Thursday 30 January 2020

Ms. Matuli Madhusmita Swain - Marketing and Communications

We meet many people and there are some we connect instantly, all thanks to the charishma that they exude. One such person happens to be a lady I connected with on the IWH platform. I haven’t met her in person but from the interactions we have had I know she is an amazing young woman, promising hospitality professional and truly the Boss Lady! She has had an illustrious career doing some fantabulous work and winning accolades; read about her inspiring journey here. IWH in conversation with the dynamic Ms. Matuli Madhusmita Swain,  Head Marketing and Communications, Crowne Plaza, Jaipur Tonk Road (IHG).
IWH:  Tell us something about you, your growing up years, life through school, college etc.
Matuli:  I have had a very secure upbringing as a child. With parents as educationists and growing up in Bhubaneswar, Odisha in an academic campus – education was the main focus. As a child, I did not have much scope to explore my creative side, though I did find my passion for public speaking when I enrolled for and won my first debate competition.  I am extremely fortunate to have had the privilege of being good at academics and having the opportunity to pursue a strong academic career all through school and college. Dance and art are my therapies and in my MBA course, I decided to opt for marketing major
I have always loved business studies and am equally passionate about lifestyle, so it should be of no surprise that I graduated with a gold medal in Economics major and Sociology minor and landed in Hospitality! Talk of synergies here!
IWH:  What made you select Hospitality as a career? Was it easy making that decision?
Matuli:  I firmly believe that this industry chose me as her God-child. When my campus recruitments were happening, I got selected to be a part of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts on day one. I haven’t looked back since then, and it has been a winsome 12 years – of which 8 years have been in Hospitality and detours have led me to Advertising and Social Development sector. What made my decision easy was that I never second guessed myself when choosing this career – it was my first interview, I cleared it and something in my heart told me I’d do just fine. It’s been more than just okay so far – it’s been a good ride.

IWH:  What is your current role?
Matuli: I head Marketing and Communications for Crowne Plaza Jaipur Tonk Road (IHG). This is a lateral move for me, as compared to my previous role. I chose it as with Jaipur, I finally got a chance to get my hands-on marketing & communications experience across a pan India domain, as my earlier hospitality stint has taken me to Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Kovalam and Goa. Jaipur is a growing market, very seasonal in terms of business and immensely beautiful. It is an interesting marketing mix!

IWH:  How has your hospitality journey been so far? Pros, cons etc?
Matuli:  To sum it in one word – ENRICHING. I have had the privilege to work with industry icons and learn so much. The industry is dynamic and ever changing – so you are always on your toes. Hospitality teaches you patience and the ability to absorb stress, like no other.  This industry really consumes you, it indeed is a 24/7 – 365 years a day kind of career – you really cannot ever let it go. The flip side, I have never seen a festival with family and friends as invariably, all festive days, especially year end celebrations happen to be working days, spent at the hotel, cheering with other guests and your team.

IWH:  Who has been your mentor or a role model? In what way has that person helped you?
Matuli:  My mentor, Alexa Poortier, Founder – NOW Transforming Hospitality GmbH taught me how to be a Boss Babe at work – impeccable integrity and crafting memorable marketing campaigns along the way.
She taught me everything I could ever know as a fresher and I am really lucky to have been trained by her. From crafting a marketing plan to executing a full-fledged campaign, it was Alexa who was my rock; on which I laid my foundation training of hospitality marketing communications.
Apart from her, I deeply admire Vishvapreet Singh Cheema, Area General Manager North India, (IHG), as great industry leader to work with. His passion for work and faith in his team really inspire you to do better.

