“Entrepreneurship runs in our family” – Ms. Sonica Malhotra
Presently the Joint Managing Director of MBD Group, Ms. Sonica Malhotra is driving the Group by taking powerful strides into Hospitality, real estate, retail and mall development ventures. Under her aegis, MBD Group forayed into hospitality sector with their maiden venture- The Radisson Blu MBD Hotels and MBD Neopolis.
HospiBuz brings an extract of the exclusive interaction with this Great women entrepreneur and achiever.
HospiBuz: What was your motivation in your early days, that also gave you a clarity that you want to enter in the entrepreneurial and hospitality line where you have been achieving great success and have been creating milestones for everyone?
Ms. Sonica Malhotra: Since the time I remember, my main motivation has been my father. He was my role model as I always wanted to follow his footsteps, there was no doubt about it. My father was a completely self-made man; he was a small-town boy who went on to create such a big education company, which was completely unheard of. I was always inclined towards education and I was particularly keen to pursue it as I wanted it to culminate into entrepreneurial pursuits. I also wanted to learn from my father and then practice that within the company itself. As far as hospitality is concerned, I think I have never have this kind of a fixed mindset that if I get into entrepreneurship, it will restricted be in hospitality or education or retail. I think it’s the way we have been groomed over the years, that we have flexibility in our DNA which made us utilize our managerial and entrepreneurial skills across all verticals.
I think a good entrepreneur should have a knack of finding that gap or an opportunity which actually can deliver the best for the company, both in terms of returns as well as overall brand building. So hospitality is not the only area I was keen in, but I think it came as a very good learning ground for me, because this was a new project that the company was launching and it gave me whole lot of opportunities to put in whatever I learnt from my father and through my educational pursuits, into practical being. This is the reason why the hospitality business is very close to my heart, because it was the first sector that I entered into. So over the years, I have been looking after hospitality and a lot of other verticals and functional areas.
HospiBuz: You have been successfully managing a number of projects in MBD Group, what are some of the skills and knowledge that one must possess to successfully look over Project Management. How is hospitality management different from the other sectors?
Ms. Sonica Malhotra: I think one of the best attributes is that my entire learning has not been restricted to one functional area of business.
I pursued the courses that were meant for people who were aspiring to become CEO’s or Managing Directors of the company, when I went to do my PhD at Harvard and I think that gave me a very broad perspective, irrespective of the industry and the the point of time in your career, you’re able to actually take care of many vertical because at the end of the day, the skill sets from an entrepreneur’s perspective remain the same; to have the financial acumen to know the kind of returns you will get from your investment, the ability to be able to manage and get the best talent in the company-which I think is probably one of the most difficult task, and to be able to retain that talent with not just the money that they expect but a whole lot of other motivational and emotional issues that you’re supposed to be taking care of the team.
I think as an entrepreneur, we have been trained by our father, and also through all the experiences we have gone through over a period of time, of bringing onboard the best team, that is extremely qualified in that area and actually drives the process to up the scale of the company, and of course you lead the process from the front, which is very important. Third is you should know what’s your vision for yourself what’s your short term, midterm and long term understanding for the company. I think you may go wrong in the short term, but in the midterm and the long term, you can actually make it happen for your company.
HospiBuz: With current demonetization policy by the government, it will lead to slowing down the spending on the luxury sector? What should be the strategy of the hospitality industries right now to cope up with this short term phase?
Ms. Sonica Malhotra: I think demonetization will not impact the hospitality very much as 70% of our revenues are realized from credit card transactions. The remaining unstructured 30% is predominantly those people who might get inconvenienced over a period of 1-2 months, but we know for a fact that over the next 3 months, everything will get stabilized. So for a short window of 3 months, changing your business model is something which is going to be very destructive. As an organization, we feel that we should not be really getting into it because if we take very dramatic steps for these 3 months, it will have huge ramifications for number of years to come. So, we’re actually staying firm on our current systems, our procedures and our policies and we really reckon that we will bounce back with that 30% of non-credit business as well.
