Taking The Reins – In Conversation With Sumeet Suri

A candid chat with the newly appointed General Manager at the Kochi Marriott  

Born to a hotelier’s family in Delhi, he was always fascinated by the hospitality industry. With his father being the Chef at the Oberoi and then the Leela, he got the opportunity to travel extensively around India and abroad. The fascination gradually grew into inspiration and then, became his passion. After completing his degree in hotel management, he joined the ITC group and his 16 year journey in the food and beverage sector and later, operations and admin, led him through wonderful properties in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Rajasthan and finally the ITC Grand Chola, Chennai. Being passionate about new learnings and experiences, he has never shied away from venturing into new horizons. So when the Marriott group beckoned, he decided to take the plunge yet again! RITZ is in conversation with Sumeet Suri, the newly appointed General Manager at the Kochi Marriott!

Text: Riya Sonny Datson

What is your perception about the Marriott brand?

I have heard a lot about the brand and now, I am experiencing it personally. As I understand, it is the world’s largest hotel company and now with the integration of Marriott and Starwood, it is exciting to see it growing by leaps and bounds across the world! When it comes to running such a large organisation, I think it is fascinating to understand the processes involved. I think it’s a great learning opportunity not just to understand the process orientation but to ensure that the desired results are achieved.  I also find Marriott’s core value of putting people first very exciting. Marriott empowers its associates in decision making and welcomes them into the Marriott family, thereby encouraging them to grow along with the group.

As a leader, what are your strategies to motivate your team?

I believe in a simple formula. The first one being empowering your team – to encourage  them to take up responsibility and to inculcate an aspiration to grow. Second, would be to ensure open communication, which is very very important. Work life balance is another critical area. Marriott gives a great culture for work life balance which ensures that people don’t get burned out. I believe it is important to have light moments with the team, to spend time with them informally and of course, to challenge them to perform better.

What do you think is the one quality required for a hotelier.

I would say – Passion and patience.

Which would be your favourite department?

Having worked in the food and beverage department for the longest time, I have enjoyed it\ the most. I feel it is a great space for innovation. Early in one’s career, as a restaurant manager, you also become a good sales manager. But I am trying to spend more time now on revenue management and aspects of front office, which I feel is a vital part of business.

What is it that you like most about being a hotelier?

This industry takes you around the world and I love experiencing new things and meeting people. Every single day is different in this industry and I look forward to each day with its new challenges.

What do you think is your biggest challenge?

People!  It is alarming that today, not all hotel management graduates opt for hotels, most of them move to other industries. Talent is dwindling but the number of hotels are increasing. Getting quality manpower is the biggest challenge. I think it is important for companies to invest in the right people.

What would be your Inspiration?

The drive to learn and experience new changes.

Ever felt that you were in the middle of a crisis but you came out of it in flying colours?

There have been many occasions where I have felt that I am at the end of the tunnel and that there is no way out but something eventually works out.  I think, opening a new property is always very challenging. The flavour of facing the challenges and then when it turns out really well is very satisfying.

With so many options for guests, what is your strategy to engage them?

Great Service and great personalisation.  I think Kochi Marriott has been blessed with a great product. Personalisation is a key factor which involves creating great experience and wow moments for guests. Then of course, food and beverage is a great space for innovation where people get to experience new tastes and cuisines not available here. The Marriott brand has a good loyalty base as well and I think guests today opt for the best loyalty benefits, which the group has an edge over.

What are your interests outside of work?

Watching movies, reading, spending quality time with family and traveling.  I prefer short holidays now and wherever I am, I like to explore the place completely.

How is your first experience in Kerala?

Kochi seems to have an interesting mix of cosmopolitan and culture. I would like to explore the cultural aspect and know more about it. I am looking forward to exploring the beaches, the offbeat holiday destinations and of course, going on long drives.