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Sustainability – Much Ado About Nothing!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 16:15 Hrs  [IST]

Sustainability is wrongly viewed (negatively) from the financial lens. The very word ‘sustainable’ indicates that the business will be profitable forever.

“We employ only locals at our resorts. This is what makes our projects financially viable and sustainable,” said Hari Divekar, owner of Nature Trails in 2004. A soft-spoken gentleman with a smile and a childlike enthusiasm that would make one place his age at 25. But then, at that time his younger son Chinmay was also around 25.

I was their guest at Durshet Forest Lodge, one of their four nature and adventure resorts in Maharashtra. His philosophy was simple and not bandied around like many companies (especially European and American) that speak about looking after the environment like they are doing Mother Nature a huge favour. And, today, the West continues its assault while urging everyone to ‘consider the environment’. Hogwash and poppycock! They should rather take lessons from people like Divekar.

His one-line strategy, of hiring locals should be implemented globally. We spoke at length that day, and as luck would have it, till date I work closely with them.

When you hire locals they walk or cycle to work. So no fossil fuel is burned while commuting, nor is time, money, or energy wasted. They can be with family during big or small occasions without travelling. This translates to lower stress, higher morale, increased job satisfaction and naturally guest satisfaction rises.

Nature Trails also ensures that they treat their staff respectfully. Family or extended family members are offered employment or become vendors for goods and services. Interestingly, Nature Trails even helps them start a business and becomes their first client.

Divekar explained that while he may be the owner of the land and resort the locals actually own the place. By employing them they are duty bound to look after the resort but by default they are committed to look after the surroundings as well. The birds, trees, soil, locals, and local customs and traditions are all theirs.



When locals benefit guests are not looked on as ‘foreign’ intruders or invaders to be despised and fought off. But God-like entities that bring wealth to feed their families, educate their children, provide money for medical treatment when needed, ... Serving guests also comes naturally to locals as they (locals) regard resort/ hotel guests as guests in their own homes.

Hiring locals does come with its share of challenges. They are not professionally trained or qualified to cook, serve, and clean. But, that is actually the beauty of it. Organisations strive to deliver a local flavour. When you hire locals, the local flavour is there; all you have to do is tweak it (train them) in aspects like time management, documentation, developing and following systems.

Yes, when there is a local festival all the staff would want leave. But if you encourage a sense of ownership, locals willingly make adjustments, knowing that someone must look after the guests!

Besides employing locals, Nature Trails realises that guests want to commune with nature and that’s why they have business. So they look after nature and nature does their business development for them.

Divekar, along with his elder son Chaitanya, also runs a factory in Partnership with a German company. Even there, hiring locals is their strategy.

‘Think Global, Act Local’ should be changed to Hari Divekar’s strategy ‘Think Global Hire Local.’

(Dominic CostaBir, Director, HTI International FZE. HTI is the outsourced training department to hospitality organizations in India and UAE. He taps into the potential of hospitality personnel through his articles and training)

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.

 
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