks it must have been his overall contribution to the hotel industry of over two decades, apart from the boundless energy he brings to every project. And as a veteran, his only advice to hospitality professionals who will be vying for these coveted awards is to be passionate about what they do in this industry and share all the learning and experiences. Ultimately, this will reflect in their nomination forms.


Sanjana Bhandari

When Sanjana Bhandari won Hotelier India’s ‘The Spa and Fitness Person for 2014’, she was the spa manager with Radisson Blu, New Delhi. Though she has since moved on to managing the health club and spa at Eros Hotel, New Delhi, she believes the acknowledgment has made her more focused on providing better guest experiences, irrespective of the property. It has given her a motivation to do ‘heart-work’, rather than just hard work. Her only advice to her colleagues is never to rest on their laurels, but to ensure that they exceed guest expectations. One should come to work daily with the same enthusiasm and energy to make a difference. Think out of the box, give strong attention to detail, and most importantly, compete with oneself each day to bring out best in you.


Darshana Sawale

Whilst she was with Westin Pune Koregaon Park, Darshana Sawale bagged Hotelier India’s ‘Best Spa and Fitness Person’ for 2014 under the ‘Luxury to Upper Upscale’ category. Later, when she joined Conrad Pune as part of the pre-opening team, people recognised her by dint of this honour. That was hardly surprising as the award was prominently featured on Westin Pune Koregaon Park’s website and social media handles. This also helped Sawale connect with lots of people from different walks of life. While at Westin Pune Koregaon, she said that she instrumental in increasing the property’s spa revenue by 25% in 2014 as compared to 2013 with the support of the strategic marketing activities initiated by her team. Similar initiatives undertaken at Conrad Pune, which is Hilton’s first luxury hotel in India, saw it being awarded as the Best New Hotel Spa in India for 2016 by Asia Spa. Sawale feels that she was partially able to pull this feat off after winning of Hotelier India award, as she is now more motivated and her self-confidence has seen a tremendous spike.


Neha Chhabra

Neha Chhabra, director of operations, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar had two brushes with the Hotelier India awards – firstly, when she was adjudged first runner-up in the ‘F&B Manager of the Year’ category in 2013 whilst working with The Oberoi New Delhi; and again in the same category in 2015 when she was with Trident Bandra-Kurla Mumbai and won the award. Being a part of this august list of winners has given her the confidence to keep excelling and innovating in her field, especially as F&B is stereotypically looked at as a man’s job. Heading this department as a woman and winning this award was in fact a message for all aspiring hoteliers that no position can be typecast. She averred that the Hotelier India awards is a great platform for recognition in the hospitality field and by winning this award one can be sure that one has competed with the industry’s best talent.


Rajiv Sas

Rajiv Sas considers himself fortunate, because he has bagged two Hotelier India awards for the same category, ‘Front Office Manager of the Year (Upscale to Mid-Market), for two consecutive awards –2015 and 2016. He believes this is an acknowledgment not only of his hard work, but also an appreciation for ITC Hotels from the entire industry. He also feels that this award has been his lucky charm, as post-2015, he went on to receive many other felicitations and has been part of various industry events as a jurist. He advises all professionals to use the Hotelier India platform to showcase their talent. And irrespective whether they win or lose, by participating in it. They can make the key people in the industry aware about their identity.


Sanhita Ghoshal

When Sanhita Ghoshal won the Hotelier India Award for ‘Marketing and PR Person of the Year’ in 2015, she was the marketing and communications manager at Hilton Chennai. Not only did it inspire her to consistently deliver better with each passing day; it also helped her push the envelope when it came to innovating in her field. She used the recognition that came with it to network with some of the most proficient industry professionals in the marketing and communications space. Personally, the Hotelier India award has been her yardstick of excellence and hence, earning one enveloped her with a sense of victory that she could barely express in words. According to her, cracking this award meant a big deal, primarily due to the tough, yet transparent, review assessment of nominations. Winning one, or even being nominated, is a clear indication of competing with the best in the industry.


Abdul Kareem

Winning the Hotelier India award for ‘Procurement Person of the year’ in the luxury and upper upscale category in 2016 was a matter of great pride for Abdul Kareem. In his opinion, every hotelier believes that these awards signify the best of Indian hospitality and winning it shows a hospitality professional’s immense potential and calibre. And he should know; he received plenty of admiration from his associates and fellow mates after bagging this plaque. What was really significant for him is that his achievements were appreciated by the jurists, who comprised industry veterans.


Hitesh Sangwan

The winner of up the Runner Up award for Hotelier India’s ‘F&B Manager of the Year, Luxury to Upper upscale category’ in 2016, Hitesh Sangwan emphatically stated that these awards are one of the most reputed hospitality awards in the country and to be among the top few is no mean feat. While winning the coveted trophy certainly gives one a sense of achievement, to him it brought encouragement, a continuous willingness to surpass various benchmarks and the will to strive to be nothing but the best. Of course, people also started having higher expectations from him, which only increased the level of responsibilities he had to undertake. However, he was undaunted as the bar of expectations was raised, and he instead started working towards fulfilling it. His advice to aspiring contenders for Hotelier India awards – mention achievements carefully in the nomination form, as simple things tend to hold great value, especially in this age of digital media. He insists they highlight efforts undertaken by them to acquire new customers, or initiatives to ensure repeat guest in F&B venues.


Sharad Dixit

Sharad Dixit was thrilled to bits when he was adjudged the first runner up for Hotelier India’s ‘Housekeeper of the Year’ in 2016 in the Luxury to Upper Upscale segment. Besides making a big impact on his professional career, winning this award gave him the confidence to innovate in his field. Suddenly, he found that strategies proposed by him were received with greater interest, which underscored the importance the the entire industry places on this award. Of course, he could not even express the delight of his family felt on seeing him receive this national award. In his opinion, hospitality professionals should strive for excellence at all times, whilst also penning down their achievements since it acts like an inspiration in the future. He counsels contenders of Hotelier India awards to ensure that they document all their efforts to improve service so that the jurists can understand the value they bring to their organisations.


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