Managing Your Way to the Top

The General Manager of Tangla Dongguan Hotel sat down with HERE! to tell us why managing a hotel is not always easy…

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Managing Your Way to the Top

Over lashings of Darjeeling tea and chocolate brownies, I’m sitting down with Prakash ‘Kash’ Kumaran, General Manager of Tangla Dongguan, to discuss, the difficulties of running a five-star hotel, the challenges of managing people, and sacrifices he has had to make.

Kash, 45, is the sort of man that stands out in a room, walking around his hotel, his large size, comportment and moustache give him the regal air of an Indian Maharajah surveying his Kingdom, yet despite his styling he is humble and self-deprecating.Though a General Manager today, he has done everything from waiting right, through to making-up beds, and believes working his way up from the bottom has made it much easier for him to do his job today. “I think in the hotel industry, although you have a degree or a Master’s, it is very important to know the fundamentals, the basics. I have not seen anyone with just a degree goes successfully straight into hotel management. People need to learn their skills on the ground,” he says. “You start from the bottom and work up, over the years you get experience, so you know what staff need and understand their problems.”

Despite the market being difficult, the stock market-yo-yo-ing, and factories are moving out to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia–all the world’s major hotel chains are expanding at breakneck pace. “The cake is becoming smaller, you need to think outside of the box, only creativity can sustain you. We are exhausting every avenue and idea to bring in new business. We try to add value, have unusual events, and minimize expenses.” he says. “The job is stressful, if there is a GM in the current market who doesn’t get stressed then hats off! For sure there are sleepless nights. Even if you don’t make profits you have to cover all your overheads. And we are the biggest hotel property in the city.”

“The job is stressful, if there is a GM in the current market who doesn’t get stressed then hats off!”

Another difficulty with the job is the amount you have to give up; a few times throughout our interview Kash mentions that he has made many sacrifices, particularly regarding his family time, but he remains stoic about it, “First of all, I guess you need to sacrifice a lot, especially family time. There is no 9-5, you need to expect the unexpected. Lots of problems arise that need your attention. I have sacrificed a lot of my life, I have been away a lot but you have to bite the bullet. That’s the challenge.”

Despite the occasional stressful moments, Kash finds much to love about the job, but the thing that drives him most is the personal side. He loves dining with guests and forming close relationships with all manner of people, and the industry has enabled him to make lifelong friends, “For me the fun part of the job is people. I get to meet a lot of people from all walks of life; believe me I have made more friends from the hotels than in my personal life,” he says. “A lot of them became friends after we had been through a very difficult situation. Things ended on a bad note and were very tough, but later we became friends. We look back and laugh now.”

“Managing people is not easy.”

Having a genuine love of China, Kash is enjoying his second stint in the country having previously worked at the Tangla in Beijing and helping to open the one in Sanya, but being a manager in China has its own challenges and facing them head on can be time-consuming. “Managing people is not easy. You have to adopt to different cultures. I would manage a Chinese person different to, say, an American, because their culture is different. Sometimes people think things can’t be done, and you have to teach people that it can be done. It is about the attitude, but it takes time. You need to sit them down and explain. This is the main challenge, but things are changing. I always believe in getting the right people for the right job or you are going nowhere but it is not so easy.”