IWH:  What have been the high points of your career? Highlight at least 3.
Matuli:  a) Getting a PR lead from USA to materialize – and getting The Leela Goa, on the cover page of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine USA.
4.    b) Having The Pink Poppadom, modern Indian cuisine restaurant from the erstwhile Ista Bangalore hotel featured in the first ever edition of BBC Good Food India Magazine. We got a 4.5/5 rating after a mystery review and this was a PR lead that we managed to nail over other industry stalwarts.
5.    c) Launching the Hyatt Bangalore MG Road (now known as Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore) in 2013. Launching a hotel with a brand change under 6 months was a deeply challenging yet a fantastic pre-opening experience.
IWH:  What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry? How did you deal with them?
Matuli:  Challenges are plenty, though we learn to navigate them better, with experience and some fairy dust along the way!
1.    a) Being heard – As a women, we have to speak-up double, work treble and focus 4 times as much to be heard and seen. That is something that I look forward to changing even more in the years to come. The best way is take your numbers with you, always. Account for your time and projects and ask for extra help when you need it. Delegation is a possibility and I have learnt to embrace it.
2.    b) Career mapping and growth – This one needs honest introspection and careful scrutiny. Opportunities can be passed upon and sometimes, despite working your best, you can go completely unappreciated. Keep talking to your mentors – discuss and plan your career ahead.
3.    c) Network & Support – Networking with business acumen is not a natural forte for women. This is one area where I would like to work on myself more actively. I always advise juniors to have a core support team . It is important.
IWH:  If there was anything that you could change about your life or career what would that be?
Matuli:  I had planned or rather imagined that I would be heading/helming a global position and leading a team by now. That hasn’t happened – I am confident that it will. So yes, a more robust planned growth would have been something that I wish I had the opportunity to redo. I did let go of some good opportunities – which I wish I hadn’t. Having said that, I am looking forward to a great 2019, where I get to explore more bold, beautiful and smashing career moves.

IWH:  What do you think of IWH?
Matuli:  It is a wonderful initiative – long overdue and am so glad that Laxmi Todiwan decided to do it. Ideas are as good as their execution and the IWH is a great platform for Women in Hospitality to connect and share their stories, their struggles, their strength and their success. We all need this dose of inspiration to be the sunshine on days when you need some push to get through it all. I wish this wonderful platform much success and greater participation from everyone.  Let’s make the best and most of this idea!

IWH:  Your advice to the young professionals and students.
Matuli:  Experience is the best resume you will ever have. Be a dreamer for sure and surely be a doer.
IWH:  Anything else you wish to share with our readers?
Matuli:  A career isn’t an option for women anymore. A career is a necessity and I always wish every woman a successful career, irrespective she is self-employed or working for an organization. To all the women in hospitality, we need more women GMs, EXCOMS, HoDs, Directors and Global Leads. Let’s make that happen more often! Good luck and great spirits!
It was great connecting with Matuli and she was gracious enough to answer the many questions we had for her. IWH wishes to see more women like her in the industry and make it even more engaging and empowering; truly a career option for the millennials.

Ms. Veena Picardo - Create your superpower!

She has been one of the best pastry chefs I know and her baking skills are her superpower! We worked together for a couple of years and that’s when I got to know her on a personal level too. She is a  lady who puts her heart and soul in all she does always learning the latest in her profession and she is a Cordon Bleu Chef. She was stylish and knew a lot about personal grooming and fashion; saw many people seeking her advice. In fact I was one of them, I hardly experiment but she would coerce me to.
Her cakes and chocolates were equally amazing- that being my topmost weakness, one can imagine what she meant to me. She took up other assignments then as moved on; as a fellow Gemini I know very well that we are filled with creativity and we need outlets to express. We hate routine and things that are mundane don’t interest us. She did some exciting work; she travelled around the globe and shared her travelogues.  The work and her life looked picture perfect!
She was back in Mumbai and that’s when I connected with her and I learnt that she was doing something quite different yet again and that’s Image consulting. I congratulated her as I feel that she is a natural at it. Something that she was doing all through could now be offered professionally and it was giving her another challenging career a break from baking. I am certain she’d continue with bother her passions. Here’s IWH in conversation with Chef Veena Picardo, freelance trainer, an entrepreneur and a blogger.

IWH: Tell us something about you, your growing up years, and life through School College etc.
Veena  Picardo: Growing up life in school was pretty uneventful I guess I blossomed after I joined DY Patil HMCT may be that’s why to this date just recalling those days with my batch mates cheers me up.  The memories of attending food production practicals, the mischief we used to make, the events we conducted have formed a Deep rooted base of whatever I am today.

IWH: What made you select Hospitality as a career? Was it easy to make that decision?
Veena  Picardo: I found I was naturally attracted to everything about food right from my childhood days therefore  taking up hospitality as a career choice was an automatic decision.

IWH: Tell us something about you, your growing up years, and life through School College etc.
Veena  Picardo: Growing upl; life in school was pretty uneventful I guess I blossomed after I joined DY Patil College of Hotel Management and Catering Technology. May be that’s why to this date just recalling those days with my batch mates cheers me up.  The memories of attending food production practicals, the mischief we used to make, the events we conducted have formed a Deep rooted base of whatever I am today.
IWH: What made you select Hospitality as a career? Was it easy to make that decision?
Veena  Picardo: I found I was naturally attracted to everything about food right from my childhood days therefore  taking up hospitality as a career choice was an automatic decision.

