I met her at one of the inter collegiate events; Elements of the ITM Institute of Hotel Management where both of us were the faculty participants in the students dance competition. Not that I wanted to dance; I am more of a person with two left feet but the rule for the competition was to have at least one faculty member. We connected instantly like a house on fire! It was fun; our respective groups did well and both our colleges came home with overall trophies. She is well spoken, graceful, glamarous and very creative person. IWH is privileged to bring to you the inspiring journey of the multifaceted lady Ms. Soniya Gore, Head of Sales & Marketing at India’s Leading Uniform Designing and Manufacturing Company – Uniforms Unlimited.
IWH: Tell us something about you, your growing up years, life through school, college etc.
SG: I had always been the quiet girl next door safely cocooned in the world created by my Maharashtrian Brahmin parents, growing in the peaceful, middle class neighborhood of Chembur. My parents gave us an equal measure of freedom along with life morals and values, which were never restrictive, unlike other Brahmin families. They taught us to enjoy freedom bearing the responsibilities that it entailed. We always had a voice and an opinion on all matters, irrespective of our age and were constantly encouraged to discuss and debate. We made our own decisions right or wrong and learnt to cope organically with the consequences of wrong decisions made. My biggest influence in my life has been my mother, who exactly knew how much to push her daughter to bring out her true potential. I was a good orater and apart from scoring good grades in school and colleges, I also used to write a lot of essays and poems in English and Marathi.
I would spend all my free time either writing, reading, painting or cooking with my mother. At a very tender age I had finished reading and discussing some top Marathi laureates work with my mother, which enabled me to embrace life as it came and prepared me to accept the best and the worst with equal grace. I also played basketball through YMCA during my school days, for a brief period though.
My school the General Education Academy and the wonderful set of teachers ensured a grounded knowledge sharing platform and shaped our personalities. I am proud to say that though we studied in a SSC board back then, all our batch mates are truly well settled and achievers in their own field. Vivekanand College inculcated a lot of discipline and brought out my flair for Theatricsalong with content driven academic structure. DY Patil College of Hotel Management is my Alma Matter and I truly bloomed over there, bringing all my hidden skill sets and potential out. I made some lifelong friends over here, and got trained to the core to handle all departments of the hospitality industry with everlasting smile and grace.
IWH: What made you select Hospitality as a career? Was it easy making that decision?
SG: I was an amazing cook right from my school days and had learnt a lot of traditional Maharashtrian and Mangalorean cuisine from both my set of parents. This led me to believe that I would want to be a Chef and hence despite having the dream to pursue Chartered Accountancy, I veered towards hotel management as the career choice. This too was a consciously made decision as my family though open and broad minded had their own fears about me getting accepted in the marriage market for the choice of career orientation chosen. Back then hospitality did not receive so much acceptance and respect, the way it receives today. Also they feared their little daughter may transform way beyond their imagination after the exposure that I was about to receive. They were fine with the transformation but wanted me to remain grounded and connected with them. So finally we chose DY Patil for me to embark on the course. My mother went to the extent of setting me up with her Saraswat and CKP friends, to allow me to practice meat and fish cookery in their houses, as we were a strict vegetarian Brahmin family. But she did not want the religion and food choices that came with it, to become a hindrance in my practice and growth in a profession that we had chosen.
IWH: What is your current role?
SG: Presently I am heading the Sales & Marketing department of India’s Leading Uniform Designing and Manufacturing Company – Uniforms Unlimited. I am involved into a broad spectrum of work over here which encompasses Pan India Sales, Marketing – from Digital Marketing to Magazine Ads to Hospitality events, Handling PR to leading the local Mumbai Sales team to drive the business targets set along with ensuring the right product quality delivered and best of services rendered.
Owing to my long teaching and training background, a most important part of my profile includes conducting Gap analysis, Counseling and bringing in solutions along with the management support for day to day work challenges and setting up strong SOP’s, to make work output more effective and making the work force more efficient.
Drawing up training plans and training manuals, conducting Induction and trainings across all verticals, including mentoring new joinees. This means I am a crucial link between the management and the staff to facilitate positive upward and downward communication at all times.
IWH: How has your hospitality journey been so far? Pros, cons etc?
SG: My hospitality Journey has been extremely rich in exposure and rewarding. I have been a part of Sales since the past 21 years and this has led to a 360 degree transformation in my personality and thought process. CRM is now in my DNA 24X7. A sales person is a tough nut to crack, and I am proud to add I am one of them. It taught me to be patient at all times, negotiate with strong analytical and reasoning skills keeping in mind the clients requirements and preferences, never give up come what may and be goal oriented. My journey began in the year 1998 and I went with the flow collecting a lot of wisdom from my work experiences from Fast food, restaurants, Hotels, Resorts, Caterers, teaching in Catering and tourism colleges, working in Adventure and leisure tourism, becoming an entrepreneur by starting my home based travel consultancy and now working at a respectable position in a Leading Uniform Design and manufacturing company.
My career has been a roller coaster ride and I had a penchant for creating opportunities for myself when I was denied any. As a lady you are constantly required to prove your strength in any organization, especially if you have male colleagues with a regressive mind set who can rarely stand an ambitious and overzealous female boss. Proving myself after each medical sabbatical and pregnancy by constantly breaking mind sets of people who show complete distrust in skill sets acquired through years of hard work has been one of life’s toughest lesson. On the other hand, there have been times when a lot of progressive male colleagues and bosses have shown immense trust and faith in my work and have helped me in my growth. But all in all it has been a good journey peppered with meeting many people from diverse background and cultures either as bosses, colleagues, clients and have now become good friends for life.
