Monday, 14 December 2015

Happy 10th Anniversary Hubby!

Its our 10th anniversary and I really don't know what to gift you my dear I take a little walk down the memory lane and wish to take you along. Ten years have actually been a wink! If I look at our lives I feel I have been given the greatest gift... the gift of your your love! You being a part of my life has been the biggest blessing.
This day takes me back to when we met. Way back 2004, I guess it was November, we had a brief time just talking to each other in front of our parents and the little privacy that we were granted. We were two very head strong individuals. The eldest children of our respective parents. We were used to being pampered silly. Used to being treated the best by all, thought to be absolutely responsible and we took pride in the reputation we carried at our places of work and in the social circles. We were equal in every sphere. As they say its difficult for two very strong individuals to live together, may be that's why there were no sparks that flew at that moment. But that meeting did have a great impact in our lives though, we understood where we came from and understood what lives were all about.... we had walked a similar journey till then. Nevertheless subconsciously we did take a bit of each other with us. As it is so rightly said by Rajesh Khanna, in the movie Rajput."Mere sang sang aaya teri yadoon ka mela" .

With April setting in, we decided we wanted each other in our lives strange but true!!.... perhaps we missed each other. The event led to us getting engaged after just a meeting a few months ago. 24th April 2005, we got engaged. That bond got us to know each other and  learn about each other, we became great friends. Courtship was one of the best times. Especially when fiance is a mariner and its long distance emails, phone calls and messages. We grew closer with every email and every message. I remember writing down every sms and message in my diary as those days we didn't have smart phones and my Nokia 3315 had a very limited memory. Sailor came home and I met a very dear friend in him. Four months apart got us an eternity of togetherness. We understood each other better than  we knew our own selves. November came by and our wedding was fixed .... 14 December 2005 was the D day.

It was an experience in itself to plan , finalise the events and to even go shopping  together. You prepared me to be a part of your home, I knew all about you and your family. When I walked in the Todiwan household as a bride, everything looked so familiar. It was as simple as walking in my second home. I shall always be grateful to you my dear husband for such a easy and beautiful transition that you created for me.
You allowed me to choose the place for our honeymoon, keeping me and my choice always ahead ... that was the begging of things to come. I remember we met an elderly lady on that trip and she told you to always keep me like a queen and you've done just that, probably even more. I am your princess, is certainly not an exaggeration. Arnnav made us proud parents, just nine months into the marriage and my world being so complete, it was just sinking in. You did miss meeting your son as he arrived into this world and your sign off got delayed, some perks that come with the life of a Shippy. But it was Arnnav who greeted his dad returning home from the ship, all of 18 days! A very cheerful child made his dad's heart melt and love flowed through his eyes. A vision and  memory of father and son so fresh that its etched in my heart for ever.

You have been an exceptional father taking care of the child and helping me again with another transition, being a mother and a professional. I was able to handle the same all because of you hubby! Life went on a roll and we were blessed the second time as parents with arrival of Abhinav in July 2009. That warmed our home and our hearts, completed our family. You helped me yet again to manage the new phase in my life. Now two smart active boys and a full time professional. When you were home I was at ease and when you were away on work you kept me calm and at peace with my self all through the sat phone calls and emails.

All is not fine if there are no fights.... isn't it? We have had our share of fights, sleepless nights, self induced stress and a little mess that came along. We sailed through and I give the credit to you.... you just allowed me to be. We have been through thick and thin, being each others strength no matter what.You allowed me to not grow beyond being a little girl at heart, I will always love you for that, my Prince Charming.
You have grown even more special with every passing day.  You bring so much happiness just by being my side, and create memories that are priceless. Ten years have been a roller coaster ride and I am loving every moment of it! I know I have been the chosen one and absolutely lucky at that. Thank you Thank you Tank you!

Happy Tin Anniversary Hubby!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Can work colleagues be your friends?

I started my professional journey in 1997 when I joined the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai, India; now called the Taj Palace and Tower.  It was my first job and how a 21 years old would take it, I am sure anyone can imagine. I was super excited and carried enormous dreams and aspirations for a fulfilling career.  That’s what I wanted from the job…. A satisfying and fulfilling career!

Today when I look back, I guess that’s how it has been... 18 years and counting. To me work place has always been sacred. I had seen how the older colleagues especially the ones in the ranks, at the Taj would enter the work place,  as if it was some temple! It would bring a few smiles then but now I understand their sentiments.
My peers and colleagues inspire me.
~Robin Chase
An individual spends more waking hours at workplace and with colleagues than at home and with his own family. A job provides for the financial stability and gives the power to an individual to be in control of his life and provide for his loved ones. Everyone who is on a job works just for this. If not everyone at least the majority, is there to fulfill this. That's on one hand, on the other , in the personal or the emotional front, (after all we are all humans and have that side to us!) we look for much more in work colleagues... friends is the least of that all. We are comrades, united by common Vision and Mission of the organisation. Also working towards the same goal which is the goal the organisation to be steered to achieve. Once that everyone is on target and meet the common goal, its win- win for all. Both on personal and professional front. 

