A New Level of Luxury

Sarabjeet Singh spent several years in Hyderabad overseeing operations at the Taj Group of Hotel’s properties in the city, as well as serving as general manager of the Taj Krishna. When he was asked to take charge of the Taj Samudra in Colombo and oversee all of the brand’s properties in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Sarabjeet couldn’t turn the opportunity down. But his departure from Hyderabad has not gone unnoticed. One of the warmest hosts and most hospitable gentlemen the city has known, he is missed today by the people who swore by his excellence and expertise in making the Taj Krishna one of the city’s premier hospitality destinations. This month, You & I sat down with Sarabjeet to discuss his new job and find out how he’s adjusting to life in Colombo.     
What is your current role with the Taj Group? What are your responsibilities in that capacity?
I’m the area director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, as well as the general manager of the Taj Samudra in Colombo. My job is to look after all the Taj properties under my jurisdiction and take them to the next level. As luxury properties, it is important that our efficiency improves with every passing day, and it’s my job to ensure that our team makes that happen.
 Taj Group of Hotel’s 
What challenges do you face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
With regard to Sri Lanka, it is a growing tourism hub with a burgeoning related industry. After all the strife it has endured and survived over the past decades, the general situation across Sri Lanka is improving with each passing day. Much of the interest in tourism across South Asia is moving to Sri Lanka, which is a great thing as far as we’re concerned. This is a country with a very strong and proud cultural base, beautiful beaches with pristine waters and white sands, and a cuisine full of amazing dishes and fresh ingredients. Together, I believe this makes for a wholesome and attractive package to bring people to Sri Lanka. We are working very strongly on improving and enhancing the Taj brand’s visibility here, as well as in the Maldives. One of our biggest targets is attracting even more footfall from places like India, which is already one of the biggest contributors to the tourism industries of both Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
What makes vacations at Taj properties in your jurisdiction so attractive? Why should people choose Taj?
The Taj brand has always stood for luxury and quality, and it always will. What sets us apart from our competitors is that we cherish each and every relationship with all of our guests, be they in-house or those who simply dine with us. There is a high level of professionalism throughout this organisation, which ensures that we provide the most comfortable and pleasant experiences possible. We want to woo customers from around the world to Sri Lanka and Male, which is why we go to great lengths when it comes to enhancing the quality and satisfaction of the Taj experience. Taj Samudra is no exception to this.
Why did you choose the hospitality business?
The truth is that it happened pretty much by chance. Hospitality was not my preferred course of study, but it is what I ended up doing. However, I can say after 27 years of experience in this line of work that I have no regrets whatsoever about the way things have turned out. It’s all been for the best, and I have enjoyed every aspect of my job. From travelling and experiencing new cultures to meeting all sorts of interesting people, life in the hospitality business has been greatly rewarding and satisfying.
vacations at Taj properties 
What are the differences between running a hotel in a big city, and one in a smaller or holiday-focused destination?
The thing with Colombo is that it’s the capital city of a major growing economy, and as such it is a hub for industry and government. Many businesspeople, professionals and officials travel to and stay in this city. So in one sense, Colombo is the centre of a nation that is largely associated with the travel and tourism industry. On the other hand, managing the Taj Samudra is also like working at a property in a major city. I would say it’s a combination of the two – a big-city hotel in a holiday country. Of course, the situation is different when we talk about properties in the Maldives, which runs almost entirely on its tourism industry.
Have you settled in overseas? How has it been adjusting to a different culture?
I’m still in the process of settling into life in Colombo. I find myself currently shuttling between here and Hyderabad, where my family still lives and where I spent the past several years. I plan on having my family join me in the next few days, and we will settle into life here together. However, this is my second stint here. I spent time in Sri Lanka during the late 1990s, when it was a different country. The exposure to another culture has been quite pleasant, and the people here are nothing short of warm and welcoming.
Hyderabad remembers you fondly. How does life in Sri Lanka compare with your time here?
Life in Sri Lanka is just starting, so it is just a little too early to start drawing comparisons with my time in Hyderabad. What I can say is that the people and culture of Hyderabad gave me some very memorable experiences, and I do miss the city. But I’m looking forward to a new chapter in Sri Lanka, and to making the most of life here while I help Taj grow and reach new heights.        – as told to Ashwin