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Exclusive Interview | Pundalika Pai National Head Operations at Little Italy Group

Editor: Tell us about your journey. How did it all start? 
All started with a series of tales or having a hospitality background. Aspiring to be an engineer during my early teens, was wandering what to do. I was recommended to take up hotel management by all my well wishers given our hospitality background. Though not very keen to take up the recommendations, I ran out of option.
During my second year of hotel management, I had unknowingly developed a keep interest and passion for the industry. That got stronger and prominent during my final year. Post studies did small time start up job and entrepreneurial assignments for 3 years. Like a fairy tale, one fine day decided to wind up business and joined Park Hyatt Goa. There has been no looking back post that.

Editor: What do you think it takes to succeed in this industry? 
Passion, perseverance, patience, practice are the key to success in the industry. The inner feeling of creating an experience for others and finding satisfaction by doing so is an added advantage. Training imparted and received also helps individuals to perform better. The ability to adapt, improvise your skills on a timely fashion will help you to achieve your goals. Like any other industry hard work and determination is also required.

Editor: What are the attributes you look for while selecting or hiring? 
Depending on the position, the attributes vary. Passion, attitude, willingness to learn and contribute are few aspects. Communication, confidence and the warmth of an individual also matters along with some exposure to the position interviewed for. If they are enthusiastic about the role, their contributions then the productivity and performance are at peak

Editor: What according to you can trainees do while they are training at hotels to make it a win-win for them & the hotel/unit? 
Hotel Management institutes do not give the real picture of the industry. Only when you enter the first training cycle, you understand the real dynamics. It’s an outstanding platform for young hoteliers to visualize and understand how the industry functions. It helps to narrow down on which specialization would be appropriate for an individual. You need to observe, understand and start practicing the observed task. Once you have built some trust, then you could ask question and learn further. It depends on the trainee how the opportunity is utilized. If keen interest, dedication and hard work are exhibited, then quite possible you may end up having a job by the end of 6 month training period.

Editor: Tell us a little about your average day? 
Start the day by 9.30 am. Run through the previous day’s performance. Take a round of the property. Complete the morning briefing. Speak to the operational teams at various locations. Based on the day’s schedule, attend meetings. Interacting with guest, understand the changing needs. Inspecting banquets events, meeting all other departmental staff. Speak to the project team for all upcoming locations and troubleshooting. Motivating and encouraging team members on daily basis.

Editor: How do keep abreast of all that is happening in hospitality? 
Reading, meeting people and my travelling schedule helps to stay connected with the industry.

Editor: Two reasons why this industry is awesome! 
You are provided with a platform to explore various cultures & beliefs. The opportunity to meet people with different needs, the sharing of knowledge and interesting challenges encountered. Satisfaction of creating a wow experience for guests are indeed awesome. 

Editor: Two things you would like to change about the industry. 
Change is inevitable. Change or perish. India will face an acute shortage of manpower for the hospitality industry by 2020. The current generation finds the industry to lack a work life balance. Steps have to be taken to improve the dynamics of the industry. The unorganized sector of the hospitality industry comprise roughly to 50%. The employees associated with these sectors are deprived of all the statutory benefits laid down by the government. This has to stop somewhere.