IWH: Who has been your mentor or a role model? In what way has that person helped you?
SG: My earliest mentors have been my parents. My mother was a living legend, who battled paraplegia for 25 years of her life, being handicapped and then a bed ridden patient till she died. I saw her more in sickness than fitness and her tremendous willpower to live for the sake of her children with a cheerful smile, is what shaped my thought process more than anything else. Apart from inheriting intelligence and a witty sense of humour from her, I learnt precious life skills and coping mechanisms more from her than any textbook could have ever taught me. All these years that I was in a caregivers role alongwith my father and brother to her, filled me with compassion, care, love, empathy and gratitude.Owing to his army background, my dad was a true disciplinarian with a tender heart and he imbibed a lot of integrity, honesty, punctuality, patience and family values in is. Resilience was a quality that was deeply instilled in us by both our parents as they had faced immense hardships in their childhood days.
While I was training diligently to be a chef, my HMCT professor, Mr. Shauvik Gupta was the first to recognize my flair for speaking with elan and suggested I take up sales as my profession instead. Ditto with my brother Mr. Aditya Gore who too pointed out that my personality traits fitted that of a good Sales person and should pursue it ambitiously. He also shaped my work knowledge to an extent when I decided to join the travel field of which he was already one of the top players. My husband Mr. Sanket Gore has been a silent supporter being there forever to support me in realizing my dreams. A true sounding board too, pointing out the pro and cons in a third person view point, enabling me to make clear judgments, in times of self-doubt.
In my current role, my MD, Mr. Zubin Mehta has been extremely instrumental in bringing me upto this level in life. He constantly pushed me to do my best through a holistic approach towards the work process in an industry that was alien to me. He continuously fed me with a perfect mix of precise knowledge, tough experiences, workexposure across all verticals, opportunities and responsibilities to grow organically to become a better version of myself. Today I have immense faith and confidence in my body of work related to a field that I just stepped in, barely 3 years ago.
IWH: What have been the high points of your career? Highlight at least.
IWH: What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry? How did you deal with them?
SG: Women in hospitality were considered as soft targets by a few male colleagues and clients alike. Not any more I guess. But my training and firm grounding in this industry helped me handle these moments tactfully and without much damage. But one needs to be careful , as the very nature of the job can create wrong impressions. Unequal distribution of job roles and pay disparity have been disturbing especially when you know, that you are better qualified and are able to deliver better than your counterparts.
Limitation on gaining higher positions and pay, with the unnecessary fear/perception of a women’s career going kaput if she goes the family way, is a widely perceived threat. Embarrassing questions on family planning during interview sessions are really regressive and demeaning. Skilled and talented female employees always come back stronger and with added skill sets after their maternity break. Its about time, management as well as the HR wakes up to this reality.
I have dealt with all challenges head on, either facing them or moving away with a resolve to do better and climb higher. At times I have argued bitterly to get my point across and at times made peace by accepting and embracing the outcome to bring about a closure.
IWH: If there was anything that you could change about your life or career what would that be?
SG: My dream to be a full time entrepreneur remains distant as of now. I am too passionate about my current role and vision. I am completely driven to strive for excellence in this position.
With the qualitative work experience accumulated in my kitty, I would love to merge travel and hospitality to create unique and out of box experiences. Also at some point in time, I would like to get involved with an NGO that deals with orphaned kids or kids with special abilities.
IWH: What do you think of IWH?
SG: First of all a big salute to you for starting this wonderful forum. I wish we could have this a few years ago, as it would have helped us connect with all the inspiring women in hospitality. Mentoring via inspirational stories from talented women leaders on the IWH platforms is a must read. I look forward to read all the posts over here, as it fills me up with pride and pushes me to do better one day at a time. It’s a wonderful feeling, belonging over here and getting recognized through co sharing experiences in a similar industry.
IWH: Your advice to the young professionals and students.
SG: Hospitality industry is vast and diverse. Choose your field with utmost care and caution and based purely on passion first. If passion is fulfilled money will follow too. Be prepared to take U turns, sabbaticals, undoing wrong choices etc. Be resilient enough to come back strongly and shine through.
Work is unending and thankless at times, but will be truly rewarding in one way or the other. Find out one good solid reason to stick around and ensure you follow through. Take time off for appropriate training and upgrading skills , as it is necessary to stay abreast at all times with the changing scenarios.
Last but not the least, strike a good work life balance and stay fit and healthy to enjoy the fruits of your Labour.
Anything else you wish to share with our readers?
SG: Read, read and read. Read books, blogs, magazines, articles, newspapers and anything and everything that you can lay your hands on. I have this OCD of reading even the small scrap of paper rolls, in which we get our peanuts wrapped at traffic signals. No iota of knowledge can be wasted, if you wish to develop good conversational skills. Reading up diverse topics daily is a must, to acquire good debating and presentation skills. Also being grounded, open minded and having an inclusive approach will make you connect instantly enabling you to be a peoples person, which is an amazing must have soft skill if you have to survive and thrive in this industry.
What an enchanting conversation we had! I am looking forward to seeing her in action at her abode Uniforms Unlimited and learn about the various aspects of her professional life too. She has given us a good glimpse of her beautiful journey that she has carved with utmost love, care and passion. We salute women like her who take things on their stride and emerge victorious – no matter what!