To me my work place has been the second home and work colleagues my extended family. Always took them like that. I am on my third work assignment,  worked with 3 different organisations. Each having a great place in my mind, thoughts and surely in my heart too. Today if I wish to go back to the organisations that I was once a part of, it'll be a pleasant experience for me and I can say for sure that the organisations will welcome me with open arms. The functions that I still get invited to by them is an indication of the same. I always try my best to honour the invites whenever possible. Each organisation has helped me immensely in making the person that I am today. I shall always be grateful!

I'm not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.
~Franklin D. Roosevelt
At Taj I learnt a lot, really, tricks of the hospitality trade, at IHM Mumbai my second assignment fulfilled my desire to embark on a journey of a teacher/ trainer. I enjoyed it and continue to do so. In my present role at the Apeejay Institute of Hospitality; I do what I really love, the best of hospitality education and hotel training. On one hand there are students who are preparing themselves for the roles they'd occupy in the industry and on the other there are professionals right from top management down. Its exciting and involves a lot of learning too. I have made some great friends at work place,  friendships that'll stay life long. 
We have such emotional connect with the workplace, its certainly not the pay check at the end of the month. Initial years that may matter but not after spending years working.

The organisation's culture does play a very important role. The workplace should nurture the employees the same way the employee puts in his or her best efforts. The atmosphere should be friendly, non threatening, caring, that has scope for disagreements and a platform to vent.  This helps in fulfilling the organisations goals together. The walls, office cubicles and the central cooling doesn't make an organisation.... its the people! And the very same people are responsible for cultivating the organisations culture. Some organisations have great work culture and happy employees creating great employee and customer engagements. They are great brands to associate with. Everyone wants to work for them. At times personal jealousy, narrow mindedness and lack of empathy can lead to adverse or negative organisational culture. Once we allow such things to breed, its very difficult to clear the unwanted and undesirable mess. When so many people from diverse backgrounds work together there are bound to be differences of opinions. There should be a good mechanism to address and solve them. 
Each individual should want a solution and each should have a heart big enough to apologise. "Sorry" is certainly a magic word that can set a lot of things straight. But it also needs a lot of courage and strength of character to say so.  Only people who do not have bloated egos can do that, it's difficult for petty thinking individuals to ever even attempt it. They will always look for opportunities to put others in  bad light and try and focus all the lime light on them. But does this really work?..... To each their own!

It may work or may not. But does winning like this look like a victory at all? It doesn't. Work colleagues have much bigger roles to play, roles that are not mentioned in their job descriptions and are not a part of their KRAs. Roles of being friends, making the workplace fun and exciting, creating happy atmosphere, being a guide, mentor or a role model to the juniors, stepping in for colleagues and helping the organisation to become strong. Afterall being an employee is only a small part of an individual. He or she is much bigger 'Human Resource'! 

Rightly said by Josie Loren, 
"God has blessed me with an amazing family, friends and work colleagues that have been my joy, my support, and my sanity. I don't know what I'd do without them".

PS: Pictures are taken from Google for illustrations, with due credits, if anyone has any objection, kindly let me know they'll be removed promptly.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The story of a new venture Spectrum Academy

I am the one who writes and is more expressive than my husband... bottom line is I am the one who makes the noise!! Capt. Todiwan is a man of a few words. He believes in action rather than words. As a couple I am the one who starts an argument or a fight, I am also the one who'll then not talk and finally when I get sick of not talking to him, I am the person who starts the conversation again.

Capt. Todiwan has set up his Maritime, Hospitality and Travel academy with his partner Vibhor Rastogi and finally the work of 9 months have given birth to the brand new venture Spectrum Academy. I am an advisor to him whether he needs my advise or not. Like most wives I too think its my birth right to educate my husband on a lot of aspects. When the website was up I was the first outsider to see it and I noticed a word press blog attached with it and I was thrilled to read what my dear husband had written as I know him not writing anything long. When I write long emails to him he would reply with an SMS. You can understand my excitement! I have picked up both the posts and have shared them here. 
It gives me happiness all the way to the moon and back!

The first post!

