...says AMAN NATH, Co-founder and Chairman of the Neemrana Hotels chain who has notably restored ruins and turned them into heritage hotels with the simple philosophy - “see assets in the waste”. Not just a restorer of vintage fortresses, Nath is an author, historian, art curator and, above all, a visionary who sees beyond the usual in everything. In an exclusive tête-à-tête, Nath shares how seeing good in his people has helped him nurture a committed and loyal workforce. Read on as he shares insights on leadership, talent and work from the 33 years of his career journey.
Aman Nath’s passion for restoring age-old ruins started at the young age of 27 when he was passing by the ruins of the Neemrana Fort while co-authoring a book with Francis Wacziarg. From that day in 1977, they have successfully restored some 30 heritage properties, turning many into heritage hotels.
Having spent over 35 years rebuilding, resuscitating and revitalizing India’s heritage, the latest in his passion being the Tijara Fort-Palace en route to Alwar, this has become an innate talent in him. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Nath is someone without a past who has infused life into the past!
Born and brought up in New Delhi, Aman Nath's family arrived as refugees from Lahore, now Pakistan, during the partition of India. For him, starting his journey was everything from scratch and starting from a clean state. And today after 68 years, he has pioneered a different kind of heritage hotels’ movement in India.
Restoring old fortresses is not an easy job! It takes huge investments, patience, an unexplainable amount of energy, passion and madness to get the work done, finding the people who would help you live this dream, fighting with the authorities, and so much more. But if you ask Nath, the rewards are simply extraordinary! And he has no regrets!
Nath’s simple philosophy behind starting his journey of restorations was - ‘against waste’. He shares a story of why he never buys a box of pins and why he feels it is absolutely necessary to reuse things. He says, “While I was in school, I learnt that there are 19 processes before a pin is made. I feel why do you need to buy a box of pins when you can reuse them?” He further says, “You go to eat icecream, you take one cone and 5 napkins. We have only one mouth, how many times are you going to use and throw the napkin for one ice cream? Waste is rampant, but I see and create consciousness of it all the time.”
Nath viewed these ruins (waste) as opportunities which can be transformed (reused) into properties that not only restore our rich Indian heritage, but also drive employment and revenue. And the same mindset is helping Neemrana Hotels build a workforce of committed and loyal employees.
Here are some excerpts from the exclusive interview with the legend who pioneered the heritage hotels movement in India where he shares what makes him see the good in people and how this is helping him build a collaborative and inclusive work culture.
It is evident that your workforce is highly engaged and works with you like a family. What does talent mean to you? How do you attract talent and keep them motivated and engaged?
People have notions of unequal human beings, but I very deeply and sincerely believe we are all equal. Forget caste, religion and all that, in a company, what is a chairman without a guard, and what is a guard without a chairman? The balance between humans is very crucial for the company. And I personally try to imbibe this balance at our place by respecting everyone. Then one has to be intuitive about the aptitude of each person. Make them do what they enjoy willingly.
Sometime back, an employee who has been working here for three years had left in between to join some other place. However, he came back because he felt a familiar belongingness to this place. Respect, trust and a personal connect with your people is as important as everything else in the business and that is what gets you the best people on board. At Neemrana Hotels, our people break all bounds when they are having fun and when they are working, they are working hard. The respect is in the eyes and not in touching feet. That is how we feel equal. And this is our work culture.
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