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Ram Chatterjee: Diverse Dialogues

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Hailing from Kolkata, , Spa Director, Grand Hyatt Goa began his journey as a gymnast and has represented India in Karate internationally. After successfully working at , Kolkata and subsequently with Grand Hyatt, Mumbai as spa manager, he bagged his current position. Salon India talks to this self-motivated individual to know more about him.

Please tell us about your professional background and current designation.
I never expected to be a director of a spa. However, I always dreamt of doing something big! I encountered numerous opportunities in my life and took each one of them positively to achieve my goal of doing big. I began as a gymnast in Nanur, a small town in West Bengal, then did martial art, represented as a gymnast at the district level, internationally representing India in Karate, secured a black belt and acted as an international judge in Kyokushin Karate. I was also a police trainer with Kolkata Police and had many freelance associations with some reputed institutes such as Vishwa Bharti University and the cricket academy in Kolkata. Over time, I realised that the spa industry in India had great prospects. Henc,e I chose to channelise my learning in this direction by acquiring professional qualifications in Yoga and spa therapies. My first stint as a spa professional was with , which helped me enhance my knowledge in spa and beauty treatments. My first hotel experience was with ITC Sonar Bangla in Kolkata where I got the opportunity to blend my wellness knowledge with hospitality. The turning point in my life as a spa professional came through my association with Taj Hotels Mumbai, where I got an opportunity to work from the scratch on the concepts, standards, training and opening of the first in Gwalior. I worked with various branches of the Taj hotel as a spa manager and spa trainer.

Knowledge is power and the key to sustainable term growth. With this motto, in order to build a strong foundation in my career, I pursued spa management from Raison D’etre, did my post-graduation in beauty and body therapy from CIDESCO, a personal fitness course, and secured a diploma in Naturopathy, Yoga and natural living from Yoga Vidya Niketan (recognised by the government of Maharashtra, India). I also hold a diploma in body therapy from CIBTAC and diploma in yoga therapy from the World Yoga Society, Kolkata.

With this experience and knowledge, I joined Hyatt Regency Kolkata in October 2006 as spa manager and subsequently moved to Grand Hyatt Mumbai in September 2008. In this role, I have been responsible for the operations of the Club Oasis Fitness Centre & Spa, Christiaan Georgio Salon and the hotel’s recreation and sports facilities.

Previous experiences, knowledge, qualifications, successful business operations, strategic orientation and effective people and resource management eventually earned me the position of Director of Spa & Recreation for Grand Hyatt Goa in September 2012.

What’s your view on India’s spa and wellness segment?
The spa and wellness market in India is developing very rapidly. India is already a global trendsetter in Yoga and Ayurveda. People are adopting new international products and western therapies to attract international clients; many Indians do like international products too. Wellness and fitness markets will inevitably grow in India, and one factor that will fuel it is that over the last two decades the Indian population is adopting a western lifestyle and sedentary desk jobs, all leading to obesity and chronic diseases.

The good news is the government has started acknowledging the fact that the wellness industry is contributing a significant amount to the Indian economy. However, unfortunately, India’s spa and wellness sectors are still struggling and not organised. The biggest problem is negative outlook towards spa and spa professionals. I hope that we will see a change in this attitude in the near future.

Who, according to you, are the top players in the Indian spa industry?
In my opinion in India, Jiva Spa at Taj Hotels & Resort has a unique concept and huge potential to showcase our true Indian culture and tradition through spa services to its international customers.

According to you, what makes a spa ‘The Spa’?
Good music, serene ambience, simple but elegant décor, nice fragrance, well-trained staff, quality products and comfortable uniform for staff.

What is the USP and philosophy of your spa?

at Grand Hyatt Goa offers a peaceful and serene retreat for the ultimate in wellness and relaxation. Embracing the mythical concept of the “monastery of the Indo-Portuguese Palace”, offers South East Asian treatments with a contemporary approach. ‘Shamana’ is a Sanskrit word for balance. The essence of is to create a perfect balance between well-being and lifestyle through a serene environment with an international range of products, some exclusively available at the spa.

Shamana Spa, being the largest spa, houses 19 spa treatment suites. Designed to enrich a guest’s experience, the treatment suites comprise six couple suites with a sunken bath space, ten single suites and an Ayurveda or Indian treatment suite. The spa has a fitness centre, lifestyle studio, indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools and wet areas with sauna, steam and plunge pools.

The spa offers personalised spa therapies ranging from two hours that can be tailor-made by discussion with the spa expert. A number of treatments can be combined, depending on individual needs, to create a complete and sensory spa experience.

The lifestyle studio, spread over 1,300 sq.ft., is designed to impart group and individual sessions where various specialised treatments including personalised fitness sessions, yoga and aerobic sessions are offered. This dynamic space also offers various stress management techniques for individuals and groups.

Tell us about the local and global therapies offered in your spa. Kindly share the price range and duration of the spa treatments.
Personalised packages of two or three hours of spa therapies can be tailor-made by discussing what you would most like to experience with our spa concierge. Combine a number of Shamana Spa’s treatments, depending on your individual needs, to create a complete and holistic spa session.

How are the therapists appointed? What kind of training does the staff undergo?

Therapists are appointed based on Hyatt established recruitment standards. They first get oriented about the hotel services and the company’s philosophy and culture. Thereafter, they join the spa and get trained in the following subjects:

General hotel familiarisation, core training, basic yoga and healing practices, anatomy and physiology, health and safety, communication technology, product knowledge, system training, department standards and procedures, guest contact and guest relations, and treatment sequence.

What’s your view on training and certification available in India for spa therapists?
There are a few academies in India that have opened in recent times. However, their curriculum is different from the actual requirement. You cannot expect quality from those who come from some basic training institute. There are very few spa institutes that train well but even these are not affordable.

What is your for client retention? How often do you come up with exciting offers or discounts to retain your clients and to lure new members?
My simple strategy to retain my guest is to provide them with an authentic service and surprise them time to time by offering a small gift, an additional treatment or discount.

We have our yearly calendar in place based on weather, festival, birthday, anniversary, etc., which attracts new clients and existing guests can also enjoy a different experience.

Tell us about your expansion plans.
Shamana Spa in Grand Hyatt Goa is one of the largest spa and recreation facilities in the country. Hyatt has a big expansion plan in India.

Which is your favourite spa in the world? Which spa therapy do you like the most and why?
My favourite spa is Hyatt Regency Hua Hin in Thailand for its colour combination, design and calming atmosphere.
My favourite spa treatment is aromatherapy, as its uplifts me, enhances my mood and calms me down.

What is your advice to those looking to pursue a career in the spa industry?
Very simple – to be a successful spa professional, one needs to be passionate. If there is no passion, one should rethink about their career aspirations. Passion coupled with relevant education, right attitude, self-confidence, creative and flexibility will form a sumptuous recipe for success!

Where do you see yourself and your spa ten years down the line? What efforts are you putting in to attain your future goals?
Shamana Spa, which I am associated with, is one of the largest spa and recreation facilities in the country. My immediate mission is to make Shamana Spa a leading wellbeing destination. Thereafter, I would aspire to take larger responsibilities such as a cluster or corporate role, spa consultancy, spa education and training, etc.

I upgrade myself through varieties of business and spiritual training on a day-to-day basis to stay ahead from the competitors. We have our in-house training on leadership, business development, etc.