The launch of Spectrum Academy

I have been a part of the maritime industry for over two decades. My job involved me travelling across the globe. Staying in hotels at the port of joining and also at cities I signed off from. Every country and every hotel group had something unique on their platter to offer to the discerning traveler or their guests as referred to in the hotel industry.  That always amused me and attracted my appreciation. When I got married to a hotelier, I learnt so much more about the hotels and the services that they offer.  It gave me another angle to look at things and understand them which used to unnoticed earlier. In fact my wife asked me for specific information and what to observe while I stayed at different hotels, I became a reporter to her. She said that information helped her in her classes and training sessions as she could speak about trends around the globe with specific examples. I was glad she liked what was sent to her.
When I got in touch with my partner Vibhor Rastogi, a Chef trainer and an entrepreneur. I shared with him what I intended to do and the vision that I carried. We clicked on the idea and that lead to the foundation of Spectrum Academy. Hospitality is something that you do from the heart. What really touches the guests is a service that’s good, personalized and that creates ‘Wow’ for him or her. At the academy we would like to share this passion and coach the new professionals that’ll help them take their careers on a fast forward mode. My core industry shipping also needs the finer nuances of hospitality; the shippies especially staff working in the galleys and dining areas also need to upgrade their skills in cookery, bakery, F and B Service and food presentation. At Spectrum we’ll be able to do that. We have designed a few courses and capsule modules that are in demand but not offered at colleges and large training institutes. I am sure this will certainly be of help to the budding professionals and the people who want to learn the basics or some finer nuances of the hospitality profession.
Welcome onboard,
Best Regards

Capt. Rajesh Todiwan

The second post!

Greetings of the day!
It’s my privilege to finally launch the Spectrum Academy website.  It gives us immense pleasure to welcome each one of you here. Partner Chef Vibhor and I intended to host the website and make it running last month itself, but I had to travel on work. It was a prestigious assignment and I had to take it up. It dealt with things that are close to my heart; training the seafarers. I was onboard a foreign vessel. The gist of the whole story is that the assignment was successful and I am happy with the outcome. Now that I am back at the academy and Vibhor has been putting the website together, we are ready to upload the website. We have tried our best to fulfill meaningful and necessary training needs of our valued clients and provide certifications at the same time we’d love to hear from you. Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome. Do get in touch with us at the Spectrum Academy.
I thank all of you for visiting us and look forward to fruitful interactions and learning.

Welcome onboard,
Best Regards
Capt. Rajesh Todiwan

This is very special to me as I know my husband as a man, son, husband, father, master mariner, a true professional. Now I am getting to see another side of him the trainer and an entrepreneur. Wishing Spectrum Academy all the success.

Visit the website:

Monday, 10 August 2015

How a modern man complements his lady

“This is a woman’s job! Men can’t be doing it….” How often have you heard this? I am sure a lot of times. There are stereotype roles for both men and women. Women take care of the home, bring up children and manage the kitchen. Men on the other hand earn and provide for the family. They are supposed to run the outdoor errands. This has been the role-play traditionally followed; probably it came from times when the man was a hunter. Times have changed and roles have followed a drastic alteration from the ancient times. Have we really moved on and adapted to the changes?  Needless to say traditional gender role model may work for some couples but mostly with both the partners having their careers, especially talking about urban areas; it’s not the best option. Villages have their own set of issues. I have seen the women there stretch themselves beyond all boundaries. They manage their home, children, families and also take up something to supplement the family income. All praises for them but it’d be so much easier if they got the due support especially from their better halves. I may not be correct here but it has been an observation.

Just the other day, I met an old student of mine, who is a young mother and has a full time demanding job too. I asked her how she was doing and how was life at this juncture. She had lost a lot of weight and looked much older than her age. She shared her daily routine with me and how managing the home, young child and career was a huge challenge for her. She did everything from preparing breakfast, keeping things ready for the child for the entire day, going to work, coming back home in the evening, preparing dinner and finally calling it a day after doing the dishes and everyone had gone to sleep. This was the story the entire week. When asked about getting help at home, she said that she had a very loving husband but he didn’t contribute to any household chores, not even taking the child out to play. She also said that the decision to have a career was all hers so she had to deal with it. I could identify with what she said, that’s the story of a lot of career women. It also saddened me with their plight.

I am so blessed to have a supporting family for which I shall always be very grateful. Coming to think of it, I guess families create cultures that they operate in. My mother in law is a very strong lady; she believes in doing her own things rather than depending on others. She inculcated in her children, especially her sons the need to help around, even doing the household chores. She had work given to everyone, the results of that kind of upbringing are clear to see. All help is there from my husband when he is home, we work like equals and we are a team!

It is important in all relationships to balance things out and share responsibilities. No one feels taken for granted. When we value each other, it is shown through the little things that we do for each other. Helping around preparing a meal, getting the children ready for school, making the beds, setting the washing machine or getting that cup of tea after a long day of work really goes a long way. Such gestures not only show that the husband values you as an individual but also makes the bond of love stronger. These little things that we share do proclaim love, caring and appreciation for one another.

Relationships are to be cherished, what better way than finding happiness in creating that respect and dependability.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Inauguration ceremony of the first year BSc. HS 2015-18

The Apeejay Institute  of  Hospitality , Navi Mumbai welcomed their ninth batch this year. The inauguration of the new batch, B Sc. HS 2015- 18 was on the 15th of July 2015 at a grand function held at The Park hotel. The programme commenced with an invocation song and lighting of the lamp. Students attended the programme with their parents. Principal Mr. Bhuvan welcomed the guests and students. This was followed by the chief guest Mr. Ravi Rawat, Director Operations, The Park Navi Mumbai addressing the audience. The hotel departmental heads and the faculty team introduced themselves to the new students and gave them their valuable advice on the industry dynamics. The students then came up on the stage for their introductions. Some even shared why they were pursuing hospitality education. There was an open house before lunch was served to all.

