Ms. Ashrafi Matcheswala

Eligibility for Hotel Management / Hospitality Studies
April 18, 2019
Ms. Ujwala Sonawane
May 8, 2019

Ms. Ashrafi Matcheswala

I first saw her during my internship at the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai in the year 1995. In Fact it was the dressing room and I was wearing my uniform saree, struggling a bit with it and in the mirror I saw a lady in business suit looking really smart and I felt that awe for her. One- she looked so comfortable and two; she didn’t typically fit into the Taj mould that had saree clad lady staff members. We just smiled at each other, she was occupied in her thoughts; probably was making the day’s plan in her mind. I found out about her and learnt that she was the  Manager in the Food and Beverage department.  Many of us looked up to her as a role model. Met her again recently at the Taj Reunion; it was great to catch up after ages, filling in the gaps and learning about the updates. I also used the opportunity to request her if I could feature her story on this platform. Hers has been more than incredible. She has had a very rewarding and illustrious career with the Taj. It is my honour to share with the readers the inspiring story of Ms. Ashrafi Matcheswala, General Manager  at President – IHCL SeleQtions.

She embarked on her professional journey with the Taj Group of Hotels, starting her career as a Catering Assistant in 1981 at the flagship property the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. During this association with the Taj Group, she has held numerous key positions for over 35 years. She worked her way through the supervisory and managerial ranks, eventually heading the Food and Beverage department at the Taj President. She was a part of the 1991 pre- opening team for Taj Exotica Goa;  then she returned to the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower before taking her first Resident Manager position at the Taj Lands End in Mumbai.

She was promoted as the General Manager at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur in 2005. She created awareness and enhanced the  brand image of Lake Palace  in the international market as well as launched their holistic Ayurveda Jiva Grand Spa. At Taj Wellington Mews, Ms. Matcheswala oversaw the construction of the only helipad atop a residential building in Mumbai.

She has worked at Vivanta by Taj- President as Food and Beverage Manager,  Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur and Taj Wellington News Mumbai as General Manager, before moving to San Francisco to helm the Taj Campton Place.

Ms. Matcheswala has an MBA from Swiss Hotel Association’s Les Roches School of Hotel Management in Switzerland and has attended a Cornell University sponsored Hotel Management Program in Mumbai.

In her illustrious  career, Ms. Ashrafi Matcheswala has emerged as a goal oriented leader with excellent customer relations. She is loved for her qualities in supporting and inspiring her team to carry out their responsibilities with passion and flair. Her allegiance towards the Taj Group has made her an indispensable part of the Taj success story.

A true believer in fitness, she follows a strict regime of running and participating in marathons with an aim to outdo her own records. She is passionate about healthy work-life balance. An avid explorer, she likes to dine in new places and visit new destinations that help her connect with different cultures. She is also an ardent philatelist. Her favourite holiday destination is Maui, Hawaii and her favourite cuisine is Chinese. She says if she was a spice, she’d be ‘tamarind’ – familiar, yet unexpected!

The Early Life

Ashrafi is a Bombay girl. Her family comprises of her parents who have been a strong support for her. They always encouraged her to follow her heart and give her best in whatever she took up.  And she has done just that; in fact a lot more!

She did her schooling from the Alexandra Girls School, Mumbai and her Higher Secondary from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. As a child, she was fascinated by hotels.  Her cousin had completed the program from IHM Mumbai, and then joined the Taj Mahal Hotel; she decided to follow her footsteps and pursued Hotel Management from the prestigious Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, Mumbai. Taking it further she too embarked on her professional journey with the Taj.

Later in her career she got an opportunity to study at  Les Roches in Switzerland;  Her organization the  Taj Group sponsored her for the  Masters program in Hotel Management.

Awards/ Accolades/ Recognition

Accolades and Achievements as the General Manager, President, Mumbai.

Awards in 2018

  • Conde Nast Award for the 26th best restaurant in India – Thai Pavilion
  • Awarded the Hotels.com most loved hotel
  • SATA Awards for the best business hotel in Western India
  • Goibibo – Traveler’s choice award 2018
  • Best Thai Premium Dining restaurant – Thai Pavilion

Awards in 2017

  • Two  restaurants  won  an  award  each  from  Food  Food  Awards  Namely  –  Thai Pavilion for best Thai food in India and Konkan Café for the best coastal food in India.
  • President, Mumbai won the highest booked hotel on Expedia.
  • Awarded the Hotels.com certificate of excellence award.

