Ram Sharan Khatiwada is a living example of a small town boy who grew by leaps and bounds in both life and career. Having grown up in a village in Nepal and started his career in Kathmandu, today he is the Director of Housekeeping, Lapita, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Autograph Collection Hotels. Khatiwada currently oversees the work of 12 managers and supervisors. He speaks with Samiya Andrabi about how he has grown in the past 16 years and what continues to drive him today.
I grew up in Nepal about 40 km away from Kathmandu city. I moved out of my village when I was just 11 and started studying and working in Kathmandu. I would study in the day and work with my family in the evenings. By the time I was 19, I had done several jobs in varied sectors. But, they didn’t work for me. Then, an acquaintance referred me for a housekeeping job at a palace hotel at Kathmandu - the Yak Yeti Hotel. Having had prior experience and knowledge of hotels, it wasn’t so foreign to me - and that’s when my career graph grew!
Growth over the years
I worked at the Yak Yeti Hotel for almost 8 months (on a night shift). One day, I came across a job opening for a housekeeping attendant in YTL Hotels in Malaysia. I didn’t even have a passport, but my heart was set! And I made it happen.
I’d like to point out that I was lucky to have been able to work with brands at the very onset of my career. One of the earliest brands I worked with was Marriott Group. In Malaysia, I soon rose from being a housekeeping attendant, to being in charge of a project, and from there I was promoted to Housekeeping supervisor in Pangkor Laut Resort. After a 5-year stint in Malaysia, I left the country owing to sudden government regulations. I flew back home and looked for job opportunities in my home country.
Today, I believe that working with the Marriott Group was destiny. Soon enough, the group came to Nepal on a recruitment drive and I was offered the position of Housekeeping Supervisor at Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel. This was my first time in the Middle East and also the first time I would manage an opening property. After some time, I moved to Ritz Carlton JBR, Dubai.
They were opening a new wing and since I had ample experience with openings at Doha, it was a natural step. My next stop was The Conrad, Dubai, where I joined at the managerial level. After almost a year, I was offered the position of Assistant Director in Sheraton Grand and W Hotel. From there, I rose to the level of an Executive Housekeeper at the Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa. Finally, in March 2019, I joined Lapita as a Director for Housekeeping, which is where I work now.
I have been in this industry since 2004 and the journey has been an amazing one, full of new learnings. I started from scratch - and at that point, I had no idea of what I was doing and where I was going. Today, I have learned so much about this industry and am in love with it.
Your work and profile at your current establishment
I oversee the work of 12 managers and supervisors - I coach and guide them on various aspects of the job. Everyday when I come to Lapita, I begin with walking around and taking notes. I visit the departments, manage the internal communications and briefings. I get updates about all ongoing activities. I also make it a point to personally meet guests, VIPs, etc., to get their feedback. Then again, between the check-in and check-out time, everything needs to be overseen and cross checked properly, apart from strategic decisions related to housekeeping, inspections and audits.
What drives you and your career My family. I was responsible for my family and especially for my sister from quite a young age. In my early years, my responsibility for her marriage is what drove me to work hard and put in any extra effort. What I’ve also learnt is that being passionate about the guest experience helps you grow. I always stood out because my guests used to give me such positive feedback. Your passion leads you to places; mine did, too!
An accomplishment that shaped your career
Being part of openings shaped my career and taught me a lot. This is because openings are never easy. They are challenging but help you to grow. For me, they helped me become a good manager and a good leader.
The best part of your job
Meeting different people, talking to them and listening to their feedback is the best part of my job. In a hotel, you have different kinds of people pouring in everyday. Also, in this part of the world, your workforce is composed of diverse nationalities. Interacting with this kind of diversity is interesting.
The most challenging aspect in your job
Every hotel has its own set of challenges. Talking about Lapita, we are away from the city - right in the middle of the desert with 504 rooms and an occupancy of over 80%. The turnover is often very challenging. Then again, the check-out time of the hotel is 12 ó clock and check in time is 3 p.m. So we have only three hours to clean so many rooms.
Sometimes, we have huge sandstorms. Managing the resort at such a time (when all of it is exposed to dust) is also a challenge. I would say that the two common challenges for all housekeepers (in any hotel) are manning and linen. In Dubai, the expectations of guests are very high. Being at par with those expectations requires your best effort.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
We need to keep supporting our environment. We have to aim at minimum wastage. As a company, we are working on replacing all the tube amenities with wall-mounted dispensers. Imagine the number of tubes (shower gels, shampoos, lotion, etc) we throw everyday and the amount of wastage we can avoid if we replace them with refillable dispensers.
We are also trying to replace plastic water bottles and have already started using plastic-free straws. We conduct linen-reuse programmes as well because we don’t want to overburden the environment by washing linen on a daily basis. At Marriott, we give our customers a “Make a green choice” option. If they choose it, they get rewarded in monetary terms. This is because we want to encourage them to make the right choice for the environment.
Exclusive housekeeping practices you follow
As a housekeeper, I focus on daily training and keeping track of it. I have been following the same training structure for the past 6 or 7 years. When I started my career, these training sessions helped me a lot. Today, when I have reached a certain level, I ensure that what benefited me benefits my team as well.
I also encourage team building to help team members overcome their shyness. In order for this to work, everyday one of the team member’s is asked to present the briefing session before the rest. This builds immense confidence.
We have also started a practice of rewarding the best housekeepers within the Marriott hotels. We try to induce healthy competition and whoever performs the best, gets a monetary incentive, too. This helps me keep the staff motivated. I have also started daily walks for all our associates. We gather all of them together and take them for a 10-minute walk. It refreshes them and is more like a fun activity.
Cleaning practices at your hotel We follow the ABC method of housekeeping. A means ‘away with the old’, B means ‘bed making’, C is ‘chemical’, D is ‘dusting’, E is ‘everything in the bath’ and F is ‘finishing’. I make sure that after every three months, I reacquaint the associates with the fundamentals of these ABCs lest they forget. We also follow a buddy system. Everyone works in teams of two. Each team member knows the other’s tasks and both of them are responsible for cross checking each other’s task lists.
The latest products and innovations that are in use
I recently purchased a Hyla cleaning machine, and I am also looking forward to those drive machines, which will help my staff to clean the large pathways of the resort within a minimum stipulated time.
We use a Rex system, which is a technology that helps us streamline the entire cleaning system. Everyone, from the cleaning associate to the supervisor to the manager, is using the Rex system on an Ipad. The Rex system tells the cleaning associate where to go, it will tell a supervisor where their associates are working, how much time they took for each task and a lot more. And it really is in line with the Paperless Dubai initiative!