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Exclusive Interview | Nishith Kumar, Chief Human Resources Officer, SKIL Corporate Travel

  • Hospemag
  • 30 October 2023


Tell us about your journey. How did it all start? It all started when my roommate woke me up in our dorm room to learn the Taj Hotels’ Pre-Placement talk schedule! Indian Hotels Company Limited arrived at our campus, looking for HR & Sales MTs in the year 2006, 1 month before our graduation. I never knew that attending the pre-placement talk of the Taj would change my professional course. I joined the Taj in 2007 as an HR Management Trainee in Mumbai and spent stints in New Delhi, Mumbai, Vadodara, and Bangalore. I left Taj in 2014, to join Hilton Worldwide as Human Resources Manager at their upcoming Doubletree Suites by Hilton Bangalore property. A pre-opening experience was something that I was looking for and this opened up a new chapter in my life. I moved to Jaipur with Hilton Worldwide in 2016, after spending 2 wonderful years in Bangalore. Hilton Worldwide gave me opportunities to travel to many countries in Asia, including a wonderful week-long trip to Japan. I spent a little over 5 years with Hilton Jaipur and then changed sectors to Healthcare in 2021, owing to uncertainties in the hospitality space. I spent 18 months with CARE Hospitals, as their group head of Talent Acquisition & HR Automation, based in Hyderabad. It was a wonderful stint again, a completely new sector, high-pressure but equally rewarding. Post that, I moved to Mumbai with SKIL Corporate Travel as the CHRO.

What do you think it takes to succeed in this industry?

Resilience, resilience, and resilience!

The hospitality, travel, and healthcare sectors are labour-intensive where there are huge numbers of frontline workforce. In such people-centric work cultures, flexibility and resilience is the only tool one needs to succeed as the sector is extremely dynamic and leaders have to adapt to a fast-changing situation.

Share with us 5 skills that you think will be critical for a hospitality career in the future.

  1. People Management
  2. Coaching
  3. Accounting basics
  4. Macro view of business
  5. Collaboration

What does the future look like? For the industry, you, your project / initiative.

Very solid and promising. People have realized that all of us have “one life” and the COVID period showed us how vulnerable we are in this world. People want to live this “One life” to the fullest and the biggest stress buster is a vacation with friends and family. We have seen a delta growth of 40% in the travel and hospitality space. This trend will continue for some years now and I am happy to state that we are in a great place!

What are the attributes you look for while selecting or hiring?

I have had one philosophy for hiring talent since I started working.

“Hire for Attitude; Train for skill”

If a candidate is 60% ready, he/she should be hired without further ado. It’s the leader’s responsibility to coach the new team member. The team member will also have a learning curve and that needs to be nurtured. It is a great roadmap for the organization and the team members. Basically, a win-win scenario.

What is your favorite interview question & why?

“What do you do when the buck stops with you?” is my favorite question and I ask all the people I interview. The response tells me the manner in which they own up to their roles. The beauty of the response is that there is no right or wrong answer. It helps me gauge the person better and understand the personality. 

Share some of your secrets in keeping an engaged, safe, and happy team.

There is no secret. Give the team member a role that he deserves and keep rotating the role to ensure there is continuous upgrade on his skills which prepares him for the next higher role. Role engagement supersedes any other form of engagement that you do and only reinforces your efforts. A team member is an investment and it needs to be handled the way you handle your personal investment.

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