Kamalini Paul: Transforming the Hospitality Industry
The hospitality industry is constantly evolving with generational differences and globalization. To drive efficiencies, hotel companies have to adapt and customize their services. They require effective women leadership that not only helps in bringing success to the business but also helps generate opportunities, provide progressive vision and create a strong purpose for everyone in the company. Women possess qualities that provide an accommodating and nurturing environment for all the employees that help them grow with the company. One such leader is Kamalini Paul, who is the owner of Paulson Group, a hospitality concern with a four-star hotel, namely Hotel De Sovrani based in Kolkata, Darjeeling, and Gangtok.
She started her entrepreneurial journey at the very young age of 18 years. Her father was a reputed realtor in Kolkata and solely ran his business. It was his lifelong dream to build a hotel. Unfortunately, within 6 months of completing Hotel De Sovrani, he passed away.She had to leave her studies and join the business as many projects halted midway, with no one to lead them to completion. She forayed into hospitality by handling multiple projects at a time that helped her sharpen her business acumen. She aimed to provide people with state-of-art experience and best-in-class services that cater to their needs.
“It was a very scary and difficult task at 18. Having consistently worked for the last 6 years, I developed a passion for the industry,” says Kamalini.Today, she is successfully running three hotels and has an upcoming business centre launching in a couple of months. She has perseverance which is unbeatable willpower to carry on even in the worse of situations. Her journey in the hospitality industry has not been easy, she has faced various challenges but her hardworking attitude and consistency have allowed her to come out stronger than ever.
Company at a Glance
Established in 2012, Hotel De Sovrani is one of the best upscale independent hotels in Kolkata today. They provide luxurious rooms with breakfast, dinner, and 24*7 service, at a cost of less than INR 4500. All services from 24*7 coffee shop, housekeeping, room service, and bell boy are available around the clock. The hotel hosts three food outlets, a rooftop cafe with a swimming pool, and a fully functional gym. They are the top destination for the weekend buffet in Kolkata as they offer mouth-watering Indian delicacies.
“With our other brand POZ hotels, we are focusing to uplift and improve the idea of holidays and comfortable stays in remote holiday destinations. We focus on providing hygienic stays, and delicious food at affordable prices,” she explains.
POZ hotels’ goal is to understand, empathize and provide customized services to all its guests. “We treat every single client of ours with love and care and try to understand her/his story to understand how we can serve them the best. It is this human touch and personal relationship we work to build which helps us be differential in such a competitive market,” she asserts.
Kamalini wanted to change the way people looked at the hospitality industry. She aimed at targeting young adults and started Sky view café, a rooftop café serving light food, alcohol, and shisha. Today, Sky view is a popular hangout spot in the city and has a waitlist most days. Their library bar is the after-work drinks joint for all the senior businessmen of Kolkata, and Sand restaurant hosts family dinners and couples regularly. Thus, De Sovrani aims to create a special offering for everyone.
Decision Making is an Art
For any organization, making an informed decision is very essential for their long-term success. To make her business successful, Kamalini gets involved in thousands of small and big decisions, each equally important or impactful from the other. She makes decisions that are not only beneficial for the company but also for the direct and indirect stakeholders involved and society as a whole.
The Group practice open communication with all its employees. Kamalini says, “I don’t tell anyone how to do something, I may show them an idea I like and ask them to improvise on the same. More often than not, the team member comes back with a more exciting output than I even imagined. Allowing one to brainstorm independently is important but showing them a direction always helps add more value. Additionally, we do not limit any team member to any single fixed role only. Our chef can share ideas on how to improve housekeeping offerings and vice versa. This allows a wider range of ideas and experiences to be shared than restricting team members only to their designed roles.”
Amidst the pandemic, the hospitality industry is witnessing digitization. The industry is adopting cloud kitchens, phygital restaurants, and digitalizing customers service experience. The Group is not only adopting new innovations but also creating the best experience for its customers by providing customized services.
She says, “India is known for its ardent care and hospitality attitude, and our saying “Atithi Devo bhava” means our guest is our god and we should treat them in a godly manner irrespective of their background or wealth. However, over time, hospitality has become about grandeur and luxury, and there are very limited offerings for middle-class people who cannot afford a lot of expensive offerings. Through our offerings,we want to make hospitality more accessible to the common man.”
Being a single female leader, she faced various challenges like people not trusting her with their businesses for the long term, enforcing stigmas, and considering her as freckle-minded. She says, “I don’t understand why my gender has anything to do with my business acumen, goals, or skills. Over the years, I have learned to prove to be authentic with my offerings.I work longer hours than most of my team members because it not only fuels me to break these stigmas but also to make my own place on the table which won’t have been possible if they didn’t have a doubt in the first place.”
Kamalini turned her challenges into opportunities. She believes in continuous learning and expanding her acumen with every new experience or project she takes up. She has completed nearly 3-4 new projects in the pandemic and has consistently participated in certification courses and training programmes from reputed universities like Insead and Rotterdam School of Management to keep her updated with new studies and management skills. She uses these skills to better herself and bring practical implications to her company.
She is on a mission to build an economic hospitality brand for the common people of India. With Poz Hotels opening its wings in Darjeeling and Gangtok, they want to create innovative experiences, hygienic stays, and artsy spaces for people looking to take a pause from their daily lives. They plan to succeed in the mission of making the luxuries and comfort of holidays more accessible to the common man.
Kamalini Paul concludes by saying, “Always believe in yourself and keep going. Be passionate about your dream and work hard to achieve it.”