What does the future hold for Lebua? I'm told off the record that there are several major exciting projects in the pipeline.
The world's first vertical destination, 'Lebua' is a destination for global travelers who descend from all parts of the globe onto this regional icon which has 11 Food and Beverage outlets and 357 rooms.
It's not just a building - it's a living organism that was conceived and is run by passionate, flamboyant and outspoken leader, CEO, Deepak Ohri. Great leaders never do it alone; today, I have both Deepak Ohri's right-hand man and woman with us as our hoteliers of the month to give us an exclusive look behind the scenes. They are Piangduan Lertsittikul, Vice President - Public Relations and Special Projects, and Rajan Khurana, General Manager - Hotel Operations & E-Commerce, both of whom have worked for Lebua and with Deepak for over 17 years.
Not Your Normal Hospitality Career Path
Piangduan started her career as a front officer at Bangkok's Landmark Hotel. Her next stop after a few international hotel brands was Lebua and has never left since. At Lebua, she started as a sales executive, moving on to become a sales executive, then bounded into the position of General Manager, and is now VP of PR and Special Projects.
Rajan is the current General Manager, and looks after all operations on the hotel side including E-Commerce. He started his Lebua career as Sales Director. Rajan is not like other hoteliers; rather than holding a degree in hospitality, he actually holds a degree in science.
Both of these career trajectories would be unlikely ones anywhere else in the hospitality industry, but as you'll find out, it's often the most unlikely paths that end up leading to the most outstanding results. Just because nobody has done it before doesn't mean it's wrong, right?
"Our CEO really gave us the opportunity to try and do everything." Piangduan says.
Rajan elaborates - "Lebua offers a great development path to its team members irrespective of their past. In my case, I branched out myself to areas such as E-commerce and hotel operations. The company provided me with an opportunity to transition from sales and marketing to operations and offered me a role to not only manage hotel operations in Bangkok but also manage multiple properties across the group. Mr. Deepak Ohri believes in giving a lot of opportunities to the team members to grow beyond their roles."
Trust Breeds Growth
Lebua has a culture of trialling and testing, and really promotes the entrepreneurial spirit. This has enabled team members at all levels to be creative and fierce.
As a practitioner of stoicism, when it comes to 'fear', I always try to project the worst case scenario of any situation so that I can manage my fear accordingly. Strangely, fear doesn't seem to exist here at Lebua; even when I asked both of these executives about their future career advancement, all they had was ambition, belief and confidence that whatever it would be, it would be good and certain.
They had no trepidation in regard to their futures - there was no fear of not having a job should anything unexpected happen. When people feel secure, they can achieve amazing things.
"I started as a front-officer, then I did sales, and I was the GM of the hotel, and now I'm VP of PR and Special Projects, so if one day I have to leave this position or this hotel, I still know how to do other job functions. I don't think there would be a role I couldn't do", Piangduan believed.
Rajan said that he sees only positives working for a place like this - and it's not just because someone is forcing him to say that. He says, "Lebua offers a great opportunity to reinvent oneself, over and over again. The organization has been built based on one basic principle which is the 'right of equality', both for guests and team members. We all have imbibed these principles and other Lebua values while working with Lebua. Whether it is a right to equality for our guests or staff, the company offers the respect that everyone deserves."
"Lebua also promises continuous learning and growth beyond your job function and helps people grow based on their capabilities and achievements rather than the number of years of experience." he added.
Rajan and Piangduan have proven that the sky is the limit, and breaking glass ceilings is one of their favourite past-times at Lebua.
Beyond Luxury Dining
Customers may know Lebua for its luxury dining experiences and world class restaurants, but for its team members, Lebua is their mother-ship; every cast and crew member plays an important role. The result is that nobody has been left behind at Lebua, both in their Thailand and India operations, even during the times that the hotels were forced to close due to Covid-19 lockdowns - twice.
Working together as a team for over a decade surely doesn't come easily; the honeymoon period must have been over long ago. I asked both Piangduan and Rajan what the secret was in maintaining a professional relationship like this? - A relationship that has lasted longer than a lot of marriages.
"You have to leave your ego elsewhere. You have to respect your boss. You can have your opinions, share your ideas, agree and disagree but at the end of the day you have to know that it is your boss who makes the final call, and you ultimately have to respect his decisions and allow your ego to be bruised.", Piangduan said.
Rajan agreed that working as a team and growing together is the only attitude to have if you want something like this to work.
They don't always agree on the same things, but they know that if any decision is being made, then it's being made with the Lebua brand's best interests at heart.
Despite still not having any substantial international arrivals due to Covid, this world-first vertical destination still welcomes throngs of domestic guests who demand their luxury dining experiences. I was heartened to see that the restaurants were packed once more, as soon as the recent crippling alcohol ban had been lifted.
"There are a lot of things which are very unique about Lebua" Rajan stated, while Piangduan mentioned that "Our service is second to none. If you have a reservation with us at any of our restaurants, as soon as you arrive at our hotel, you will be recognized by our team members. They will know that you have a booking and they will show you the way to the restaurant; yes, that's for every guest - not only guests of the CEOs or owners"
Piangduan and Rajan may not always agree on the same things, but when it comes to the vision of their beloved Lebua brand, they agreed that they wanted to see Lebua continue to be luxury pioneers, expanding their world class hospitality brand with multiple properties around the world.
What does the future hold for Lebua? I'm told off the record that there are several major exciting projects in the pipeline - one in particular that includes a very unique ... Nightclub? Don't tell them that you heard it from me.