Key Highlights in Taj Campton Place San Francisco

  • Achieved a Two- Michelin star for the Campton Place restaurant and retained the same for five years.
  • Revpar leaders amongst its primary competition set.

Key Highlights at Taj Wellington Mews

General Manager of the 80 room Luxury Service Apartments in June 2006.

  • Worked on a strategy of applying the real estate market rates and thus increased the
  • ARR from 225 USD to 450 USD in a period of 18 months.
  • Special  assignment:  Completed  the  Helipad,  which  is  the  only  Helipad  to  have  been given permission by Deputy General of Civil Aviation, India, to operate atop a Residential building.
  • Worked on a Public Relations strategy in order to sustain relationships of all the guests in order to build a sense of community amongst the Residents.
  • Worked  on  a  plan  to  refurbish  the  Taj  Spa  with  Good  Earth  as  the  consultants  to completely change the look and feel of the spa.
  • Revamped the retail products at the Delicatessen, thus increasing sale by 35%.

Key Highlights at Taj Lake Palace Udaipur

General Manager of the 83 room palace hotel in April 2005.

  • Increasing the awareness of Taj Lake Palace in the international market and helped in leveraging the Taj internationally.
  • Achieved an increase in the Average Room Rate of the hotel from US$ 265 to US$ 390 for the year 2005-2006.
  • Special  assignment-Launched  the  trendy  Jiva  Grand  Spa,  the  holistic   Ayurveda  and state-of-the-art branded Spa.
  • Creating high value for money even with a $700 upwards price tag during winters

Conceptualizing and creating the the following signature Restaurant of the Taj

  • The Zodiac Grill
  • The Nightclub of the Taj – Insomnia,
  • The lifestyle bar, Starboard,
  • Souk – an open interactive kitchen and restaurant, serving middle-eastern cuisine,
  • Masala Art, the trendy new Indian restaurant.

Strategic Management :

  • Applied  Revenue  Management  to  maximize  profits  in  Food  and  Beverage  operations,  and achieved the projected turnover of Rs 80 crores (Rs 800 million or 17.33 million USD)
  • Helped in reinforcing the Total Quality Management processes in the Food and Beverage Department, using the Tata Business Excellence.

Model guidelines and criteria.

  • Special assignment-Visited the finest restaurants in Europe to study the  latest trends in fine dining prior to the opening of the Taj Signature Restaurant  –  Zodiac  Grill.
  • Helped  in  creating  and  tracking  revenue  forecasts  and  review  of operations.

We had a few questions for Ms. Matcheswala which she graciously answered. A career spanning almost four decades encompasses so much knowledge and valuable experiences, we feel really privileged to have got some insights from her.

IWH: What have been the high points of your career?

Ms. Ashrafi Matcheswala: Various Key F&B Management roles at Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai , Taj Exotica, Goa and the Taj President, Mumbai.

IWH:  Who have been your mentors?

Ms. Matcheswala:  I count Mr. Farhat Jamal and Ms. Shirin Batliwala among my top mentors. Have learnt from many all along my professional journey.

IWH:  What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry?

Ms. Matcheswala:  None, IHCL lives by Tata values that is complete non tolerance towards any prejudice and non-discriminative and hence my loyalty for the last 36 years.

IWH:  What do you think of IWH?

Ms. Matcheswala:   IWH is an excellent platform for Indian women in the hospitality industry which is a common belief – “purpose with performance”

IWH:  Your advice to the young professionals and students.

Ms. Matcheswala:  Hospitality Industry involves passion and only if you are passionate and care for people you will be able to surpass initial challenges in the hospitality industry there after you would groom to become a leader.

IWH:  Anything else that you’d like to share.

Ms. Matcheswala:  It’s been almost four decades in the hospitality industry and IHCL, I have had the fortune to work at flag ships and across geographies. But there is one thing I have carried in my life and that is to be humble. Humility will get you to where ever you want and being compassionate to people is the key.

Ms. Ashrafi Matcheswala exudes the Taj hospitality- She has contributed so much to the Tajness that the world celebrates.

 

Laxmi Todiwan
Laxmi Todiwan
Founder Indian Women in Hospitality. She is a Professor, Corporate Trainer, Motivational Speaker and a Blogger. A hospitality professional with a career spanning over two decades; people engagement, training and development is close to her heart. She writes for hospitality journals, international websites and columns in the local newspapers. Married to a Master Mariner she loves to write on the maritime industry as well as the lives and relationships of the fraternity. She expresses her thoughts on her blog and website, www.theiwh.com

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