In recent weeks, Hotelintel.co has been talking to some of Thailand’s leading hotel companies, and now hot on the heels of Onyx and Centara it’s the turn of Dillip Rajakarier, CEO of Minor International, to offer his insights. With 134 hotels in 22 countries, Minor’s current operation is a far cry from just ten years ago when its brands were unknown and there were only ten properties on the books. As Dillip explains, “We have gone from a domestic Thai company to an international global player. Our competitors today are the global players, not domestic and not regional. We’ve gone beyond that”
Exactly how different is something Dillip discusses in depth, with the company’s rapid growth attributed to the structure of the organization and to its cultural values. “We are an owner, an operator, a franchise, and we own third party assets. We think like an owner and execute like a management company. Most companies don’t own anything, they only manage; they don’t care about the owner in terms of profits,” said Dillip, explaining that as a result of this business model, Minor International now has over 55,000 employees worldwide, and that critically, these are Minor’s own people, and not merely hotel staff who are managed by Minor.
While other hoteliers complain that finding qualified staff is probably the biggest challenge they face, Dillip begs to differ. “We have a very strong talent pool, and strong leadership. To find the talent is quite easy,” he says, “but do they then fit the ethos of the company? Maybe not, and if they don’t fit, is there a way to develop them so they can have a career with us? Minor is not for everyone.”
“We’re not a typical hotel company, our culture and values are different to other hotel companies so not everyone would fit our culture,” states Dillip. “Minor culture is the drive culture: it’s all about all about driving performance.”
For Minor, the drive culture has five components: customer focus; people development; results; innovation, and partnerships. Dillip is especially passionate when it comes to talking about just two of the five points – people, and partnerships. Finding and retaining the right people is crucial, so Dillip takes a very hands-on role in selecting the company’s future leaders and then trusting them to grow into their roles.
“To make the organization grow, your leadership team must be stronger than you are,” he states quite simply. “If your leadership team is weaker than you, the company gets weaker. All you have to do is employ people who are stronger than you.”
“When we interview GMs, I always interview them myself. Every single GM is interviewed by me, along with the leadership team. Then we say whether the guy will fit in – but I won’t employ a GM for a GM role today – I want to see if he can be a regional GM in 5 years. If they don’t have the potential, I will not employ them. You are trusting your hotel to a GM and you have to trust the GM. He has to have the passion and the drive to work with his people. Otherwise, the fish rots from the head.”
Leadership is clearly something that Dillip sees as essential in maintaining the company ethos. “It’s people who sell the brand, so the leader must set the example. If staff see the GM is walking around and talking to the guests, or picking up litter, they will do the same. If I go and pick up litter, the others will too.”
Understanding the staff is another key aspect to earning their loyalty and inspiring outstanding performance. Dillip acknowledges that as a Thai company, the best way to maintain the company culture is to use their own people – although the need to understand the local culture in overseas projects means that a blend of Thai and local staff will bring the best results. One of the quirks of Thainess that Minor is well aware of is that Thai staff don’t want to stay outside Thailand for too long, or indeed to stay in any one place for too long. Making sure to offer regular moves, and bringing staff back home to Thailand after a few years works wonders in keeping hold of the best people.
Having experienced considerable success in recent years, Dillip could be forgiven for expecting more of the same in the future, but he is quick to point out that the world today is a far less predictable place, with events such as the Bangkok bombing throwing normal business projections out the window. “You have to expect the unexpected and deal with that. If you don’t, you will fail. But the more you deal with, the more resilient you get,” he advises. “When the bomb went off we were the first to be proactive, to go and inform our guests. Within two months, the industry had rebounded.”
Looking ahead, Dillip points to one particular destination which stands out. “Africa is the next Asia,” he says. “It’s been a hidden gem for years. Look at the population size and the landmass – and the different experiences you get. We try to predict the future and say this is where we want to be before the others go. So we went in 2008 and today we have 20 hotels in Africa.”
“But it’s not just about growing, about putting more flags on the map. It’s about creating sustainable earnings, to add value to your shareholders, guests, suppliers, and staff. Other hotel companies can copy the strategy, but if you don’t have the right people to execute you can’t do it. As long as we are leading and setting the tone I’m happy. It’s nice to see the others are following us.”