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Suite Talk: Raj Rana, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

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Raj Rana, CEO of South Asia at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group Asia Pacific, discusses what it means to be a good leader in Asia, and how the hotel grooms its own leaders to be more efficient.

How did you get to where you are today? How were the early years of your hotel career?

I started my hotel career in India in 1984. My professional journey has given me opportunities to work in developed and mature markets such as the US and Canada as well as in emerging markets such as Russia and Latin America.

You have been with Carlson Rezidor for almost 25 years now. What keeps you motivated to be part of this company?

What keeps me motivated is the abundant opportunities that Carlson provides, be it for its investors or employees. It is a company that lives its values defined in the Carlson credo, which include integrity, empowerment, customer focus, courage and perseverance.

I also enjoy being part of Carlson’s tremendous growth story. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has more than 1,370 hotels in operation and under development with a footprint spanning 110 countries and territories, and a 85,000-strong workforce.

We are very proud to be the number one international hospitality operator in India, with over 117 Carlson Rezidor hotels in operation and under development across 45 cities, including 14 state capitals.

You’ve had a rich career in this industry. What is the one value you have held close throughout?

Hospitality is not about bricks and mortar, it is a people business. Genuinely caring for guests, hotel owners and employees is a value I cherish closely.

I am also committed to Carlson Rezidor’s “Yes I Can!” service philosophy and our commitment to the “100% satisfaction guarantee”.

Hospitality is not about bricks and mortar, it is a people business.

How would you define your management style?

I am collaborative in my approach and like to give people their space, trusting them to make good decisions.

I do not like to shy away from seeking or seizing an opportunity, but prefer taking balanced risks.
Any decision I take has to pass through the filter of uncompromised ethics.

What would you say is the key difference between the Asian style of leadership, and how does that benefit us?

Relationships are important all over the world, but they have greater prominence in Asia where the ability to earn trust is so much more critical than ink on paper agreements.

Patience and perseverance are key attributes for long-term success in Asia, as is respecting the cultural diversity and socio-business norms.

Have you had a mentor in your career? What is the top advice he/she gave you?

I have been fortunate to benefit from many good leaders. From my upbringing days, some early lessons were from my father who was a great mentor.

His lesson was simple – that education is a great foundation for hard work to build on.

Relationships are important all over the world, but they have greater prominence in Asia where the ability to earn trust is so much more critical than ink on paper agreements.

What is your view of the human resources function, and how far it has progressed in South Asia?

With various industry reports anticipating a dearth of skilled manpower in the hospitality industry, the function of human resources has become ever so more important.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel group is committed to not only building a pipeline of its hotels, but also a robust talent pipeline to service our hotels.

We have a solid employee value proposition to attract the right talent, including our management training programme through which we have groomed 120 future leaders in the past few years.

Promotion from within and giving employees opportunities to fulfil their career aspirations is core to our approach.

In your organisation, what can HR do better to contribute to the business?

Human resources plays an integral role by keeping human talent engaged in a productive manner.

The function of human resources today is not to be just a service provider, but to be a business partner that influences optimisation of profit margins by ensuring a business has the “right fit” for employees and ideal manning ratios.

What is your secret to de-stressing? What do you enjoy in your free time?

I always start my day with 30 minutes of meditation, which helps me remain calm throughout the day.

I follow that with a good workout to boost my energy level. In my free time I love to spend time with my family.

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