HospiBuz: What sort of advice would you like to give to our budding hospitality management students and managers on how to be efficient and effective in running ventures, so as to get an edge over the competitors?
Ms. Sonica Malhotra: In terms of my advice to budding hospitality students, I think that everyone who enters into the hospitality sector, want to eventually become the General Manager of the hotel, and to become an effective General Manager, learning is going to be a continuous process in your entire career and you need to have a very broad based management understanding . It always makes sense to go back to school and enhance your management capabilities to actually take care of errors which are beyond what you have been trained for. When you move up the chain, let’s say from being the F&B head to Hotel Manager then the General Manager, you don’t have that perspective of taking into consideration the overall P&L, about how a cost structures looks like? What your strategy in departments where you haven’t functioned or trained in, should be? So, if you sign up for these short courses at reputed organizations, it really makes a lot of difference and also to keep an open mindset and have an aptitude to be very observant on how other function areas achieve their results, really helps you once you actually take up higher responsibilities.
This also helps at times when the management tries to give you short assignments to take care of something outside your functional area. So you should be more than happy to stretch yourselves even if it means that you’re working much more than any of your peers because this experience will give you that add on benefit, over others. I think these three things can primarily make you a very effective managers as you move up in your career graph.
HospiBuz: Being the group editor of the magazine ‘Democratic World’, what is your vision towards the content focusing on the hospitality industry and travelogue?
Ms. Sonica Malhotra: Democratic World is an intelligent magazine, giving people an informed and positive opinion of the world around them. It is our endeavor that through the ‘Garnish’ section, we bring awareness about the old traditions and lost out recipes and also showcase some of the best restaurants in the world, and present the off-beat travel destinations, that are not so popularly talked about but offer an incredible experience, through the ‘Hitch-Hikers’ section.
HospiBuz: You have been honoured with a number of awards including Women Super achiever in Retail and the Women Entrepreneur of the Year for the milestones that you have achieved, which has been a great inspiration for Indian women. What are your views on how women in the entrepreneurship sector have been great leaders that have transformed the hospitality market?
Ms. Sonica Malhotra: Exactly what required in hospitality it’s about an eye for the detail which women sometime have this thing of micromanaging stuff and then they have this eye for detail but micromanagement is not good for business.
HospiBuz: You brought up the first five-star hotel of Ludhiana, Radisson Blu Hotel, how did you analyse the correct market conditions and with market demand for initiating this venture.
Ms. Sonica Malhotra: I think the decision to enter Noida and Ludhiana was basically taken by my father. He decided to buy the land at Noida, Ludhiana and in Jalandar because he saw the huge market gap as there was no five star property in these cities but there was a growing aspiration to spend on a luxury hotel, and I think it’s paid very well!
Like I said, to be a good entrepreneur, you don’t need to be very specific, in terms of education or anything for the industry, but you need to have a knack to see the market gap and where the opportunity is and that is something that my father was very very good at. Both the properties at Ludhiana and Noida are doing and doing exceptionally well, even from the retail point of view. We probably have the highest rental recommendations and the best hospitality brand. Same is the case, now as we move to tap the market in Bangalore, which has a huge demand.
HospiBuz: Hospitality Sector has not been covered by media houses extensively hence Hospibuz is working on its vision to be the most informative journalism portal where industry professionals can showcase their talents, skills and success stories. Would you please tell us being an accomplished and experienced professional how and what should Hospitality journalism need to cover and highlight the most?
Ms. Sonica Malhotra: Hospitality journalism should particularly showcase substantive information, like international trends, in terms of enhancing guest experience, manpower cost management, use of technology, among others. Enhancing the technology use is in fact a very important factor and of course upgrading the entire guest experience is of utmost importance. There’s lots to learn from outside India and amalgamating it with the our Indian style and tradition of hospitality, is what I think Hospitality journalism should focus on.
Thank you so much for your prestigious time!!