IWH: What is your current role?
Veena  Picardo: That’s a tricky question over the years I have taken up many diverse roles there is not just one particular role that I have restricted myself to. Right now I am a freelance trainer, an entrepreneur and a blogger.

IWH: How was your Hospitality journey been so far? Pros, Cons etc…
Veena  Picardo: This will be quiet a lengthy reply.  It’s been 20 years that I am a part of Hospitality industry and cherish each and every moment of it.  I am very passionate about food but funnily enough I never really  took the traditional path of joining the Hotel Industry instead I went along the parallel lines of being a chef trainer and I think that was best decision of my life. Teaching students and being associated with young minds was something wasn’t just another means to livelihood for me but something I am extremely passionate about.  I just love to see the young generation evolve, the way they innovate and come up with new possibilities in the field of hospitality.
Cons: I feel there not enough research and documentation in the Indian culinary world.  The world is opening up to the joys of Indian food however we haven’t showcased even 1/4th of that is to offer from our cuisine. There is lot we can do there.
IWH: Who has been your Mentor or a role model? In what way has that person helped you?
Veena  Picardo: In my 20 years of being in this industry I have diversified a lot therefore it will be difficult to point out any one person with being a role model however I would like to thank all my teachers and friends who have constantly encouraged me to be what I am today.

IWH: What have been the high point of your career?
Veena  Picardo: In my diverse career I have had quite a few high points in my career.
I still remember the day 10 years back waiting for a bus to arrive and suddenly making a very impromptu decision of resigning from much secured teaching job with DY Patil University and going to the UK to take up course in Baking from Le Cordon bleu.  At that point I dint have any money  or a plan but just a thought that I want something more from life and that was the biggest turning point in my life so at the age of 30 were for  the first time I  sat in a plane or travelled abroad. I embarked on a journey after which I never really looked back in life.
All the hospitality schools I have been associated with from Dr.Dy Patil University  ,Apeejay Institute of Hospitaity , ITM Hospitality school to Auro University have been a huge career turning point in the advancement of my career.
Next high point was when I started my own entrepreneurial venture of starting a Cake shop Picardo’s That again was an adventurous journey but I am proud to say that it’s been a successful venture.
Along the way I also I started a baking blog called which I feel very happy to be associated with.After which I joined MARS as a personal chef to Mr Sanjay Narang my time there was  very different to all I had been doing so far it was a lot of fun with tremendous learning. I got a good understanding of how the elite live, understanding nuances of the luxury industry.
And now I am going through another turning point that has to do with Image building and soft skills training being in the teaching industry for so long has opened up a new possibility of soft skill trainer.  Being also associated with Hospitality industry I found there is a lot I can offer as a soft skill trainer as being in hospitality we automatically trained in conducting ourselves with  good manners & etiquettes.
IWH: What Challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry? How did you deal with them?
Veena  Picardo: I guess the biggest challenge I faced with being a women is to live in prejudiced society that just because I am women I will be needing that extra help.  Time and again I had to prove myself that if not better I am equally good with my work as any men in my field I don’t need the extra help, nor support. I am what I am because I want to be.

IWH: If there was anything that you could change about your life or career what would that be?
Veena  Picardo: I love and cherish each and every moment of my life I have been fortunate to be blessed with great places I have worked for to fantastic colleagues I had the  good fortune to work with and the not so great moments were the lessons I learnt from which only helped to uplift my life.
IWH: What do you think of IWH?
Veena  Picardo: IWH is a fantastic and much needed initiative in the field of hospitality.  There is a lot we women can offer in the field of hospitality I am really proud to be associated with it and hope I can contribute in any way possible for the upliftment and growth of this forum. A big thumps up to Ms Laxmi Todiwan to take up this challenge and taking up this far!

IWH: Your Advice to the young professionals and students?
Veena  Picardo: My advice to the young professionals would be that Hospitality does not just mean being associated with Hotels the curriculum does not just teach you to work with the hotel industry but also teaches you so many thing for e.g. How to behave, how to dress, etiquettes, manners and these skills are much more in demand nowadays therefore explore your possibilities in other industries like the airlines, marketing, retail sector etc.
What a lovely conversation we had with this multifaceted lady. The readers especially the young professionals will take many lessons and tips from the inspirational journey of Chef Picardo.

Chef Priti Bhanushali Punjabi - living life Queensize!

