RAJASEKHARAN NAIR – A BUSINESS EXPERT WHO RETURNED TO CONQUER
It is a widely accepted aphorism and home-truth that ‘no prophet is honoured in his hometown’. Honoured elsewhere he surely is, but when he returns to his hometown after winning the world, the folk of his hometown just take him for granted. It would have been the same in the case of Rajasekharan Nair, a personality of note in the Indian hospitality sector, when he returned home after an incredibly successful business sojourn in India’s city of opportunity – the great metropolis Mumbai. But he wasn’t someone to take things lying down … as from childhood he had faced every hurdle head-on and managed to come out on top. This indomitable spirit had made him one among that rare breed who stoop to conquer – and so did Rajasekharan win the respect of his town-folk, making his compatriots stand up in awe. NRI Achievers tells you his story ... Childhood he remembered was tough, his family having neither money nor resources to get him a quality education in their native village. So Rajasekharan began right there on his return. He kick-started an internationally recognised centre of education that could take in 3000 students. From there he got on to doing plenty of humanitarian work there, like constructing houses for the homeless and assisting in the construction of houses for the needy. Recalling ill-health and the social neglect he had faced during his young years, he is doing his mite in conducting medical camps, and such other acts of compassion and care. Thus has he wrested not just acceptance, but plenty love and respect in his native place. Rajasekharan came into this world on 12 November 1955, the second of eight siblings born to Sreedharan and Rugmani Amma, a lower middle class couple belonging to the Nair community. Their village is Chenkal in Neyyattinkara Taluka of the Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala State. Rajasekharan could not continue his studies after matriculation given the financial difficulties his family faced and the abject lack of facilities in their village. He left his native place with hopes of landing a job. After a long and arduous trek, he reached Mumbai at the young age of 17, and got to doing odd jobs in the restaurants. It was during this period that he was attracted to the hospitality business, and he has always stuck to that soul-satisfying profession of entertaining guests, feeding people and giving joy and satisfaction to travellers from all over the world. His life took a turn for the better after meeting Nanak Chand Agarwal, a hotel-owner of Mumbai, and he worked with him and his son Dinesh Kumar Agarwal. His dedication and hard work ensured he grew in stature from a lowly employee to become the manager of the hotel. The actual turning point in his life came when Dinesh started another hotel and put that too under Rajasekharan’s care. With finesse and the business acumen he had acquired, he managed both establishments, learning the intricacies of customer satisfaction and interlinking profitable business strategies to run a hospitality business successfully. At one point, when his confidence grew enough to put the thought in his mind that he was capable of sailing out on his own, he bit the bullet and started four restaurants of his own between 1985 and 1990, and kept them successfully afloat through tireless hard work, trustworthiness, fairness in all dealings and never-reconciling quality consciousness. All this while he was like a driven man, nurturing a desire, waiting for a chance to to embark on doing something meaningful in his own place of birth and for his own people. When he formed a new company ‘Nair Estate & Hotels Pvt. Ltd.’ in 1993 with his wife Radha Nair and picked up Neelam Restaurant in Mumbai’s Chembur, he felt the pang of separation from his home stronger than ever. He began searching in earnest for a foothold in Kerala and started ‘R R Holiday Homes Pvt. Ltd.’ in 1995 as the first step in this direction. He began looking for a site to establish his hotel somewhere near Kovalam, which attracts thousands of domestic and international travellers thanks to its location nestled amidst the natural beauty of God’s Own Country and simultaneously quite near to his native place. Thus it occurred thus that he bought a patch of discarded beach land in Vellar near Kovalam, which had an unfriendly terrain with rocky areas used for quarrying, and some god-forsaken portions prone to use by anti-social elements for their nefarious activities. Surmounting all difficulties, he developed the land to his satisfaction and started his ‘Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel and Spa,’ as a 4-Star facility with just 35 rooms. His constant attention to every detail in infrastructure and furnishing, and persevering vigilance in the maintenance of quality in service enabled him to add more structures and facilities to obtain a 5-Star status for it in 2014. It is presently the biggest beach resort in Kerala with 225 luxury rooms and an ISO 9001-2000 Certification, apart from the rave reviews from travel media and the kudos from travel agencies and international groups. Rajasekharan, however, did not chain his enterprising spirit to this one and only hotel. His desire to give more employment to his compatriots and his unquenchable craving to excel in every sphere found other outlets. In 2009 he started ‘UDS Sky Kitchens’ for Air India and Air Maldives, catering mouth watering Indian and Continental delicacies to the passengers and crew of these 2 airlines. 