Indian Experience in Hospitality

Jasbina Ahluwalia asks Apoorva Gandhi, VP, Multicultural Affairs, Marriott International: That gives a lot of flavor, between the different regions and cultural backdrop.

Between those field trips to Little India throughout the country as well as the weddings, do you have any funny anecdotes from any of those experiences?



Apoorva Gandhi

Yes. You know how we Indians are. We’re always full of life.


Indian Experience in Hospitality: Extended Stay

In addition to these Indian weddings, we also get a lot of Indian business travelers.

Many come over here from India for extended stays. They may come for six months of IT training or call center training.

We had a group that came over to the Chicago area for about six months. They were a group of 15. It was funny.

This property was a Residence Inn in Chicago. Those are the hotels where every room is like a big suite. It has a kitchen.


Indian Experience in Hospitality: Customized Programs

We put together a program for them. When they arrived, we would have a welcome back Indian snack. When they got here after their long journey, the first thing they would see would be snacks that reminded them of home.

We would add a $5 phone card so that they could call home and tell family that they arrived okay.

We would serve Indian breakfast in the morning. We would do an India night once a month. We would show Bollywood movies and stream the hotel in saris.


Indian Experience in Hospitality: Outings

One of the things that we did on the weekend was that we would have our little shuttle bus. At 10:00, everyone would get on the bus. We would drop everyone off at the Little India section in Chicago on Devon Avenue.

Folks would hang out for four or five hours, have lunch and go grocery shopping. Many of them would want to cook in their own rooms.

Then we would pick them up at a certain time and bring them back. No one was on time. Our property learned the importance of IST, Indian Standard Time.

After the third or fourth time we did this, it became a party bus.


Indian Experience in Hospitality: Staff Involvement

The staff would play Bollywood music on the DVD player. They would show movies. It became a party bus.

People would bring snacks and drinks. In some cases, people would be dancing on the bus. We noticed that, at some point, there were folks on the bus who had no intention of shopping or cooking. They just wanted to come for the fun of it.


Jasbina Ahluwalia

That’s great. I thought you were going to say that there were some people who were not even associated with Marriott, they just got on the bus because it was so much fun.


Apoorva Gandhi

Indian Experience in Hospitality: Pure Fun

No. It was so much fun. When I heard about this program, I sent a photographer over there to take pictures of it.

It was supposed to be at 7:00. I got this phone call at 7:30 or 8:00. He said, “There are a ton of people here but none of them are Indian.”

The non-Indians loved it just as much as the Indians. They loved all the food and fun.

We had mehndi artists there. They were getting that done. It was a blast.

I told him, “Hang on. Don’t worry. Just wait another hour. The Indians will be there. They’ll be late. They will also be the last to leave. Don’t worry.” We have a lot of fun with it.


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The above is an excerpt from Jasbina’s interview with Apoorva Gandhi

The entire interview transcript is at: Apoorva Gandhi NetIP (Network of Indian Professionals) Interview – The Intersection of Indian Culture and Hospitality Industry

Listen to the entire interview on: Intersections Match Talk Radio – Jasbina’s Lifestyle Show

Listen to the entire interview on Blog Talk Radio: NetIP