The  Apeejay  Institute  of  Hospitality  located at CBD Belapur  shares its premises  with  The  Park  Navi  Mumbai. It is an initiative of the Apeejay  Surrendra  Park  Hotels  that  operates its collection of  Luxury  Boutique hotels in India. The  institute  offers  a 3 years   Bachelor’s  Degree programme in Hospitality Studies (BSc-HS)affiliated to the University of Mumbai . AIH is also the center of learning for  Apeejay Surrendra  The Park Hotels. The group's Managment Training Programme, Professional Development Programmes as well as consultancy projects for  the hospitality industry are some of its  additional core activities. The highly accomplished faculty team is drawn from academics, supplemented by visiting faculty from reputed institutions, experts from The Park Hotels and professionals from the Hospitality and Services sector. The institute boasts of a world class curriculum augmented by state of the art facilities on campus with separate hostel facility for Girls and Boys.

Not only academics  but  extracurricular activities are also given equal impetus.  Students have the advantage of getting hands-on operational training at The Park, Navi Mumbai, doing their industrial
training from any of the Park properties  or associated organizations and take up careers with the Park Hotels. 

People I am glad to have met – the bikers and bikers at heart!

My brother in law, Sahil Verma was going for a REO’s (Royal Enfield Owners) 15th August Independence Day Ride in 2012 and that got me interested. He shared the account of the ride with me. This was from Bandra to Nariman Point. For the next one on the 26th January somehow he couldn’t be a part of and I managed to be there. It was being held in Navi Mumbai from Centre One, Vashi to Panvel via JNPT and back. Met Nigel Rich, who was organizing the ride that year. There were more than 600 riders from all over Mumbai and what a spectacular sight they made. I felt so happy riding with them. Infact the lady riders and the pillions had the privilege to lead the ride. Probably that was one of the blissful, happy moments I have experienced in my life. I certainly lived that moment not as a daughter, a wife, a daughter in law, a mother or a sister but just me – Laxmi. All thanks to my mom in law for telling me to be part of the republic day early morning ride.

What I feel about these Rides, they are not just to pump the adrenalin rush but they make an individual responsible, disciplined, follow brotherhood and take up social causes in a big, organised way! Thumps up to that! We see youngsters misusing the powerful bikes leading to accidents due to rash driving. Palm Beach Road in Navi Mumbai sees such accidents almost everyday. Apart from the Traffic Police, I feel that the Bikers can organise fun camps and invite the young bikers, no matter what bike they ride; especially college students to join them for rides and let them experience the thrill of biking and responsible driving. I can help, preparing the campaign! if need be write your speeches too!!
I have very young bikers.... my sons! and I certainly wish them as well as other young boys and girls to enjoy speed with safety and discipline. It’s a habit that can be inculcated in young people.

How responsible are these people?
I just loved the rules that they follow,
Rules to be followed strictly for the ride:
1. Be on time for the ride.
2. Helmet for the rider and the pillion is compulsory and do carry your riding gears(if any).
3. Shoes or boots compulsory for the rider.
4. No overtaking amongst each other. 
5. No rash riding during the ride.
6. No breaking file, we will ride in a file of 2.
7. No violence during the ride.
8. Always follow the bike which is ahead of you, all the way. 
9. Headlights will be full time on.
10. Every rider should carry valid driving license along with all necessary documents.
11. Make sure your royal Enfield is well serviced to avoid a break down during the ride.
Violation of the above rules will strictly not be tolerated.

With admiration for the bikers I started reading about them and I am really happy to have connected with some of the best in the country- both men and women. Bharadwaj Dayala is the only Indian biker to have gone around the world on a motorcycle, Sarah Kashyap has done the entire India tour on her bike and another young lady Roshni Sharma earns my appreciation for her biking rides, doing Ladakh just a while ago. 66 years old Col. Sohan Roy’s name was also included in the Limca Book of Records in 2011 for being the oldest rider to ride to world’s highest motorable road, Khardung La, on a Pulsar 220. Another extremely inspiring biker 68 years old Col. MA Kaleem rode solo around India and now attempting a Guinness World record (Longest ride on motorcycle in a single country). Steven Miranda, Sanjay Naidu, Carl Gawli, Jaspreet Singh Monty are some REOs who do so much for the society and support charities. There are clubs all over the country and they do some exceptional work.

These people really inspire and live their passion. They are professionals having successful careers and when it comes to following their heart they take on it like a dream. Always giving the message to ride with safety and follow brotherhood.

From my column

Patience is a virtue

Today I wish to focus on a very simple virtue; it’s not even a virtue but just a quality or a part of one’s behavior – Patience!
We are living in the times of instant gratification. The 2 minute, not just noodles but any food even butter chicken or parathas that only need to be micro waved and had. We are living in the Wi-Fi zones and the moment they grow weaker we get panicky. Our children need things as soon as they ask us. In fact most of us want it ‘yesterday’. Today is already late!

