Senior Assistant Vice President and General Manager of Banyan Tree Phuket,
The flagship property of the Banyan Tree group. A seasoned hotelier with over 20 years of experience in the luxury hospitality industry, Mr. Kailasam is an all-round professional with also an extensive experience in pre-openings, and projects encompassing operations in South America, North Africa, Middle East, China and South East Asia.
WHAT DOES LEADERSHIP MEANS TO YOU?
A leader is someone who definitely has a vision, who has the ability to articulate that vision to his team and has the courage to deliver on that vision. A leader is never going to be able to do everything by himself/herself, so ability to communicate clearly is a very important factor to the team. Once the team is convinced there is action leading to momentum to execute the vision consistently. That to me is the true role of leadership.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT BACKGROUND BEFORE JOINING BANYAN TREE?
Well, I graduated from The Oberoi School of Management, India. I started my career as a chef and I am still very passionate about food (eating rather than cooking!). I worked myself from the back, starting from a kitchen, of a typical hotel. The experience gave me an appreciation for what it takes to build a successful hotel — that is not only just about fancy rooms, the latest gadgets or its aesthetic, but it’s also about the detailed work by people from the background. I was also fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel a lot by working in different countries with different hotel groups that have their own ethos and philosophies. I have worked across Australia, Cambodia and India and for the past thirteen years I have been in Thailand. I never have enough words to describe about the hospitality in Thailand.
It has been a great learning curve for me personally. I have grown tremendously as a hospitality professional as well as a leader. At my current hotel I started off as a chef many years ago and still a lot of the staffs here still address me as a chef! I enjoy that camaraderie.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FACTOR THAT MARK YOR SUCCESS?
Consistency is the secret to success. Delivering a consistent product – in my case, it is the style of leadership that is consistent with the vision of the organization. The team has to know that they can rely on you and is someone they can trust.
Thailand has gone through many peaks and troughs yet still it manages to be one of the preferred travel destinations globally. I always tell my team that we have lots of things to be happy about within the Banyan Tree organization. This should motivate them to go beyond what our guests expect. Working for a brand like Banyan Tree the expectations are always high and our quest is always trying to raise the standard. Everyday new hotels are coming up. So, it is important for us to sustain the success by being creative and innovative with our hospitality solutions.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR BANYAN TREE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
The Banyan Tree Phuket will continue to be the flagship resort of the company since this is where it all started. I am just captaining this beautiful ship momentarily. There will be a General Manager after me so my job is to hand him an improved place of the hotel. So for the next few years our aim is to go on an upward trajectory both financially and socially, because we want to ensure that employment of local Thais continues along with increasing profitability. As a brand we are growing tremendously. We are expanding globally as well with hotels in Cuba and other parts of the world. We started off with Banyan Tree and now have Angsana, Casia, Dava.
WHO IS YOUR IDEAL LEADER?
We all look at leaders in different sense. My chairman is a great mentor and role model, He is somebody to emulate. Then there are some sport models. One of them is Roger Federer, who embodies consistency and sustained success. It requires a lot of mental and physical discipline to stay at the top of one’s game for a sustained period and to me those are great values.
HOW DO YOU APPLY YOUR PHILOSOPHIES ON YOUR TEAM AND MANAGE THEM TO WORK TOWARDS YOUR VISION?
I think sharing ideas and philosophies by communicating clearly is a starter. Having a brainstorming session every six months to discuss all my ideas doesn’t really work. You have to be on the floor everyday discussing with your leadership team so that they understand the vision.
This is where sometimes leadership fails because when you are not communicating consistently and are not looking at the issue from different angles you tend to look only in one dimention. There has to be a platform of communication where people can question you and you can question them. I believe we at Banyan Tree have been successful in setting up such an open communication workplace where everyone can raise their opinion irrespective of their position. I think It is important to lead from the front and not just say things.
FOR YOU WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT SUSTAINING CURRENT STANDARDS OR KEEP IMPROVING FOR THE BEST?
I think it is… one should always strive to keep evolving. If you are only going to be a caretaker you can hire a robot or a machine have very high commitment and always maintain their standards. What important most for me are energy, imagination and team work to take a hotel on a positive cycle. In my opinion, when one does not challenge the standards to improve, then you run the risk of becoming outdated. Every successful leader should reflect on what can be done to improve his associates or to make the quests happier or to make the hotel experience better.