Rajasthan is very much about heritage, and so is Lakshyaraj Singh of Mewar. He loves the cultures and traditions that are peculiar to his place of birth—Udaipur—and wants to glorify them with right touches of modernism and sustainability through his chain of hotels at Heritage Resort Hotels (HRH).
Mr Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar of Udaipur is the youngest child of Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur and Smt Vijayraj Kumari Mewar of Udaipur. Belonging to the Royal family of Mewar, he is a direct descendant of luminaries of Indian history such as Maharana Sanga and Maharana Pratap.
Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar was schooled at Mayo College, Ajmer and later at the Blue Mountains Hotel Management School in Australia. Here he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and also gained hands-on experience in the hospitality industry, serving at all levels of the business—as a barista and a waiter. He later studied management at the Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management, Singapore. He returned to Udaipur to join the family hospitality and heritage hotels business. His first charge was the redevelopment of the Jagmandir Island Palace, which he transformed from an abandoned ruin to one of the world’s most exclusive wedding destinations.
Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar (LRSM) gave some wonderful answers to the questions asked by Wedding Affair’s (WA) team –
WA: Where do you see India on the map of globally favourite wedding destinations? LRSM: Tourism and India are a story of great potential. We are there on the global map, but we have a long way to go before we can match our potential with reality. Wedding destinations are a niche market; we must work hard to make our presence felt. WA: Do you think that Rajasthan has an edge over other wedding destinations in India in terms of heritage bestowment? LRSM: Certainly, Rajasthan is about history and heritage. In Udaipur, our guests experience the living heritage of Mewar during ceremonial events. Our palaces provide unmatched venues which cannot be created in any metro city’s environs. Our services are the best in class and that’s why HRH Group of Hotels pioneered the trend of regal weddings, two decades ago. WA: What, according to you, are the essential elements to host a perfect destination wedding? LRSM: Everything–the ease of travel, the luxury of accommodation, the uniqueness of the venues, the ‘wow’ of decor, Food and Beverages (F&B), entertainment and services. If you can add the warmth of genuine hospitality to it, you have a winning combination.
WA: What do you think is the ‘next big thing’ in the wedding hospitality industry? LRSM: Imagination. You have to break the shackles of your own imagination. It is for event planners and wedding organisers along with their clientele to ‘think different’ and ‘think big’. We are there to serve, always, all the time. WA: How far do you see ‘heritage destination wedding’ has reached on the route of popularity among the masses? LRSM: Regal Weddings by their definition are in the luxury segment and not in the mass market. Yes, there are budget offerings too. We at HRH Group have budget options for weddings. Films and television shows are adding to the popularity of destination weddings. It will grow in the years to come. WA: How do you make ultra-modern and minimalistic weddings possible in such archaic heritage sites? LRSM: That is the challenge we have undertaken over the last two decades. The spirit and character of our heritage venues provide the backdrop for a modern setting and best-in-class services. Clients often want serenity and silence; others want a Bollywood dhamaka happening the whole day round. We go along with client requirements, and make them happy. WA: Do you think local traditional entertainment also adds to the X-factor of the wedding destination? LRSM: Entertainment is boundless and cannot be restricted to geography. Yes, in Udaipur we certainly recommend our folk and local artists who can sway the crowds, and add to the magic of the moment. Others like to bring in foreign and Indian celebrities to perform at their weddings. WA: Any particular memories of interesting guests who were challenging to host? LRSM: All of our guests are interesting and we, as hospitality professionals, cannot take names. Yes, we are equipped to meet all the demands for a luxurious stay and for their F&B requirements. We have the best resources and manpower to deliver to the world’s best. Each event or a visit is remarkable and memorable in its own unique way.
WA: Is it possible for the budget conscious to dream of a destination heritage wedding?
LRSM: Certainly, there are budget options at HRH Group of Hotels and across Rajasthan. We have been playing host to what you refer to as budget weddings. WA: Do you think that heritage hospitality business has taken a bit of a shift in trends?
LRSM: Not just heritage hospitality business, because globalisation and the IT revolution have disrupted several business streams. Nothing new. We just have to be better prepared and armed for a fast-changing and volatile future. We need to ‘grow’ through our business, and not just ‘go’ through the motions of yearly turnovers. WA: How have your academic years in Australia and Singapore shaped your approach towards Indian hospitality business?
LRSM: Hospitality is in our genes. We are born to serve with a smile. Yes, studying and working in Australia, at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, was a great experience. The teachers, friends and all the places I worked at still remain close to my heart. I learnt that we have to keep on learning in our industry, as change is the only constant. WA: Having pursued formal professional courses in hospitality abroad, what are your views and suggestions on the current academic situation of hospitality management in India? Do you think we can improve on the current quality and quantity of such institutes? LRSM: There is always more scope for improvement. I firmly believe that institutions are doing a good job with their students. At the same time, the hospitality industry also needs to take in more resources, groom them, and let their talents emerge. Today F&B, house-keeping and other services are transforming beyond recognition. Everyone has to contribute and benefit from this transformation. No bystanders, please! Let us all contribute to the success of our industry. WA: What is your vision for HRH Group of Hotels in 2019? LRSM: Our vision is ‘surpass guest expectations’. I believe that we need to get better with each passing year. Keep on growing—not just going through life and business.
WA: What motivates you most about the hospitality business? LRSM: Every day is a new day—a chance to learn something new every day and every month. If you are not learning, then you need not be here. WA: Who have been your favourites among the guests at ‘HRH Group of Hotels’? LRSM: All our guests are our favourites. We cannot be taking names. (On a lighter note, he went to say—as and when the Wedding Affair team arrives in Udaipur to do a special feature, they shall be the favourites.) WA: What is the importance of preserving the architectural heritage of the building while renovating a historic palace? LRSM: It is not just about the built heritage of our legacies. Everything is important; the tangible and intangible heritage is equally significant and has to be made relevant to our changing times. We work hard on all these fronts so that the spirit and the character of our palaces and resorts reflect our age-old values. It becomes our brand, our equity. We cannot lose or dilute it. WA: How often do you brainstorm with other royal members of your family while chalking out a plan for your heritage hotels? LRSM: We are a close-knit family business organisation. Our vision, mission, and strategies are drawn up by the Board of Directors headed by my father, Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, who is the Chairman and Managing Director. We have several professionals assisting us at every stage. Yes, we think together and work together on a daily basis. WA: Do you think your lineage has helped you understand the heritage hospitality business better? LRSM: Certainly. Hospitality, as I said earlier, is in our genes. We know how to honour, respect, and serve our guests. That’s our culture, our brand identity; if you want modern management jargon. WA: You are a philanthropist yourself. Do you think that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plays an integral role in building a hospitality business? LRSM: CSR is today mandatory for all profit-making organisations; the hospitality industry has to also share the responsibility of giving back to the society. Yes, through employment both direct and indirect, through capacity-building programmes, and promotion of local arts and crafts, hotels can do marvels and serve the communities better, and in more sustainable ways. WA: Had you not been a hotelier, what would you have been doing right now? LRSM: A sportsman, I would say. But then I am into sports anyway. If I am not playing cricket, then I am promoting it. So, I guess I am in a very happy zone: I am who I am.