This need for instant gratification is playing havoc not only in our lives but also our internal systems. I see a lot of people getting into depression, the age for it becoming smaller and smaller. Even young children are getting affected. Unchecked it leads to behavioral disorders during the school and college days. Just imagine going through such attacks when one is just opening up to life; taking medication for the same. Not a pleasant experience at all.

As a mother I do notice how my children display impatience and have seen the same among student groups. Why separate young people its common among grownups too. I saw a couple break into a horrible fight at a public place the other day and the incident made me think. The lifestyle has a tremendous impact on our thoughts and behaviors. The biggest reason for such outbreaks I could feel is the lack of patience. We are impatient period! We just cannot wait, we have forgotten what the word actually means.

Patience is not just the ability to wait but it’s how we behave while we're waiting.

Life is all about loving, caring, sharing and waiting. This was all the part of the large families or joint families that we lived in. Patience was but natural as there was a demand for everything one wanted. Imagine the morning wait outside the bathroom, when we look back it does bring back some smiles but that did teach some big virtues too. Those life skills learned have such a strong impact on what we do with our lives as we grow up.
Even the happiest life cannot be without a measure of darkness. Would happiness have any meaning if it was not balanced by sadness? It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and calmness. The stress that we take over things not happening that moment is totally not worth it! All things are difficult before they actually become easy, isn’t it? Can patience be adhered to as a natural virtue?  By all means a big Yes!! Patience defines one’s attitude.
For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always hard work, self discipline, sleepless nights, sacrifice and above all patience. It is simple but not easy. Simple things always manifest into great wisdom and sense of fulfillment. With these thoughts, I am certainly going to make patience a part of my life and inculcate the same in my children. Taking it then with my students, I can visualise the results already. It can certainly handle the stress, aggression, depression and many complexes that are so dominant these days. Let there be happiness around.

“He that can have patience can have what he will.” 
― Benjamin Franklin

From my column
PS: Pictures are taken from Google for illustrations, with due credits, if anyone has any objection, kindly let me know they'll be removed promptly.

Monday, 20 July 2015

How Mahindra created a WOW experience for us

Good service is good business.
Siebel Ad
A business keeps its customers by treating them Right every time!... has been the first lesson that I learnt in college, studying Hospitality and Hotel Administration. This is one aspect that I carry with me and pass on to every student or trainee that attends my training sessions.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said”. Action is all that matters! In today’s hyper competitive market, it’s just not enough to have a great product at a competitive price but it’s imperative to deliver great customer experience. That consistent superior experience cultivates customer loyalty, strengthens the brand value and of course gives better revenues. That delight experienced by the customer turns him into the advocate of the company. All companies say that customer satisfaction is their priority No. 1, but there are some who actually walk that extra mile for each one of their customers. Such companies have a fan following and they’ll always tread on an upward growth graph.

Customer delight!
In the early 90s customer satisfaction was the buzz word; another 5 years all the competitors did provide that. Then came customer delight, which is exceeding the customer expectations. Another five years went by and everyone spoke the same thing. The early 2000s coined the word customer dazzle or creating that ‘wow’ experience. That’s also the time when I started delivering customer care and service excellence training sessions, be it to the call centre employees or bank employees of the State Bank Of India. I always spoke about the Emotional Bank Account that we all open with each other and every customer we deal with. 

Finally I experienced an exceptional customer service that I wish to share with you all.
It was time for us to buy a bigger vehicle, an SUV. We, my husband and I were looking at various options. Now there are so many available in the market and many more in the pipeline. My mariner husband who sails for 4 months was home and within a week of that we started looking for vehicles and requesting test drive. We went to different brand showrooms. One of them was the Mahindra showroom, G3 Motors at Uran Phata, Belapur,Navi Mumbai. We were greeted warmly and shown both the SUVs, XUV 500 and Scropio. We liked both of them and test drove both.  Then we went back home thinking of zeroing on one of the many SUVs we had seen including Mahindra.

My husband started receiving follow up calls from G3 motors by both the SUV sales persons. When I got back home from work husband told me about the calls. I had met Mr. Sampat Khule,who works at the Nashik Plant of Scorpio two years ago at my institute  and I remembered how fondly he had spoken about the vehicle then.

