Focusing on luxury hotels and resorts, Mr Rajesh Namby has an opulent experience traversing over two decades, during which he was allied with celebrated hotel chains like The Leela, Hyatt, Hilton and Taj Group. His previous assignment was as general manager of The Leela Palace, Udaipur, and preceding to that he was the resident manager of The Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri.
During his 17 years with the Leela Group, Namby was a vital part of their gastronomic operations and performed an active role in altering their food and beverage offering by presenting new ethics of service and initiating new levels of dining experiences. At The Leela Palace, New Delhi, he steered the launch of one of the most complete gastronomic assortments in the city to much acclaim and success.
Under his leadership, The Leela Palace, Udaipur saw new expansions and successively won numerous accolades, including being the number one hotel in the country on TripAdvisor, and the prestigious title of the ‘World’s Best Hotel’ and ‘Asia’s Best Resort’ by Travel Leisure in 2019. He has also been recognised as the ‘Game Changer in the F and B Trends in the Country’ by Food and Nightlife Magazine.
LLM contributor Rupali Dean sat down with Namby to discuss his role at The Lodhi hotel, how he would spend the perfect day in Delhi and any advice he would give to aspiring hoteliers.
When did you first become general manager and where?
At The Leela Palace, Udaipur in 2015.
What makes The Lodhi hotel stand out?
An urban oasis centrally located in New Delhi, The Lodhi – a member of The Leading Hotels of The World, offers some of the largest rooms and suites in the city with most classes including their own self-contained plunge pools and spread-out balconies. The hotel’s dining scene is considered amongst the finest in the capital, offering eclectic options ranging from local specialities to international delicacies.
The Lodhi’s limited Athletic Club comprises a hi-tech gym, 50-meter lap pool, three tennis courts and two squash courts with individual fitness trainers accessible for assistance. Additionally, the property houses a world-class spa and a stylist curated salon, and the hotel’s dedicated Les Clefs D’Or Concierges can create tailored experiences in and around Delhi.
Who is your typical customer?
High achievers of the society and established individuals seeking uniqueness and personalisation. Experienced, discerning travellers who are accustomed to luxury and place a high premium on privacy and time.
How would you plan a one-day itinerary for guests looking to explore Delhi?
Start the morning with a trip to Old Delhi, the true heart of the city, and enjoy a drive past the magnificent Red Fort. Then take a tour around Lutyen’s Delhi where you can see the President’s Palace, India Gate and other historical landmarks of the capital. Next, visit one of the finest masterpieces of Mughal architecture – Humayun’s Tomb, which is situated just five minutes away from The Lodhi.
After this you can stop by for lunch at MKT, The Chanakya, which takes you on a trail of flavours from around the world with 17 international cuisines. Post that you could visit the Qutub Minar if you have time on your hands, then come back to the hotel and end the day with dinner at Perbacco.
What challenges have you faced in the pandemic and how did you overcome them?
Hospitality was one of the first industries affected by the pandemic as travel was forced to a virtual halt early last year. The industry experienced the most distressing year in 2020 and suffered massive losses during the protracted lockdown that was imposed to control the first wave of Covid-19. Since October 2020, the fraught hospitality sector found some stability after bearing the impact of this unanticipated crisis. It was on-the-mend and recovering slowly when the second wave of the pandemic dealt another heavy blow to the industry.
As a result of the pandemic, the behaviours and preferences of consumers have changed drastically, and so has the way they travel. Hotels have had to reengineer their sanitization standards to adapt to the new demands in order to restore traveller confidence.
At The Lodhi, New Delhi, the well-being of our guests has always been always paramount for us. In keeping with this commitment, we introduced the ‘Stay Safe Assurance’ program last year with enhanced safety measures across all areas of the hotel. We have been extremely cautious during these unprecedented times and working closely with experts internationally and locally, not only to find ways to elevate our hygiene and sanitization protocols, but also retain The Lodhi experience for our patrons.
How do you choose your team?
It’s more significant to employ people with the precise qualities than with explicit experience. Each individual has his or her own skills that effect the aptitude of a team. You need the right mix of talent, skills and personality to maximize the effectiveness and performance.
What advice would you give to aspiring hoteliers?
Hospitality is about being passionate about people and engaging them with genuinely caring service. So, it’s vital to have that passion in you and keep it burning always.
What is the USP of the gastronomic offering at your hotel?
Our renowned dining scene offers eclectic options ranging from local specialities to international delicacies. Élan presents an array of cuisines from around the world with an emphasis on the best of regional Indian, European and South East Asian food. Perbacco offers an inventive approach to contemporary Italian dining infused with traditional flavours curated by Michelin Star chef Adriano Baldassarre. The Safari Lounge offers new-age mixology in a unique setting that is perfect for camaraderie.
What is that one dish that brings The Lodhi repeat customers and why?
Steamed sea bass with soy and ginger – one of our signature Oriental offerings at Elan. The recipe uses a whole fish and we only use the fresh catch of the day. The seasoning doesn’t overpower the delicate flavour of the fish and the melt-in-your-mouth texture shines through.
How do you think travel trends will change?
The uncertainty associated with this pandemic has led to apprehensions amongst travellers and caused a dynamic shift in their expectations and behaviours. They have become hyper-conscious and vigilant around safety and hygiene – and these factors have become the key decision-making parameters for choosing an accommodation.
Which Indian cities are your favourite for food, history and fashion?
Delhi for food, Rajasthan for history, Mumbai for fashion.
What are the hotel’s updated measures for Covid-19 protocol?
As part of our ‘Stay Safe Assurance’ program, we have carefully revisited every guest touch point and elevated the safety protocols across each area. All our team members wear prescribed personal protective equipment. Each room goes through stringent deep cleaning with particular attention paid to high-touch items. After cleaning, a safety seal is placed outside the room door to indicate that the room has not been accessed since it was sanitised.
Our hotel cars are thoroughly disinfected before and after each journey, and each car is equipped with kits containing sanitisers, masks, gloves and disinfecting wipes. We take temperature checks of everyone entering the hotel premises and there are shoe sanitisers available for guests upon arrival at the property. Guests are offered an immunity booster welcome drink upon check-in. Items such as room keys and pens are sanitised using UV technology.
All restaurants and bars are rigorously cleaned and disinfected before opening and between each meal period, and tables and chairs are sanitised after every use. Seating has been reconfigured as per the norms and we have introduced digital QR code-based menus in all outlets.
We have also introduced enhanced measures at our Athletic Club in collaboration with renowned fitness expert Sumaya Dalmia, who creates personalised fitness routines for guests at the hotel.