A leader with so much poise and laughter, Samit is one of the most personable characters in this industry. After starting his career from the bottom, this seasoned hotelier is now helming The Westin Jakarta. We had the chance to sit down with him to find out more about the challenge of leading a hotel in these unprecedented times. By Rizky Adityo
E : What made you decide on a career in hospitality?
A: I think the hospitality business came naturally to me. I am not a hotel management graduate, and I have never done any formal training in hotel management. I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce with honors in accounting and also a qualified software engineer. But I found out all that I have learned is all past, and I have to study again with new systems. That’s when I decided to move to a different stream. I had a lot of conversations with my dad, who wanted me to study business management, so I did my MBA with a major in Marketing. I was on my way to follow a career in banking when I saw a big hotel chain in India looking for a front office assistant, so I had an interview and landed the job.
Generally, when people graduate from an MBA, they are expected to become a manager; but I started in a junior position. I was challenged because in the interview I was told that I will never be able to do it considering I have no hospitality education background. But then, I gradually proved that I was capable and spent the rest of my career in prominent flagship hotels around the world.
E : The Westin Jakarta is an iconic building with its twinkling LED lights, but what makes your property stand out in this metropolitan city?
A: I think you cannot take away the hotel’s building. The Westin Jakarta completely stands out as the highest hotel in Indonesia, and then we have Henshin on top. The acceptance of the first Nikkei cuisine not only in Jakarta but in Indonesia was significant. Now, the Henshin brand belongs to the Indonesians. Tomorrow you will see new openings of many other restaurants with fancy names, but you have to be accepted by the Indonesians, and Henshin managed to do that. It is a part of what makes The Westin Jakarta very special. Here, we focused on defining true luxury while delivering personalized service.
E : The ongoing pandemic must have created challenges for people in hospitality; as a leader, how do you overcome this situation?
A: 2020 has been the most challenging year in my career. I never thought in my wildest dream that something like this could happen. We were all surprised, so it took some time and a lot of resilience. I think in this period, talking to my team was important, giving them reassurance that at some point in time things will be back to normal. In my opinion, all hoteliers are like superheroes; we bring happiness, put smiles on their faces, and fulfill the dreams of our guests. We are not Marvel characters or from DC, but we proudly call ourselves Superheroes of Marriott Hotels.
E : Nowadays, sustainability is important to travellers. How does the hotel address this?
A: The Westin Jakarta has gone majorly plastic-free now. We have started using glass bottles in the room and also sustainable materials in our operations, and we even changed the coffee. Our motto is ‘buy local, be global’. Indonesia is very famous for coffee, but we used to have imported coffee in our hotel until I realized that people come from all over the world to try Indonesian coffee, so why do we have to import the coffee from somewhere else. That’s how we started serving one of the best coffees of Indonesia in all of our outlets, and now we are also in process of replicating the same philosophy to our food as well; to source the best ingredients locally.
E : In your opinion, what makes a great general manager?
A: Everybody has different definition of good general manager. From good to great, is decided by the ladies and gentlemen working with you, and the performance. However, to me, listening skills are one of the most important attributes. Whether it’s with your guest, your colleague, the market in general, you have to be able to listen carefully, not just hear. I also feel that you need compassion, empathy, and positive attitude. You have to be someone who wants to do something differently. Do not be afraid to do something that people say that can’t happen. And do not be afraid to make mistakes. After the hurdles, when you become successful, everyone will follow you and replicate your efforts.
E : What plans do you have for The Westin Jakarta in the coming years?
A: We are looking at diversifying culinary experiences with new collaborations and creating new dining delights. I am also very enthusiastic to open our Heavenly Spa again and curating a new Feel Well experience.
E : In your down time, what do you do to relax?
A: I do enjoy travelling and photography, I also like to visit different cities and visit the best hotels in those cities. I do take some time out to play tennis, while spending time with my daughter. In busy times, it is always difficult to find time for family, but I do keep priority to spend quality time whenever I can.
The Westin Jakarta
Jalan HR Rasuna Said Kav. C-22A
Jakarta 12940, Indonesia