That made us narrow down our choice to Mahindra and Scorpio top model S10 4WD.  Thankfully I found his visiting card and spoke to him. We booked the car that day 6th July 2015. We were told that it’d take us 3 -4 weeks to get the delivery.  My younger son’s birthday was on the 19th and we were wishing that it’d be  really nice if the car could come home for the occasion. These things have an emotional connect in my family as my husband misses such occasions due to the nature of his work. I happened to mention this to Mr. Khule and he said that he’d try his best to deliver the vehicle before that date. I was really thrilled and shared the same with my husband. They went out of their way to get the vehicle out as soon as it was possible for them  following up with Mr Attif Ansari, Area sales manager.
Team of G3 Motors and their sales executive Ms. Anjali Patil and Mr. Ravi Chilke ensured that they gave us our car on 17th itself so that we had the car on my son’s birthday. They expedited all the procedures including registration at the RTO. We took our Mahindra Scorpio home on 17th of July 2015. The 3-4 weeks actually shrunk to just 10 days. We really felt like VVIPs true to the fact that customer is the king! Along with the car keys they gave us a framed picture of Mata Vaishno Devi, my family is a devotee of Devi Maa. Son was given a remote control toy car that he was thrilled to receive. While we drove out of the showroom, he opened his gift and remarked that it was his best birthday gift. As a mother it gave me so much more than just taking a vehicle home. It was experiencing great hospitality and exceptional customer service and it certainly created the ‘wow’ that I always speak about. I am connected to the hospitality industry where we are taught to create such wow moments for the guests, at Mahindra they exceeded my expectations completely!

Thank you Mahindra for such a great experience, you have certainly created a brand ambassador in me.
from my column
You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.
Jerry Fritz

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Club Mahindra it a good holiday option?

I am from the hospitality industry, A hotelier for almost 2 decades now. When I was in college in the mid 90s we learnt about the concept of timeshare. In fact a very good friend of mine and a classmate at IHM Mumbai did his research project on the subject. Suman Motels was the pioneer in this concept, bringing it into the Indian market which was warming up to the idea of holidaying. Otherwise holidays would mean travelling to one’s native place or ‘gaon’ as the people of my generation would call it.
I loved the concept of timeshare then and the idea as brought in by Suman Motels but I also felt that they arrived ‘before time’ here and it never took off.  Almost a decade later, in 1996 it was Club Mahindra that utilized the idea of timeshare and launched Club Mahindra Holidays. Having done a bit of research on it and teaching my students I had a fairly good understanding of the subject. But I also knew the loop holes, drawbacks and the problems that the customers or members could face. I will not use the word guest here as generally used by hotels on purpose as Club mahindra doesn’t really treat its members as that. I say this from experience as they can’t handle customer queries forget considering any of their requests or concerns.

The background of how we became members of Club Mahindra
One evening in February 2009, when I got home from office hubby asked me to go along with him to the Palm Beach Galleria, a Mall at Vashi, Navi Mumbai. I wondered why on a weekday, he told me that he wanted us to visit the Club Mahindra holiday world, he had had talks with one of the executives. The executive must have done some hardcore selling is all I thought of.  I being from the industry and understanding the product wasn’t too keen on taking up a membership. Went along, with hubby and my little son anyway. On reaching the office the executive made us go through a presentation meant for the customers. Hubby was impressed but I found it to be just okay.
I was expecting our second child then and I knew it wouldn’t be possible for us to go on a holiday at least in the next 2-3 years. But my protests were in vain as hubby said that we’ll have a reason to go on a holiday and as kids grow up we’ll be able to have a family vacation every year. I gave in; we registered for a 1 bedroom apartment. We got a 2N/ 3D complimentary holiday voucher, which we haven’t yet utilized, even till date.

We received our welcome kit and it sat in the cupboard comfortably as husband Capt. Rajesh Todiwan went sailing and I got busy with work and the arrival of our second son. Holiday wasn’t in the scene as yet. First time that I thought of booking a holiday was in June 2011 when our younger son Abhinav was touching 2 years. Made reservations and hoped that Capt. Todiwan was home during that time, can’t be very sure of the sign off as it can get delayed at times. As true to my fears, he couldn’t be home till mid June and I had to cancel the holiday.
Then booked one for December when its vacation time for me and the elder son.  But we didn’t get the requested dates so had to agree with the suggestions made my Club Mahindra Reservations, for Safari Resort, Corbett.  Once this was communicated to hubby, he agreed and I planned our travel and booked the tickets.We finally started looking forward to our first holiday, hubby was excited and so were the kids.  And I was also looking for a nice break from routine.

The story continues to be the same, we never get the booking at the resort that we look for. Doesn’t matter how much in advance we try to book. The concern is the same for us, Husband sails 4-5 months at a time and is away from home. When he is here we don’t get what we request for. I keep talking to the holiday advisors but they are only advisors and won’t do anything beyond that. Till date we have been able to utilise only 3 holidays and 4 resorts of theirs. It’s absolutely no value for money. In fact we end up taking other holiday packages and booking at other resorts so we end up spending much more. As a family we love to travel so take at least two vacations a year. Saving grace for me is my company's holiday plan.

While selling the membership they make a lot of nice sounding promises but once you are a member they take you for granted. Not only that you keep begging for something that’s your right but your holiday advisors will have a very standard reply, “I apologize”. I am sure each one of them uses the phrase at least a 1000 times during one work shift.

