Caring Techie

Indrani Ghosh is the Corporate Director in the IT
Division of the Oberoi Hotels. After having spent 11 years in the hotel industry with the
same Group, she still finds it very exciting and challenging. According to her, this is
one of the most exciting industries as it encompasses a variety of innovative IT tools. In
an interview with Sharmila Chand, Ghosh highlighted some of the key features of the IT
functioning at the Oberoi Group of hotels. Excerpts:

How tech-savvy are the hotel
services in India?

The Indian hospitality industry tries and maintains a balance between ‘personalized
service’ and automation. Therefore, when compared to the West, you will not find such a
high degree of automation here. In the West, if you want, you can actually avoid meeting
the hotel staff throughout your entire stay. All check-in and check-out processes are
automated. The Indian hospitality industry is a far cry from such a scenario. However, in
terms of software systems used, the five-star hotel industry in India is using systems
similar to those used abroad.

How do you think the Oberoi is
doing as far as IT usage is concerned?

The Oberoi Group is currently in the process of revamping the IT strategy. We are
implementing internationally acclaimed software packages. We are currently in the process
of standardization of all software and hardware platforms across the chain which will
benefit in the next couple of years when we implement our datawarehousing solutions for
the organization.

Has Oberoi come first an any count
in IT implementation and usage?

Yes. The Oberoi New Delhi was the first hotel to be computerized in 1982. Today, again we
are the only hotel chain to have invested in sophisticated HR packages which help us in
ensuring proper training inputs for our employees and defining clear career paths for
them. Being a service-oriented industry, we believe that we are only as good as our people
and therefore, feel the need to invest in them.

How much has the Oberoi invested in
IT in the last three-five years?

The annual company spend on IT would be approximately 3-5 percent of our turnover.

Has the IT investment brought about
a significant growth in the profitability and business?

In many areas, the benefits of computerization are not tangible. A lot of automation goes
into providing guests a more personalized and efficient service. I think we have been able
to achieve that, judging by the reputation that our chain has been able to build for
itself. In the back of the house areas, of course the benefits are more tangible-increased
productivity, better materials management, and effective cost control, which all finally
amount to increased profitability.

Do you think you have enough
freedom to plan a proper IT strategy for your division or you usually succumb to pressures
from above?

We are fortunate in having an MD who is a visionary and champion for automation. By and
large, we have a free hand in developing our IT strategy which of course must be in line
with our business strategy/philosophy. The pressure we face in our job does not come so
much from our MD as from the actual users of the software who are extremely demanding, and
we are not always in a position to satisfy their every requirement.

What do you suggest to further
improve the IT scenario in your company?

The major hurdle today in the company is to educate the users the potential of
computerization. All our accounting processes etc. are computerized, but even today people
in our company shy away from using email, Internet, and other such facilities that could
ease their day-to-day working. I would say educating the senior managers to use computers
is something that we need to do urgently if we are to truly progress in our work processes
and maximize our efficiency. We are also working toward setting up a WAN for the company,
which we hope will improve our networking and help us with quick decision-making. Hence
benefit overall business processes.

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