Without “fire in the belly” no one can last long in this race, firmly believes Ms. Suman Julka, Director of Sales and Marketing, The Westin Kolkata
HospiBuz :- Being a Director of Sales and Marketing brings a load of responsibilities on one’s shoulders. What motivated you to enter into this career segment and when did you realized that you possess those skills that are required in this field.
Ms. Suman Julka: Hotels are my passion and I have always been keen for hospitality. Sales is interesting as we are always on the move, there is activity happening and the excitement never drops. Ever since I ventured into sales in 2000, I have been in love with this field. As a Director of Sales and Marketing, there is an immense responsibility of running someone’s business. When there is a great responsibility on your shoulders you have to give yourself to it and think it as your own. The excitement of getting business, making money, beating the competition and being on the top of your game is exhilarating. As Director of Marketing, you have to multi-task and be ahead in all fields including PR, Creative, Social media and make a mark on digital platform. Today things are rapidly evolving and being active digitally is crucial.
HospiBuz :- Please tell us about your corporate journey after graduating in marketing and Public Relations. What is the work Profile of a Director of Sales and Marketing on a usual day?
Ms. Suman Julka: I completed BA Honors in English from University of Delhi and never expected to make a career in hospitality. I aspired to be a professor in English Literature. At my first job, I worked for 6 months at TGI Fridays. I started from Grand Hyatt Delhi in FnB operations in 1999 and worked in a restaurant called Grand Café. I completed a PR course during my stint, by doing split shift at the hotel where I used to work from morning till late night and go for studies to CP from Vasant Kunj a journey of 1.5 hours by bus every day. Similarly, I managed MBA alongside my job as I never wanted to leave hotels for anything.
The work profile essentially is “On the Wheels”. You need to don many hats in this job – Mentor, Leader, Trainer, Sales Person, Marketing Person, Revenue Person, Catering Person, PR Person, “all in one” in short. You have to multi-task; you need to prioritize your day daily, you have to know what the most important thing is today as there is a list of various tasks you need to complete every day.
HospiBuz :- What are the few skills that you would say that is must for a Director of Sales and Marketing and how these skills can be polished and worked upon throughout the life?
Ms. Suman Julka: There has to be desire to grow, to compete, to win. You need to be aggressive, swift decision maker, offer solutions and guide your team to be innovative. It is very important to “own the business” as an owner yourself. It is essential to feel for the hotel, product and people. Only then can you perform your best and be your best. You need to be quick and sharp in deciding which business to take how and when.
HospiBuz :- Westin Kolkata is the first Westin in East India, how challenging is the market and what kind of opportunities are you exploring in East India, especially MICE sector?
Ms. Suman Julka: I would term it as “opportunities” instead of challenges as our growth is directly proportional to the growth of Bengal and we see a great potential for the hotel industry in the near future. With HIDCO, Science City kind of world class spaces, there is definitely going to be a growth in the MICE sector. Along with many medical associations, it’s heartening to see many conferences which are coming up for the investments and growth in Bengal such as BGBS, Destination East, Horasis etc. With large banqueting spaces coming up in all hotels, the days are not far when Kolkata will become the apt city for MICE venues.
HospiBuz :- Having an experience of working with 4 teams in Pre-opening operations, please share the four most/ few most important elements to keep in mind?
Ms. Suman Julka: This is the 4th hotel I have opened and my 3rd stint in Sales at a Department Head level. The 4 most important elements to be kept in mind are my 4 Ps, which are
You need to be passionate enough to go with the flow when every brick of the property is in front of you. Patience is most important as there are many situations which are not in your control which can lead to delays in opening. Thirdly, I would say strive to persevere, you are here for a job and keep working hard for it. Last and most important, without Planning, you can’t achieve anything. There has to be a “method to madness” and without a strategic approach you can’t win out there.
HospiBuz :- What advice would you offer to our readers who aspire as well as are already a part of Sales & marketing team?
Ms. Suman Julka: I would advise them to be passionate about Sales. Passion has to come from within. Without “fire in the belly” no one can last long in this race. One has to be consistent. You need to be a strategic thinker and most important, a “team player”. When the sweetness of success is shared with the team, one feels a different high and all sales people are well aware of this kick. Keep the fire burning.
HospiBuz :- As a Director, your role as a team leader increases manifolds, what are some of your expectations and principles that you expect from your employees to follow to stand out from the rest of the market players.
Ms. Suman Julka: It is essential to be honest to yourself and give 100% commitment. One can learn all skills but no one can change what you are within, what you are made up of. If you are honest to yourself, you will automatically give your 100%.
One has to think ahead, strategize, have a vision, plan it out and know what’s going on around you. “Knowledge is power” and without knowledge it will be like shooting in the dark. You stand out when you become indispensable and you become indispensable when you submit yourself totally and there is an unmatched commitment from you. At Westin, we stress on Service as we feel without the service you cannot win a guest for lifetime. We don’t just want a repeat customer, we want guests to “feel” Westin, to associate their experiences with Westin and make us a part of their life. The brand should become close to them, where they go an extra mile to stay with us.
HospiBuz :- These days everyone is addicted to social media, in your opinion has social media helped enhance the sales of your hotels? How do you promote your hotel over social media?
Ms. Suman Julka: Yes, I am aware and I personally feel, for a change this “addiction” is good. We should change as the world is changing around us. We need to anticipate and be ahead of our game. In today’s world if we leave social media, we leave the whole world of opportunities behind which we cannot afford with the high competition around us. Today, “quick response” is the name of the game. If you do not get back to a customer soon, you lose them to your competitor. Social media helps you to “connect”. We want Westin to be “connected” to people.
Instagram, Facebook, definitely help us in reaching out to people, to create awareness, to increase our ranking on different digital platforms such as Trip Advisor, Zomato. We want to be one of the top names on Trip Advisor; Zomato, we want people to book us through Booking.com, Expedia, MMT etc. We don’t want to leave out on any opportunity that comes our way. We promote our hotel through all the above mentioned sites. We regularly update our Instagram page with videos, stills and gifs. We regularly put up our promotions on Facebook. We even run contests on different platforms to increase participation.
HospiBuz :- 2017 has been a year with the immense twist and turns due to levy voluntary service charges in the restaurants, demonetization and implementation of GST. Indeed hospitality industry is still struggling with the GST rates. Did that affect the profit of Hotel Westin Kolkata and how did the hotel come over the above-mentioned challenges?
Ms. Suman Julka: Thankfully we were not open. However, I do feel for all and I myself went through this turmoil in my previous organisation. At the same time, I think that GST’s negative affect is only short term and we all must look towards a positive future. GST is a good initiative in streamlining and I am in for it for a better future of India.
HospiBuz :- HospiBuz is working on its vision to be the most informative journalism portal where industry professionals can showcase their talents, skills and success stories. With your immense experience and knowledge in the industry please suggest HospiBuz, on what Hospitality industry journalism needs the most and should be covered.
Ms. Suman Julka: I feel that as a publication, you are doing some great work. Your contribution towards hospitality is tremendous. You are one of those publications which give us in-depth information on various segments and aspects of the hospitality industry. I wish you all the best for your future endeavors.
Thank you so much for your precious time !!