2011 saw him setting up a luxury airport hotel ‘Uday Suites’ with 45 premium rooms, close to the domestic and international terminals of the Thiruvananthapuram Airport. Apart from hospitality his attention had also been also drawn to manufacturing, when in 2001 he picked up ‘R GAC Electrodes Limited’ and soon after in 2003, he started ‘KVT Electrodes Pvt. Ltd.’ Today this company is one of the leading welding electrodes manufacturs in the country. In the domain of his specialisation – the hospitality sector – his industriousness and entrepreneurial spirit have been spurring him to search for ever new grazing grounds. Already three of his projects are nearing completion. Expected to be commissioned in January 2017 is an International Convention Centre at Kowdiar with multiple facilities. A five star hotel in Alleppey is to be commissioned in February 2017. Procuring of land and obtaining formal approval of the plans have been completed in the case of another five star hotel project at Vagamon in Idukki. The passion and longing that had all along had driven him since his Mumbai days to seek avenues to do something for the young generation in his native place surfaces in between all this asset-building activity, and with the thought of today’s generation in his village never needing to suffer the limitations he had experienced saw him taking over an ailing school with 300 students the same year his UDS Sky Kitchens came into being. The school in Chenkal was rechristened ‘Sai Krishna Public School’ and was transformed into an institution of International repute and standards. It presently has a take-in of 1400 students under the CBSE syllabus. The infrastructure however, is built to handle a take-in of over 3000 students. Many students from poor families are given free education in this school. And his large-heartedness does not stop at that – numerous deserving boys and girls have been facilitated by Rajasekharan Nair to get quality education elsewhere. A soft-spoken man who would never brag about his own qualities and capabilities, Rajasekharan Nair easily stands head and shoulders above others in his chosen fields of business, especially in the most difficult and complicated world of hospitality services, where discerning international clients and exacting travel agencies expect far too much from service providers and the facilities, who always remain at the receiving end. The most notable characteristic of Rajasekharan Nair’s personality is his habit of never shirking his duties, whether working under or with others or on his own. He does not believe in and never resorts to passing the buck. He is ever ready to shoulder the heaviest portion of the burden himself and passes on lesser and more manageable burdens to his team-mates. This was always his secret of getting into the good books of his employers, and this quality has won him the love and utmost respect of all who work with him. This quality is also the prime reason for his steady risein the world of hospitality. Never one to skirt a challenge, he is instead habituated to facing each challenge and considering it a stepping stone in his climb up the steep slope of success. He has in his lifetime faced a whole sea of challenges in his fight to establish his ‘UdaySamudra Leisure Beach Hotel & Spa,’ a 5-Star Luxury coastal property with 225 rooms and all attached facilities including Ayurveda and Panchakarma Centres, Western Spa, Naturopathy and Yoga Centre, et al. Founding R.R. Holiday Homes, the umbrella company of the group of establishments he had started in the hospitality segment, was also rife with its own set of unforeseen challenges. His usual method of taking the bull by its horns always has paid rich dividends in the long run. His strict adherence to flawless and premium quality in everything his touches sets him apart from everyone else in the profession. All internationally established norms and accepted quality levels are strictly adhered to in each and every one of his establishments. He personally sees to it that the facilities are all over and above the expectations of the clients and all services are streamlined to avoid the least complaint. The premises