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Imagine Business as an Inspirational Force.
When were you inspired recently? I skipped the movie review this week for lack of a suitable one for family viewing. The only real film release this week was Elysium. A dystopian thriller set forty years from now, it begins at time when earth has been destroyed, people are impoverished and the .01% have take off to live in on an idyllic, man-made planet.
As Elysium is aimed at 15+, not suitable for family viewing, I’ll save it for later in the week. However, I have to say that lately like many of us working class, tax paying people of India, I’ve been having a crisis of confidence. Elysium bears startling resemblance to India, where Casa Ambani, or the “powered” streets of Lutyens Delhi rise above slums. Those who are naturally not away, build complexes which keep the ‘other’ out. In general, we Indians have learned to accept high levels of sometimes not so quiet desperation around us. We accept it in ourselves, we accept it with our governance and we accept it in our society. After several years of scandals and gates, and the kleptocratic levels of insanity by our uncivil government I have had enough. The utter disrespect shown to the voters by the voted had pushed me to a complete crisis of confidence. This is particularly true of land transactions. Hello Mr. Robert Vadra and your special friends, DLF.
Then, last night I listened to Patanjali (Pato) Keswani of Lemon Tree Hotels speak to a couple of handfuls of Delhi alumni of New York University.
Now, Mr. Keswani boasts the kind of credentials which make an Indian mommy weak at her knees. However, there are plenty of credentialed ones in this country. Those who care equally about doing well and doing good; those seem to be rationed by the way things are done in this country. In his 40’s after a sterling career with the Tata’s, Mr. Keswani, opened a hotel, which has now multiplied to become an awful lot of hotels. After listening to him talk with passion about being in business and doing good, I was blown away.
In a business, which involves competing with the politically connected, who at the very least, have access to land often at ‘clearance sale’ prices, he has put his bets on his people. The company combines a forward thinking attitude, fairly treated staff with a light whimsical air dotting everything from their corporate communications to their bathrooms. While touring the hotel, I was charmed by their quirky touches, from a large stuffed bear, hugging the back of a large chair to a wall sculpture of clowns, entirely in white with just one eye-popping one with a red nose. Marble hallways are broken by teeny in-lays of puppy paws. It makes you feel like you’ve discovered something new, something only for you.
However, Lemon Tree Hotels have taken a stance behind the scenes, which makes the most impact. In 2013, 10% of their employees will be deaf-mute from BPL sections of society. To put this in context, in India, only 3% of people with disabilities are gainfully employed and that 3% is also the number which PSU’s are mandated to hire. Each hotel also adopts and cares for a stray pooch which becomes a part of the Lemon Tree family.
You’d think all this doing good would mean that the company is only about that. On the contrary, it is this aim for ‘perfection’ in service, which has allowed Lemon Tree to carve out a niche at the range between guest houses and stuffy, intimidating 5-Star Hotels. They are by far the fastest growing hotel chain in the country. Competing by hiring people with the right attitude, training, and keeping them happy has become the more important rationale than unequal access to resorces. Imagine listening to a business lecture being inspirational? It all depends on how, we conduct the business. Thank you Mr. Keswani, for pulling me out of my funk with India, making me believe again. There are people standing up for the country and may they continue to grow…like Lemon Tree Hotels.
*www.lemontreehotels.com, if you’d like to know more about the company.
**Just to make clear, I have never accepted a penny from Lemon Tree Hotels, nor have even ever stayed in one. Oops sorry, I did eat a couple of appetizers and grab a cool bottle of fancy spring water. I must say we all did promise to stay at a Lemon Tree hotel, the next time we travel.