I connected with her at one of the events, she is quite unique as a person. I believe that each one of us is special and we carry our own aura. For many they are one of the crowd however there are some who carve a  niche for themselves, they are set in a different mould. A mould that many would love to trade with given the slightest opportunity. She is many talents rolled into ONE, a chef mentor, an educationist, a biker, a poetess, adventure enthusiast to be just a few of the many hats that she wears with elan.  I wanted her story on IWH and approached her for the same, she did revert and how! She answered my questions in a poem and here’s the incredible story of Chef Priti Bhanushali Punjabi,  Chef – Professor at the Sheila Raheja Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai.

A lady in white ,
First inning with scalpel, and second inning knife ,
First inning with doctor’s coat and second with chef coat,
First with patients to operate for life, and the other with butchery on dead …
Philosophy is , Roar till you are alive ,silence is the sound of dead .
A child born in, middle class , happy family ,with values conservative .A handsome father who was trustee to the community and he brought up children in the most conducive atmosphere.
A child with 94% PCB (physics ,chemistry and biology) was only suppose to be doing medicine , she started on the journey of the first inning .
The life treated her good, but on her journey she was never away from books and students, she graduated , for Early childhood education programme and diploma In Special needs for children ,her passion to grow could not find any excuses to let her be.
She says ,you don’t need competition from others , at the end of the day if there is nothing that I have learnt new ,means I have wasted 24hrs of my life ,a passionate cyclist, who is health freak and cycles almost 30 k.m 5 times a week ,an enthusiastic biker ,who had the guts to learn biking at the age when bones go sore, and a well balance happy and vibrant lady ,who has aura which is non-replaceable .
Life went on , to soon be influenced by the movie ,” 3 idiots ” where the heart wins the sound vice versa the brain , and she started her journey of hospitality , at the age where most of us almost work towards retirement .she started her journey with students of her children’s age , but that too she took it as blessing and enjoyed her tenure understanding the psychology of student body and was loved and accepted very well ,along with her intellectual self ,proving her faculties that she is still the best .getting awards after awards and making her faculty proud .
A lady with ,iron soul ,whose  intensity of taking risk is worth the jealousy , with experience at the TAj ,her consultancies in India and internationally ,setting up restaurants in Ghana and Bali speak volume for her .Her carrier may be short lived , but her ideologies and her experience of working in an elite school of Mumbai , makes her what she is today , an Assistant professor in Sheila Raheja institute of hotel management , has major events that she has headed and made the college proud , her readiness of accepting any new challenge and working towards it ,to give a benchmark to other fellow colleagues has been spoken out loud .
Her focus is,”students and only students” , she says ,”. When we would assist our surgeons ,in medicine ,they never screamed or shouted or spoke about the long hours they were working, we would work on the deceased and work towards life ,but we in hospitality  industry work on ,dead and lifeless , and rave about stress and aggression and expect the staff to give you food that reminds you of your grandmother or mother ,a bleeding soul can never heal , and so everyone who cooks with this aggression cannot give u soulful food ,is for sure .
She is upset with the fact ,that a Industry ,which was the home for only skillful people who were under qualified is now filled with graduates from renowned colleges and educated family backgrounds ,we still are behaving like our ancestors in this Industry ,then grooming ourselves for better tomorrow….
A last line to describe her is , “she lives life queen size”
May there be more of her tribe, we need good teachers who can inspire their students to become the best versions of themselves. As it is rightly said that we must attract the best into the teaching profession and she is one of the best!

Ms. Pooja Sharma - Zikr

I had seen her work at Zikr, it was totally by chance that I landed on the website. The artwork and the thoughtful memoirs that lead me there reminded me of aesthetically curated master pieces. I panned through the site and checked out the collection, I was awestruck, found each and every piece anything but ordinary! I wanted to know more about the lady. Guess what ? I discovered that there was a common factor….. my batchmate from IHM had once shared a memento from  Zikr, got details from him and ofcourse we talked about the lady whose brainchild it was. I learnt that Pooja Sharma is a Hotel Management graduate and has worked in hotels in the initial years of her career. I grabbed the opportunity to feature the incredible and inspirational journey of the dynamic lady Ms. Pooja Sharma, MD of  Zikr. I got in touch with her and she was gracious enough to do this long interview. It was an absolute delight to speak to her.