of the facilities are always spic-and-span, making visitors fall in love with them at the first sight. A hard but benevolent task master, he also personally sees that the quality of service of all who work under him is always satisfactory to clients. Any complaint is taken care of immediately – corrective action is swift and to the point. Rajasekharan Nair believes that a contented workforce is the guarantee and prerequisite to creating a contented clientèle. He believes that the satisfaction on the faces of his employees becomes contagious and the visitors experience the same. He recognises and rewards every effort of dedication on the part of his employees. Thousands of guests from India and abroad have registered their satisfaction over the quality of service they have experienced at his facilities. Subscribing to the maxim that ‘the customer is the king’ he sees to it that even the most insignificant specification or requirement voiced by his client is taken seriously and fulfilled. Each customer gets whatever he demands, in the right quantity and quality as specified. He also has the fairness and large-heartedness to direct customers to facilities run by others, including his competitors, when the requirements of the customer makes it necessary or when some facility or activity that they require is not readily available at his place. Apart from his commercial activities and philanthropy, nature conservation is an activity that Rajasekharan has deep involvement in, having been engaged in it throughout his life. For the past seventeen years, he has been a part of the campaign to green Thiruvananthapuram city and to keep it clean. As part of his burden in this, he has taken to maintaining several parks and other green areas as part of this campaign, including the premises of the International Airport for the past six years. Kallumoode Circle and Chaka Circle on the National Highway has been in his care for the last 12 years, Sree Ayyankali Park at Vellayambalam for the last 17 years, and Ponnara Sreedhar Park in front of the Railway Station and Central Bus Stand – including the illumination, security and maintenance of facilities – for the past 11 years. Taking a personal interest in the progress of these activities, he gives ample financial help to activities for protecting nature and conserving natural resources. He believes that it is better to give a cow to a family than give them milk every day – this will make them stand on their own feet and have some self-respect. Following this philosophy, he gives training for bettering skills, especially in the hospitality field, so that people may be able to land themselves into opportunities for gainful livelihoods. He has put this principle into practice in his school and in his hospitality facilities. He is not at all displeased with them if they leave his facilities for better prospects elsewhere. Neither is he narrow-minded to ‘mind his own businesses’. He works instead for the welfare of the whole sector and does a yeoman’s service for the uplift of those engaged in the same field. He is an Executive Member of Kerala Travel Mart that brings those in hospitality sector under an umbrella and works for the progress of the whole industry. Several awards and recognitions have come his way from Government and other organisations. From 2008 to 2015 he has received the ‘Best Four Star’ award for his ‘UdaySamudra Beach Resort’ from the Kerala Government’s Department of Tourism. He has also received the ‘Best Coastal Hotel’ Award from the World Luxury Hotel Award Organisation continuously from 2010 to 2015. The All India Achievers’ Foundation has honoured him with an ‘Indian Leadership Award for Hospitality and Tourism’ in 2011 and the Kerala Sahridaya Vedi gave him a ‘Tourism Entrepreneur’ Award in 2009. He got the ‘Business Excellence’ Award in 2013 from the Union of German Malayalees Association (UGMA) and the Inspire Achievement Award Organisation. His school at Chenkal has been adjudged ‘Regional Winner’ in the Asia-Pacific region from School Entrepreneur Challenge of United Kingdom. Rajasekharan is blessed with a family that supports all his endeavours in every way. He is married to Udayachandrika aka Radha, as she is known in the South Indian film industry as a noted character artiste and Kalaimamani Award winner. They have three children. Karthika, who is a film actress and a student at the London University, Vignesh, who is doing his higher studies in Hotel Management also in London and Thulasi, who too is a thespian and a BBA student in Cambridge University. Rajasekharan Nair’s story, in a nutshell, is the story of perseverance that pays, hard work that sustains, care for fellow human beings that gives contentment and care for nature and environment that gives joy. India and its hospitality industry can expect much more from him in the coming years.