I am amazed at how I can’t even get a weekend booking in a close by resort at Tungi in Lonavla. I have been trying for more than a month or two. They give me only weekday offers. Who gets the weekends? And how is questionable.
Anyone who is looking at taking up Club Mahindra membership please don’t fall prey to their incentives for sign ups. They give TV, smart phones etc on registration. It’s better to buy those things rather than repenting all along for a bad decision made.

Another amusing fact about them is that when you speak to a holiday advisor the automated message tells you that your call may be recorded for training purposes. But believe me there isn’t any training happening and no one will ever respond to your agonies that were expressed. It’s just a farce! As hoteliers we go out of our way to accommodate guest requests and do whatever possible at times what seems impossible also, for them so that they enjoy their stay with us or are delighted with our products. Club Mahindra certainly doesn’t do so, its too much to expect from them. For instance when I was expressing this to their customer care this morning the reply I got was that they were not a hotel but that they were a resort…. Resorts are not hotels I guess according to the friendly Club Mahindra and the members will always be at their mercy inspite of paying a hefty membership fee. We bought the highest season the Red season when we registered later they  introduced a season higher than that the purple season and now they force us to upgrade. When we don't get the bookings how would we even consider that... it is but natural.
There are many options available these days the hotel deals and packages are very attractive and the best part being that they are available online.

I happen to come across a great write up and a very correct analysis of Club Mahindra by Mr. Hemant Beniwal and I wish to share the link here, giving due credits to him.Had to use this write up to add value and support the facts given by me with his data.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

I Chose Hope: Book Review

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Vinita Mathew, MD has shared her story in an engaging way, the book kept me going from one page to the other. The book is amazing, an honest and compelling story of hope and inspiration following a cancer diagnosis. It’s about how a young doctor and a mother of two boys manages the diagnoses, the treatment and then getting her life back on track so beautifully, in her own words. This book provides great insight into the emotions of the author as well as the day to day physical changes, challenges, anxiety, expectations and the impact that cancer can have on a family battling it out. The amount of detail was impressive and I can’t imagine how much thought has gone into writing this book.  As I was reading it, I could clearly visualize the events as told by her.  I would recommend this book to anyone who has a family member going through the battle of fighting the cancer, or any other ailment. This book gives you the hope and inspires you to fight all odds. Believe me, "it’s all in the mind and it’s all in the will power”. If you have that, there’s nothing that cannot be done or achieved. Vinita is a testimony to this. I give this book a definite five out of five stars. In fact would love to give another 5 to her and her family for their undying spirit and the zeal for positivity and hope.

Through this book Vinita gives us the message that it’s important to have a positive attitude and have something to strive for even amidst the most trying times. She showed tremendous courage through her trials; that was also possible because of her family’s support. Each word of this book touched my heart. It is truly an inspiring story; it’ll inspire anyone who is facing a difficult situation. We often take our lives for granted and complain about trivial things, we are lost when times test us. It is such times that we should read books like this, that shake us up and make us look at the silver lining behind the dark clouds.

This can be a guide that people who are battling ailments can refer to as she touches upon aspects as simple as what to tell and what not to speak to a person undergoing the treatment, in this case fighting cancer. Sometimes people don’t really know what to speak and thus can’t be a part of the support system for something fighting adversity. Cancer treatment is actually referred to as a battle as it requires a lot of will power and the support of family and friends.

My association with Vinita goes a long way we were in school at Kochi in the state of Kerala, India, right through grade 1 to grade 12. In fact we looked so much similar then, I remember we doing a play in the 11th standard where we played twin sisters. We've been a part of many events where we represented our school and won many prizes. She was always bright, caring, generous, enthusiastic and had an amazing sense of humor.
We lost touch after I left the city for higher education and she moved to New Zealand. Drawbacks of not having cell phones and the social media! After many years got in touch again all thanks to Orkut. That's when I learnt about her serious, near fatal accident that left her in a coma for almost 3 months but then the fighter she was, she got back to life and changed her area of specialization to physical medicine and rehabilitation so that she could help people who needed that . She had her two sons and then as a young mother had another setback being diagnosed with cancer. She being the lady she is, it was another battle she fought and emerged triumphant. She has certainly overcome so much adversity with such amazing courage and strength of character. She organises the event "Relay for Life" in Naperville,USA, her home after marriage, every year that brings the survivors together and also creates awareness about cancer. The event provides support to individuals fighting the battle and also to their families that form an integral part of the support system.

She really inspires me and also am sure many other people whose lives she has touched. I particularly respect her for displaying such maturity, dignity and grace. Through her life she teaches us never to take anything for granted and live each day to the fullest. Life is truly beautiful…. 'Something Wonderful', the words that I have always loved and used many times. Salute to her untiring spirit and salute to the woman that she is.

The eBook is available on at the moment, the print version will be available soon.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Knowledge getting heavier?....or is it just the school bags!