IWH:  Tell us something about you, your growing up years, life through school, college etc. What made you select Hospitality as a career? Was it easy making that decision?
Ms. Sharma:  I have been living in Dublin, Ireland for the past 16 years. I was lucky to be born in Shimla and spent my childhood nestled in the foothills of Himalayas. My childhood was idyllic, serene and simple. The Shimla of my childhood reminds me of dark mysterious forests, untouched big mountains, long walks in the woods, greenery all around and friends . I went to Loreto Convent Tara Hall, a beautiful catholic school which was then run by Irish nuns. Being an only child, I presume I became quite a handful and I was whisked off to a boarding school in Panchgani, Maharashtra. I spent good five years in Panchgani and a complete new world suddenly opened up in front of me and it is here with my new found independence I spread my wings and learnt to fly.
I graduated from Shimla, majoring in Economics and also underwent a specialized three year vocational course in Tourism Travel and Management which led to my interest in Hospitality Industry. Hence choosing to do post graduation in Accommodation Operations and Management from IHM Shimla became an obvious choice. Upon finishing my studies, I worked with The Oberois and then at Radisson, in Front Office where I picked up great many skills which helped me a lot in later life too. My stint in Hospitality industry lasted for five years and then I took a parenting break.
IWH: What is your current role?
Ms. Sharma: Today I am a Managing Director of my own company called Zikr. Zikr is a writing consultancy mainly focusing on keeping memories alive. ZIKR is in the business of writing biographies and creating memory books, coffee table books. These customised gifts make milestone events like birthdays, anniversaries, retirements etc very special. We also facilitate printing and publishing of all creative works like poems, short stories, fiction, diary entries, travelogues, family tree charts, family recipe books, art/drawings by children and adults.
IWH: How has your hospitality journey been so far? Pros, cons etc?
Ms. Sharma: I spent important years of my life in the hotel Industry and I have very fond memories of the time spent there. I started my career as a Front Office Assistant, at The Oberois Cecil, Shimla. Later I moved to the Radisson chain as a Front Office supervisor and thereon a Guest Relation Executive. My experience in hospitality industry allowed me to recognize my own potential later in life too and helped me understand that I had a flare of connecting with people and it re-instilled self- confidence in me that I thought I never had.

Hospitality career – pros & cons
Working in the hotel industry has taught me discipline that is so extremely important and helps you a great deal in personal life too. Meeting with many people from different ethnicities and backgrounds teaches you a lot and helps you understand and deal with different kinds of people. I also got the opportunity to meet a few celebrities. Long hours is synonymous with the Industry which means less family time. One of the things that I disliked was working on shifts especially early morning shifts and one should remember that when other people are enjoying togetherness and taking it easy, that is the time a hotelier is working their hardest and missing out on important festivities and celebrations.

IWH: Who has been your mentor or a role model? In what way has that person helped you?
Ms. Sharma: I believe that every person you meet in life is either a blessing or a lesson. I have great admiration for Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Their humility and respect for each other amazes me. There are several other great human beings that I have taken inspiration from. I am also blessed to have many special people in my life who are my friends, mentors and have embraced me for who I am, and also encouraged me to be the best version of myself.

IWH: What have been the high points of your career? Highlight at least 3.
Ms. Sharma: One of the most exciting time for me working in Hotels was opening a new property. Its utterly a great feeling to be a part of a team that is helping in laying a foundation of any business.
Another important milestone I feel I have achieved is conceptualising and founding ZIKR. After a long break, it was really hard for me to get back to work but ZIKR has given me a new lease of life and hope.

IWH: What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry? How did you deal with them?
Ms. Sharma: I would want to be born as a woman million times over. This I say because all the hardships and challenges that a woman has to face in life compared to a man, be it in her personal life and professional , makes her the being that she is , resilient, compassionate, hardworking and brave. There are a different set of rules for a woman in this society, despite these constraints and taboos, she is the backbone of any society which would truly crumble if she does.

IWH: What do you think of IWH?
Ms. Sharma: IWH is such a unique set up and provides a platform where women working in this industry feel appreciated and receive acknowledgement for not only their hard work and effort but also their valuable contribution to the industry and the world in general.

IWH: If there was anything that you could change about your life or career what would that be?
Ms. Sharma: I am a great believer in “ whatever happens, happens for the best” so there is nothing that I would want to go back and change.

IWH: Your advice to the young professionals and students.
Ms. Sharma: As Lady Gaga quite rightly said in her Oscar acceptance speech, “ it’s not about winning but it’s about not giving up, if you have a dream , fight for it, its not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you are beaten up, it’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going.”
And this would be my advice to every young person out there who has a dream.
With this conversation, we are charged with renewed energy and enthusiasm to chase our dreams too. Somethings just rub on to us and this has been one such meaningful exchange of ideas and intent. We wished Pooja Sharma the very best and we hope that she continues to weave magic and create enchanting memories for people, after all life is but a collection of beautiful memories!
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