Digvijay Singh: Gate Keeping Grandeur
The property has familiar finesse and frenzy expected of any top hotel in the city –- the celebrity guests captured by Canon eyes, A-listers waiting in the lobby and monied glow all around. Then comes the moment of truth, the time when the employee meets the customer unsupervised. “This is the time when staff training and service quality are put to ultimate test,” says Digvijay Singh, General Manager Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences, and St James Court A Taj Hotel.
Singh should know. It is this commitment to detail and service that has made him climb through ranks of one of the finest hotel groups in the world. Established in 1901, Taj Group is one of Asia’s largest group of hotels, comprising over 125 hotels across India and 15 hotels in the UK, USA, Africa, Maldives, Malaysia, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. From world-renowned landmarks to modern business hotels, idyllic beach resorts to authentic Grand Palaces, each Taj hotel offers an unrivalled fusion of warm Indian hospitality, world-class service and modern luxury. For over a century, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, the iconic flagship has set a benchmark for fine living with exquisite refinement, inventiveness and warmth.
“I am a Taj born and brought up guy,” he says. He has worked with all the premium Taj properties, from Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi to Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. It was rebranding of its London properties that took him to London.
Like a seasoned actor, the opening act brought out the best in him. Everyday, he punched in early, and ensured the nothing came in the way of effective rebranding. With the new emphasis on business travellers, he ensured the lobby is fully functional. “And happy too,” adds Singh.
After rebranding, St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel is positioned as an English classic, while Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences offers authentic luxury experiences. In London, Singh has a unique problem. “The customer expectations of service are very low,” he says. For a group like that the Taj celebrated for the universally acclaimed warmth and personalised service this has given an opportunity to overwhelm the guests. “The warmth and emotional intelligence of Asian service is much high,” says Singh.
The marquee of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces in Europe, Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences is located minutes from Buckingham Palace. It comprises three distinctly designed townhouses – Kings, Minsters and Falconers, which have been beautifully restored to their iconic heritage. The 85 luxurious and elegant suites offer the space and exclusivity of a private home with their own separate kitchen and living area and overlook the Westminster city area or the Shakespearean Courtyard and Victorian fountain. The guests can make the most of the premier Golden Keys Concierge service, tailored treatments at the Wellness Centre and a host of on-site dining options including Michelin starred Quilon.
“The 46-cover Kona restaurant offers an innovative interpretation of the colours, flavours and vibrancy of Southern European cuisine, marrying traditional cooking techniques from the Côte d’Azur and the coast of Liguria in Italy with a modern flair. Tasting portions tempt gourmands with an explosion of organic ingredients and aromas,” says Singh.
Signature dishes include Lobster Bisque starring Dorset crab and radish, Foie Gras brioche with Damson plum and Marcona almonds and, for meat-loving palates, Gloucestershire old spot pork belly served with spelt and rosemary crumb. The menu also promises innovative vegetarian and gluten-free cuisine by offering flavoursome salads, soups and inventive options such as Chickpea Panisse with red pepper, yoghurt and baby aubergines as well as King Oyster Mushroom with cauliflower couscous, apple and red chilli.
The developments at the Taj Group in London are particularly significant in the context of the importance and legacy of the Tata Group in the UK. The Tata Group has had a strategic presence in Europe and the UK for more than a century and the UK is Tata’s leading international market. The Tata Group is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector employer and one of its largest foreign investors. This initiative by the Taj Group adds to the portfolio of iconic brands in the UK like Jaguar, Land Rover, Tata Steel Europe (formerly Corus Group) and Tetley Tea with Taj, one of Asia’s largest and finest hospitality brands, renowned for its heritage, legacy, and warm service.
Singh is upbeat after successful rebranding. He is not even complaining about the weather. “I don’t know why people call this depressive weather,” he says and gives a long stare as if ready to pick up a fight over it. He is not just challenging service-shy hotel industry here, but also thenational past-time, unsolicitedcomplaints about the weather.