Every morning when I pack my younger son’s school bag, it’s a bagful of mixed feelings for me.  The bag really gets heavy for a 6 year old, first standard child. There are the books, tiffins (2 of them one for the short break and the other for their lunch break) and the raincoat. My child is taller and bigger built than many others in his age group, I really wonder how the children manage this. They might have to climb stairs to reach their classrooms on the second or the third floor of the school building. The elder one’s don’t even ask… 4th grade has more subjects and ultimately more books! I am sure it’s the concern of every parent.

In fact there is an ongoing concern regarding the weight of children’s schoolbags and the impact of such heavy loads on their developing spine. It is certainly a stress for the children. It becomes a bigger concern in the middle school age group. The spine is at a critical stage of development in children between 12 – 14 years of age. This is also the stage at which the bag weight to body weight ratio is likely to be high as some students are still quite small but carry loads similar to bigger built and older children.

A general guideline of 10% body weight, initially proposed by Voll and Klimt in 1977, continues to be the recommended guideline when carrying a backpack- style schoolbag. Some recent studies have reported that carrying a heavy schoolbag contributes to musculoskeletal pain in children. This really requires some serious thought and solution on the issue of the heavy school bags!

I also wonder when every other thing is going from big to small, heavy to light weight, thin to ultra slim then why isn’t that applicable to the children’s school bags? It is an important accessory, children take so much time and pride in selecting their school bags. Boys have a range of bags that they select from and girls have another range to choose. They come in so many fancy designs and shapes. Parents and schools have the responsibility to see what best they can do to keep the load of the backpack bags manageable and safe for the children.

How can we reduce the weight of the school bag?
Here are a few guidelines suggest by Education Bureau of Hong Kong.
1.       Conducting campaign on reducing the weight of school bags to draw the attention of teachers, parents and pupils to the issue.
2.       Conducting random check on the weight of school bags and informing parents if bags are found overweight.
3.       Mobilising parents to help weighing school bags to arouse awareness of the issue.
4.       Using other learning materials to replace textbooks in the learning of some topics.
5.       Reducing the use of workbooks and replacing them by loose-leaf worksheets.
6.       Keeping pupils’ new exercise books and issuing them to pupils only when needed.
7.       Setting the maximum number of assignments for each subject as part of the homework policy.
8.       Allotting a tutorial period in the timetable for pupils to complete part of their homework at school.
9.       Scheduling PE and Art and Craft lessons for different days.
10.   Allowing pupils to wear sportswear instead of school uniforms for days with PE lessons.
11.   Encouraging the use of drinking fountains and advising pupils not to bring drinking water to school.

Schools and parents can join hands to make studies fun for children and school bags much lighter. After all, the foundation of a strong nation is laid on the core strength (spines) of the young boys and girls who’ll propel India into the next phase of development.

Picture Courtesy: Google,The Hindu, with due credits.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A stitch in time saves nine

I would like to share with you all my column in the Navi Mumbai City Line, 30th May 2015.

College admissions are on and a lot of students walk in shopping for courses and colleges. Yes the word is shopping! There is certainly some clarity with the courses one can take up after the results are declared. Some have a clear eligibility and cut off marks. Probably some of you are not really happy with your result but when you can’t change that at this stage what you can certainly do is find the best option for you. Things were different when we were growing up, completing 12th standard 21 years ago is a long time indeed and a lot has changed since then.
Things have certainly changed for the good; I believe in, “we change with changing seasons and times”. Here, not referring to the basic value system, morals and ethics but changing lifestyle. The earlier generations didn’t have so much of competition in the board exams now the toppers manage scores as high as 99 point some percentage. But the good news is that there are so many streams of study and professional courses on offer. The information is available just at the click of a button on the computer. Isn’t this fantastic?

But what I have experienced when counseling students is that when there is so much to choose from they get confused and sometimes don’t make good decisions. For example they might choose a course in Mass media or a branch of engineering as they meet the eligibility criteria and the courses are considered to be very much “In” or “Happening” among their peer group. Once they are in the programme they realize that it isn’t what they wanted or are able to cope with. Sometimes they get ATKTs.  A student who has been good all through school faring badly in college affects their confidence and self esteem. Then they look out for some other professional courses that they think they can do well in. This leads to loss of a year, some finance and also their self confidence. Some find it difficult to bounce back.

To avoid this situation, parents and students can do some research. In fact it’s a good trend that students these days meet education counselors, consult their teachers and also attend education fairs and career guidance seminars. These things help them choose what they believe is their calling. With so many colleges and seats available, it’s not very difficult to get into a professional course. Hence it’s extremely important to make a decision that’s practical, to one liking and based on good research.
The conventional streams, B Sc, B Com and BA are offered by most universities. There are professional courses such as Medicine, Engineering, Hotel Management, Hospitality Studies, BMS, Journalism, Fashion Designing, Aviation, Travel and Tourism, Shipping, Animation and  Film making to name a few. A student who has completed his 12th standard can find out more about the course of his choice and then select a good college to join that offers the programme.

One’s success is more based on making good decisions than just being brilliant and doing things without thought!