What Indian hoteliers are made of
Quietly but successfully, Rajeev Menon has become the most-influential Indian in global hoteliering
I am not sure how many people realised this but when Marriott took over Starwood a few months ago, something historic happened to the Indian hotel industry. For the first time ever, a foreign hotel chain became India’s largest operator of hotels with 84 hotels and over 18,000 rooms.
But Rajeev Menon is a huge player in the global hotel world. He looks after all of Marriott-Starwood’s hotels in Asia-Pacific (including Australia but excluding China). That means that his portfolio includes 280 hotels across 20 countries, more than double the size of the Taj group and far, far bigger than any other Indian hotel chain. In the luxury segment alone (defined as JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, W, Bvlgari, Edition, Luxury Collection, St. Regis and Ritz Carlton Reserve), Menon’s APEC portfolio includes a staggering 68 hotels.
The strike went on for weeks and though he was bunkered down in the hotel, working non-stop from breakfast to late in the night, Menon says that the experience of working in the Sea Rock during the siege was probably the most formative moment of his career in India. It sharpened his skills, taught him how to cope with pressure and made him understand what it took to actually run a hotel.
In Australia (as in the West), hotels are run with small service teams (the opposite of India) and rely on casual staff when more servers are needed. This means that managers are required to do much more themselves and have fewer people to depend on.
By the time he was given charge of the APEC (Asia Pacific excluding China) region in 2015, Menon was that rarity in the global hotel business, a hugely successful Indian executive who had come up via the hotel operations route. (Finance is the usual route to success for Indians in hospitality abroad) Moreover, much of his experience had been earned in the Indian market. That alone says something about Indian hoteliers and how they are finally beginning to be respected around the world.