"My biggest achievement so far was to turn my previous hotel into one of the best luxury resorts... I worked with the team first by scouting for what options we have available in and around the hotel... A year later, we were listed as #11 best hotels in the world."
Binny Sebastian, the General Manager of Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari, is set to change the scene of the luxury resorts in Nepal. Like his previous hotel, he has worked his magic on Maghauli Serai too, and enabled this hotel to grab many awards and accolades. We talk candidly with Binny from his mantra of success to personal anecdotes.
What inspires you to work so hard?
There are many things that inspire me. Anytime I see or read about innovation or different ways of doing things which can uplift customer experience, it gets me excited and inspires me to give my best shot to introduce something new. Inspiration is important. I want to become one of the best in my field, and such goals inspire me to try hard, leave my comfort zone often, and make sacrifices.
What sets your hotel apart?
Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari, is one of the finest jungle lodges in the world and, in fact, an award winning Leading Wildlife Lodge in Asia and a Leading River Front Resort. We have world class accommodations with 29 keys out of which we have 16 Rapti pool villas, 1 presidential suite called Rapti Mahal, and 12 Meghauli rooms. What sets us apart is our team who delivers an impeccable service. We have one of the best naturalist teams in Nepal, expert birding guides who make sure our guests get holistic and interpretative wildlife experience. There is plenty to do when you are at Meghauli Serai. You can go for jeep drive, boat safari, jungle walk, nature walk, experience the local village, and mingle with the local community. Our culinary experience is the best I would say. Our team has curated a menu based on local and seasonal produce and also has multiple alfresco dining options which can be experienced either when you are travelling as a couple or as a group.
What are the challenges you face at work and how do you handle them?
Tolerance for poor customer service is rapidly shrinking in the travel industry. Within the hotel sector, one bad experience is enough to turn off customers from using a particular brand or independently run hotel. One of the biggest challenges when it comes to luxury resorts is to maintain consistency and be innovative at the same time. My way of dealing with this is by making training an everyday priority and by providing personalized customer service at the highest level. Every hotel guest expects good customer service but today’s hoteliers must exceed expectations by being more than just good – they need to be excellent.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest achievement so far was to turn my previous hotel into one of the best luxury resorts. When I first joined, it was a beautiful hotel in a remote location with no reason for anyone to go and stay there. The only reason it had was the history behind the buildings and its location in a beautiful village almost 60 km away from the city. I worked with the team first by scouting for what options we have available in and around the hotel. Involving the local community was the key, and we started curating experiences and worked on service delivery which was not available anywhere in the region previously. A year later, we were listed as #11 best hotels in the world.
How do you keep yourself motivated? What do you say to yourself? Any motivational quote, line, motto, slogan or core belief?
I practice gratitude. It makes me feel connected with people around me. My usual quote is, “Always be happy but never satisfied”. One should never be content with themselves. They should always strive to be better than what they were yesterday.
If you had to choose any of the services or features of your hotel, what would you choose?
Memories are based on powerful experiences. There is a growing expectation now to always ‘experience’ something new. In the hotel industry, design trends, technology and personalization can all help to provide a meaningful experience and drive guest loyalty. I like to curate meaningful experiences for our guests and create a working environment where my team flourishes and learns new things. I like to challenge the team so that they can be at their best.
Who are your targeted customers?
Our targeted customers are people who are influential, well-travelled and well informed, like to visit unexplored and interesting places, love nature, and are attracted to see the natural habitat of the animals.
What is the best response you have got from any of your customers?
There are many ways our guests have expressed their gratitude for the hospitality they have received at Meghauli Serai. What stood out the most was “Warmth and love mixed into the experiences of the wild nature.” This is what we are and what the team delivers.
Do you have any grievances about this industry or about work in general?
I have learned so much from this industry and have been to places where one can only dream of, worked with multicultural teams in different countries and have been exposed to so many different cultures, cuisines etc. I don’t see a room for grievances in my case.
What is your dream?
My dream is not just to make people happy around me. My dream is to give back what I have learned and gained knowledge from all these years of working. My dream is to inspire and to encourage people that you should never shy away from facing challenges which may come on your way to success.
How do you unwind after a busy day of work?
To unwind after a busy day of work spells ‘luxury’ for a hotelier. I do find time to listen to nice music as I like listening to music and spend time talking to my wife and kids.
What are your interests and hobbies? Do you believe in maintaining a work-life balance?
I like to blog when I have spare time and like to share my day on social media. I believe a good work-life balance is not only limited to giving importance to work and family. It’s also about giving importance to the things that one loves doing on a personal level.
What is the recipe for success according to you?
For me, integrity, discipline and staying positive are the recipe for success.
What makes your day?
If I can put a smile on someone's face that makes my day.
What is the toughest decision you have had to make in your career?
The toughest decision I had to make was to leave my full time job and chase my dream to get an MBA. It was not easy as it was not about just leaving a job with no certainty of finding another job. It was also to leave the comfort of being home with my wife and kid to join a full time course.
Any advice you want to share with our readers?
Changes and challenges in life are inevitable. Embrace them.
What is the downside of being the leader of such a large company?
Leaders tend to be lonely, isolated and cut off from support. While they give their team support and inspiration, they cannot turn to anyone else at work. A leader is responsible for everything that goes on at the hotel. There is no excuse for even a single mistake. That definitely puts a lot of pressure on me.