We have many common friends and she was introduced to me by one of them. She was also invited to be a part of the IWH, which is now an incredible platform that all of us are proud of; where we have reached and all the possibilities that lie in front of us. I discovered that we share many things quite similar and our professional journeys have similar nuances too. She has had a great career in the hospitality industry; presenting the inspirational story of Ms. Keerti Nambiar. She is an alumna of the reputed Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD 1999-2001)and has over 18 years of extensive experience in the hospitality sector. She has worked in operations with Oberoi Hotels in Kolkata and Mumbai and later with the Taj Hotels (Luxury Division) in the Learning & Development function at Mumbai, Hyderabad & New Delhi. Her last assignment was with The Leela Mumbai as the Training Manager. She is also a post graduate in HRM from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and her core competencies include Training & Development, HRM, Employee Engagement, Business Excellence, Coaching and Recruitment. She can be described as a strategic Leader who has shaped high-performing cultures with robust development frameworks; indelible reputation for delivering best-in-class trainings with a focus on building a strong corporate culture for organizational development.
Her upbringing in a defence background has instilled in her values of discipline, professionalism and a strong moral character. She is married to a banker with Reserve Bank of India; in whom she finds her best critic and well-wisher. They are blessed with two daughters, Shamita and Kimaya . She is a feminist who is a strong believer in ‘Karma’, the work life balance and is a wildlife enthusiast as well as a baking aficionado.
Currently on a career rejuvenation; she wishes to become an academician and contribute to the fraternity as well as the budding hospitality professionals. Having had an illustrious career working with some of the best hospitality brands in the country; makes her a great resource.
The Early Life
Keerti Nambiar was born into a family with a Defence background; her father and his brother were Infantry Officers and so was their father before them. The early upbringing hence, was extremely regimented and disciplined. She strongly believes that it helped to instill the values of discipline, professionalism and a strong moral character in her early formative years.
By the time she and her brother were 10 (they are fraternal twins), they had already moved 4 cities and roughly the same number of schools. So, change, she learned early on was her constant companion whereas flexibility and adaptability were her best friends. Her mother was always very particular about their academic pursuits and kept a strong vigil on her children’s grades at school. As for extra curricular interests, she was almost always spoilt for choice. Living in Army cantonments across the country exposed her to limitless indulgence when it came to sports, libraries, clubs and olympic sized swimming pools! All these and more contributed to a well-rounded development of character and physical stamina to take on challenges ahead of her.
Ironically, Hospitality as a career featured nowhere in her aspirational list in high school. Being an above average student all through, she felt reasonably confident to crack the Armed Forces Medical College exam. But, fate obviously had other plans for her, as she failed to secure a good rank not once but twice! It then dawned upon her that she had no back up plan if this didn’t work. Her mother was keen to see that she pursued a professional course and one of the options available to her was a Diploma in Hospitality. After a brief research and counseling with a few industry insiders, she went along with her gut and decided to take the plunge. After 2 decades ; she now proudly says that it was one of the soundest decisions of her life. She had stumbled upon her new reckoning for life as a Hotelier!
We had a few questions for Ms. Nambiar and she graciously answered them. IWH in conversation with her.
IWH: How has your hospitality journey been so far? Pros, cons etc?
Keerti Nambiar: In the past 2 decades, I have had the good fortune of being associated with India’s top 3 indigenous hospitality chains namely, Oberoi, Taj and Leela. Each has its own unique take on the Indian service dharma – ‘Athithi Devo Bhave’ or Guest is God. Their approach may differ but they all have one common goal- guest delight. Exploring and understanding this fine nuance has made this journey albeit, an interesting one.
There is a flip side to this too- a thin line between standardization and customization.And more often than not, there is overlap with disastrous outcomes. It’s fashionable these days for Hotel companies go to great extremes and deploy expensive resources to analyze trends and capture guest data. The entire service philosophy shifts from being guest centric to data-centric and loops into a vicious repetitive cycle.
Another aspect worth mentioning here is the ‘Inertia to Change’. The past decade has seen stupendous growth in room capacity in all major markets to the extent of saturation. Simply put, more people are hungry for the pie and the pieces are getting smaller now! Change in strategy of doing business is painfully slow but the guests and travellers are moving ahead in their expectations and definitions of ‘Luxury’. Unless hotel companies learn to react fast, they will fall way behind the new breed of young, agile and daring start-ups and consolidators.
IWH: Who has been your mentor or a role model? In what way has that person helped you?
Keerti Nambiar: There have been countless generous souls who have contributed in making me what I am today. I feel a deep and enduring sense of gratitude to those who have given me opportunities and support. But, if asked to single out one then, that would be Mr. Veer Vijay Singh. An exceptional hotelier (Ex-Taj)an industry stalwart, a compassionate human being and visionary is how I would describe him. One management lesson of his that I swear by is – ‘take care of your people and they will take care of your guests’. With his work and words he has touched many lives and continues to do so till date.
IWH: What have been the high points of your career? Highlight at least 3.
And of course… every moment in time is a high point when you have positively influenced or touched the life of a person who has reached out to you.
IWH: What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry? How did you deal with them?
Keerti Nambiar: Women@work like myself are posed with many ambitious challenges day-in and day-out of their lives: to create the lives we want, to be leaders in our work, to be partners in our homes and to be champions of other women. Learning to deal with them have come through experiences of trials and error over the years. My key takeaways have been;
IWH: If there was anything that you could change about your life or career what would that be?
Keerti Nambiar: If I could change one thing, that would be my mobility factor. Once you have a family you become rooted down to a place with responsibilities and develop ‘homing’ tendencies. For most women this happens when she is usually at the peak of her career. If you are not mobile, one inadvertently misses out on career growth opportunities offered by the company. I wish I had the conviction and risk appetite to see beyond and take the plunge, throwing caution to the wind!
IWH: What do you think of IWH?
Keerti Nambiar: I see it as one of its kind; a fantastic initiative to connect and grow as a fraternity. An all women interactive platform to share industry experiences and learn from each other along the way. The younger budding hoteliers who seek inspiration and motivation to break traditional ceilings at work will never be disappointed here. Happy learning and sharing!
IWH: Your advice to the young professionals and students.
While doing all the above STAY Humble and grounded.
IWH: Anything else you wish to share with our readers?
Keerti Nambiar: Stay inquisitive to new experiences and learning’s, share without inhibitions, compliment successes without restraint and grow as a force to reckon with.