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In Conversation with Shibani Malhotra

Shibani Malhotra is the General Manager of Marriott Executive Apartments in Hyderabad. With 23 years to the journey so far with Marriott, each milestone of Marriott in the region makes Shibani proud of her presence within this team. Shibani was the first employee of Marriott Executive Apartments and ever since takes pride in opening the door to both customers and associates at this property.

Prior to taking over this position, Shibani has been part of the finance team across various roles, last being Director of Finance at Marriott Hyderabad. Inspired by many leaders, she finds collaboration and amalgamation as key words to success in a business where each day a customer helps create a new learning for the hospitality team.

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To many a milestone that her property is creating, one thing is common, ‘Spirit to serve’, every single team member at the property lives with passion of ‘Can do’ and never tires to welcome with a smile. Shibani is married to Atul and they are blessed with Aryaveer, now a 19 year old man and a canine son named Junior Mafia. Shibani loves to travel and has ‘Globe’ on her wish list, each year tagging one to her album of memories.

What makes Marriott Executive Apartments stand out from other properties you’ve worked in?  

Marriott Executive Apartments offers warm and opulent apartment-style living for customers who wish to have a home away from home, a traveler who wishes to have space to pamper senses and a customer who wants space in the heart of the city yet not compromise on nature’s blessings. To imagine the ensemble, you need to house yourself at the property and to experience; you need to live it up @ Marriott Executive Apartment, Gachibowli.

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Who is your typical customer? 

Global Citizen- This guest is discerning and confident, always striving to maximize their time. They view global assignments as a key career milestone that also enriches their lives, allowing them to explore and enjoy the new city they are living in. They seek a high degree of control, comfort, and sophistication, giving them peace of mind and helping them stay productive while far from home. With the unprecedented times we have seen a new demographic of young, affluent trailblazers choosing us as a place to stay, to unwind and to break the monotony before going back to hustle within the city.

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If you could plan a one-day itinerary for guests looking to explore Hyderabad, where would you send them?

For early risers, we recommend you to strap those trainers and walk or run through the urban jungle, hear the peacocks calling and breath in some fresh air at the botanical garden, come back to the property and plan your today to include a catch-up with the history of this city, do remember this is the city where once the Kohinoor diamond lived its glory, this is the city where the kings and queens have lived their majestic life of expanse and expenses, visit Golconda palace – a 13th century wonder, Qutub Shahi tombs of 1500’s for its Hindu Persian style architecture and then head towards Charminar for its landmark Cazia style 4 pillar monument build to ward off deadly epidemic of 1591. It is around Charminar that you will find the rustic opulence of history and make you indulge with authentic Iranian café offering, the famous Hyderabadi Iranian chai and bun maska for breakfast. Post the gourmet treat, there are local artisans selling handmade offerings to shop.

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Building the right team is crucial for a property’s success. What are the key skills you look for when hiring new employees?

It is clearly 3 things I would look at: Passion towards ones job role, clarity on how they would want to add value and progress their career path and to have global mindset with openness towards new learnings to handle our global citizen customer demographics that we attract.

What is the USP of your hotel? 

A hotel with home like features located at juxtaposition connecting the old and new offerings of the city, Housing a Spa. Fitness center, Roof top swimming pool, Gaming zone and a Restaurant with a view like no other in city makes it an Instagram worthy location within in the city.

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What is the one dish that guests have to try when at your hotel?

Kodi Vepudu – is a popular south Indian dish authentic to Telugu-speaking states of Andhra and Telangana. The word Kodi means Chicken in English and Vepudu stands for fry. Also referred to as chicken Fry in the restaurants of the states and across the world.

Kodi Vepudu is usually prepared with a special kharam masala powder which makes this recipe unique and delicious. Not to mention, the onion paste and cashew powder that is used in the recipe delivers an exotic rich flavor and taste to this dish as described by our Head Chef Raja Hegde.

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2020 was a challenging year for the hospitality industry. In your opinion, how will travel trends change in the 2nd half of 2021?

Travel demand is recovering as compared to 2020 aided by the “Ease in restrictions”, “ongoing focus on Safety and cleanliness”, “increase in vaccination pace” and “pent-up demand” resulting in revenge travel.

Segments contributing to this demand is predominantly from – Staycations, Weddings and Driveable leisure destinations and Bizcations (working from a resort). Also business travel pickup is mainly owing to projects / manufacturing locations from specific sectors.

Sustainable business will depend on efficacy of vaccines and a potential third Covid wave, we are currently cautiously optimistic.

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Was a career in hospitality something you always dreamt of?  What is your advice to aspiring hoteliers? 

Hotels or hospitality happened to be an accident, an accident which I am grateful of. Coming from a mainstream of finance background landed in hotels through an affinity towards accounting. Once the culture and dynamics of a hotel was observed, started enjoying the work set up. It may look easy and luxurious from the outside, it is integral that every department works like wheel train to support and contribute to each other in delivering the end experience.

My advice to aspiring hoteliers would be –

Passionate about People? Want to make a difference? This is the industry for YOU. This industry offers a plethora of opportunities in addition to a cohesive multi cultural environment and diversity. You can grow both professionally and personally – teaches you key personality traits of empathy and commitment to put another person’s needs and desires ahead of your own whilst keeping a smile on your face.

Huge learning (should you want to subscribe to) from Project management to business management which is recognized globally. Additionally allows you to innovate and create. Thus allow industry folks to transition into other careers of their desire.

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Which Indian cities are your favorites for: 1) food 2) history 3) fashion?

Food – Delhi, It offers an array of choice right from northern, Mughlai and mouthwatering street food. I have had some of the best food journeys here.

History – Hyderabad, Founded in the year 1591 by fifth Qutb Shahi Ruler Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah by the river banks of Musi has many Palaces, Monuments and Masjids. These sites takes us back to lifestyle, food and artisanal expertise the city boasts about.

Fashion – Mumbai – The city doesn’t restrict to a particular style or type of design. Here I find, right from top designers to famous street style shopping. I have thoroughly enjoyed satiating the shopaholic inside me.

You have worked in several cities, which is your favorite Indian city for work and play? 

It is undoubtedly Hyderabad, this city was also rated as best place to work and live as per survey conducted by an online travel platform in 2020 and I can’t agree more. Top reasons to support this would be

  • Amalgamation of the old world charm and new Hi-tech set up in terms of architecture.
  • Food – Right from Nizami Khaana to the latest micro-brewery.
  • My fascination for Hyderabad stems from the choice it offers to decide the pace one opts to live and celebrate.

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