As a child, he was fascinated with hotels. As he grew up, he dreamt of creating impeccable experiences for people, just like he had experienced them. That’s how the journey of Deepu Kundra, the Executive Housekeeper, Fairmont Ajman, began. Let’s hear it from him.
Upon graduating in 2004 from a reputed hospitality school in India, I was very fortunate to embark on my professional journey as a management trainee with Taj Hotels, being able to contribute to the success of the group for seven continuous years, across various positions at a number of Taj properties in India.
In 2011, I joined the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts – a luxury hospitality brand. I truly cherish its values and carry them close to my heart. I have been fortunate to be part of a number of pre-opening assignments, the most recent one the opening of Fairmont Ajman in 2015, as an executive housekeeper – the position which I hold till date.
Your experience and years in the industry
I have been in the hospitality industry for the past 15 years, five of which I’ve spent in the United Arab Emirates, and the remaining nine years I’ve been working across a number of hotels in India. As 15 years is quite a journey, I can proudly say that the housekeeping I’ve known since I first started my career has changed tremendously today. We have opened ourselves up to technology, implemented a number of innovative sustainability measures, become more processoriented and capable of being more efficient with less manpower.
How did you get into the hospitality industry and how have you grown since then?
As a child, I was always fascinated with hotels, as going to different resorts and spending time there was fun and something I’d really look forward to. Since then, I dreamt of delivering the same kind of service that I’ve received to others, and that’s exactly how a childhood dream has turned into a successful professional career.
What drives you and your career?
The most important factor which drives me and my career, is passion for what I do. Enjoying my job has always kept me highly motivated and committed. Besides that, there are also other attributes, which have kept me on track to succeed: passion for people, willingness to serve, being able to inspire others and contribute towards change and empowerment.
An accomplishment that shaped your career One of the greatest accomplishments till date is the successful opening of the first Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ property in India, Fairmont Jaipur, which I was fortunate enough to be part of as an assistant director of housekeeper.
Pre Opening of a hotel is a very rewarding yet often challenging experience, as the entire team of professionals comes together to start from scratch, literally building up the hotel from the ground. It was an eye-opening experience and such a learning curve to be able to build my own department, set up things to the best of my knowledge; conduct training; maintain inventories, and implement standard operating policies and procedures.
The best part of your job
Being an executive housekeeper is an important and all-encompassing role as I have to be a coach, developer, connector, communicator, strategist, nurturer, procurement manager, and should it be required – counsellor all in the same person.
The most challenging aspect in your job
Talent recruitment and retention is often the most challenging task – from selecting the right people who possess a great attitude and are capable of performing their duties, to ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to ensure that we’re able to retain that hand picked talent.
When hiring, I always prefer to have candidates who are genuinely interested in the industry, as we are not only looking at candidates who can fill available positions, but also those who can grow with the company to become our future leaders.
Becoming a great housekeeper isn’t solely dependent on a hotel management degree, therefore often when hiring entry-level employees, we recruit for attitude and train for skills.
Why is sustainability important to you?
Housekeeping is the frontline of any hotel business both in terms of guest contact and equally important in ensuring that all rooms that are presented to the guests look immaculate. Therefore, housekeeping plays a pivotal role in creating, developing and retaining the sustainability-embracing culture in the hotel.
In line with the Accor’s sustainability programme Planet 21, we have implemented a number of measures to ensure that we’re reducing the carbon footprint whilst striving towards a more sustainable future, one step at a time. Using eco-friendly and organic products in cleaning; linen- and towel recycling; recycling and segregating waste, in addition to the sustainability training for all employees, to ensure compliance and avoid wastage.
Your work and profile at your current establishment
As an executive housekeeper, I am currently taking care of maintaining 252 guest rooms and suites, amongst them a 520 sq m Penthouse Suite; six food and beverage outlets; all public areas and outdoor facilities spreading across five acres. In addition to that, my team is also responsible for the cleanliness and hygiene standards of all back of house areas.
I am also spearheading the hotel’s quality assurance committee, which comprises a number of champions from respective departments, in order to ensure our compliance with the highest quality requirements.
Exclusive housekeeping practices you follow
The key practices that I nurture in our daily operations, to ensure that the highest possible quality standards will be met, are as follows: creating an environment, in which team members are encouraged to strive and excel in their roles, appropriately rewarded and valued; making employee training a priority; providing adequate resources to complete required duties; conducting frequent quality checks; using the latest and updated housekeeping applications; maximizing on communication, and maintaining proper inventory levels.
Cleaning practices at your hotel.
At our 252-key beachfront resort, we are following both types of cleaning procedures: manual cleaning methods which do not require mechanised or electronic equipment; and the mechanised cleaning methods which are all electronic equipment-based. In line with the local regulations and requirements, we are also ensuring that proper sanitation processes across all front- and back of house areas are being followed.
The latest products (chemicals & equipment) that are in use
One of our top priorities is to support our sustainability programme Planet 21, and we have therefore implemented a number of green seal certified chemicals across both – housekeeping and laundry operations, which minimise the environmental damage.
We have also eliminated using non-eco-friendly detergents and are instead using natural soaps, which makes washing and cleaning cycles more effective.
Equipment-wise, I have opted for lighter vacuum cleaners and carts with wheels which are designed for carpets – all to keep in mind the housekeeping ergonomics and to ensure our team members' efficiency and comfort whilst performing daily tasks.
One of the latest trends in housekeeping is also steam cleaning, which eliminates the usage of chemicals and emphasises more on sanitisation.
The latest technologies that make cleaning an easy job
The trends and technologies have rapidly changed during the past years, and will continue to do so moving forward. Some of the examples that make housekeeping more effective are: the ability to connect with guests through a smart phone application or voice control, should the wish to request additional amenities or place an order for a turndown service at a specific time. Also, making laundry service more efficient by delivering quality washing cycles whilst using less detergent and less water at a lower temperature.
Training provided to the cleaning staff
Employee training is a crucial aspect of running a successful business; therefore, it is important to establish standards of cleanliness; teach proper use of the equipment; address and retrain common mistakes; focus on maintaining consistency; reinforce staff etiquette; using role-play to train and reinforce the learnt, and always communicate the latest requirements and trends, in order to keep the team members up-to-date.
As the overall concept of housekeeping is changing day by day, it is becoming so much more than just cleaning and maintaining the product.
Housekeeping teams are getting more and more involved in budgeting and in cost control, as well responsible for choosing the right people, training and nurturing the team members. We are also equally involved in maximising the usage of available resources effectively and efficiently.
Housekeepers have also become an integral part of the hotel’s pre-opening design team, to ensure that the chosen design is keeping in mind housekeeping ergonomics – all that, to ensure the product can last longer.