Sameer Mehra is Vice President of Revenue Management - Asia & Middle East for The Standard. He has worked in revenue management for more than fifteen years, and in hotel operations before that.
He joined The Standard in early 2022. The brand has big expansion plans in the region, with four hotels currently operating, one opening in the next few months, and a few more in the pipeline.
Here, we talk to Sameer about his career journey, meeting Bill Gates, and his love of practical jokes – don’t trust him with the office printer!
What was your first role in hospitality?
My first role was at the Hilton Melbourne airport hotel, working in housekeeping. It was a temporary job while I was studying hospitality management. It was very different from what I imagined. Quite stressful.
Initially, they put me on the night shift to do public areas and some rooms. And my first thought was ‘Oh wow this will be easy!’ And then I realized I’m the only one working the night shift, and there were a lot of public spaces. So, it’s a lot of running around.
And from that day onwards, I respected housekeeping because it is a tough job.
What was it that attracted you to the hospitality industry?
I liked to cook, but I was also good with numbers. So, it was hospitality or accounting.
Initially, I wanted to try my hand at the kitchen. I love food. I love to cook. But I realized I didn't want to do it for hundreds of people, day in and day out.
Then, I tried various departments from F&B to housekeeping to front office. I covered all the Ops departments. And I eventually settled in front office. I like talking to people so it came naturally.
From housekeeping to VP of Revenue Management is quite a journey. Tell us how it happened.
It has been an amazing journey.
I was working in front office when the opportunity came up to be in revenue management.
At first, I resisted. I wanted to work front of house, not in the back, cooped up in an office. But my GM at that time said, ‘You will thank me for this,’ and he was right.
I hated Excel. But once I started diving in revenue management, I realized there is so much to it. And it's exciting every day when you see you are making the total revenues grow, and the small
bits that you're doing for the future, what you’re tweaking, are shaping results, and moving everything forward. I’ve now done more than a decade in revenue management.
I started with Marriott, working on MARSHA, and now I’m at The Standard, using Duetto.
In 10 years of working in revenue management, what's been your biggest challenge?
When I started, revenue management was primarily inventory management. Then came the whole awareness of how revenue management benefits overall profitability, it’s not just room revenue.
As I grew into leadership roles, it was also about teaching others how to benefit from that. And that’s a challenge. Not everyone understands and values revenue management.
Do you think having an awareness of operations makes you a better revenue leader?
Yes, it does. When you understand why something is going wrong or why some things work well and others don’t, and you understand the mindset of people, who are dealing with all this, it helps. You can talk in their language, and they relate to you.
What's been your biggest success or your highlight?
I would say the team members that I have worked with.
I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years, and I focus on training them, not just in revenue management, but also their skills in people management. Knowing they're confident in what they're doing and growing in their careers makes me happy.
They keep me updated with their movements. And when I have the opportunity to go back to a city where I worked, I make it a point to meet the team that I was working with there. And it's a very good feeling, to know that they're growing.
Who has been the most famous or memorable person, you have met during your career?
Working in front office I’ve handled quite a few dignitaries.
A recent delegation included Bill Gates. On the last day of the delegation, we had dinner with him. It was great to hear him talk in person at the dinner table together. He is just a really nice guy.
What has been your most memorable experience as a hotel guest?
It’s tough to pick, but one that stands out is a hotel in Bali I was revenue managing. I was based in Kuala Lumpur and would visit this hotel once a month.
Once when I was staying the hotel was busy so they gave me a room facing the back, and I liked it. Previously they had been giving me nice pool view rooms. But after that, I asked can I get that room at the back. They were surprised and said ‘But, it’s not a good view.’ But for me it was perfect. It was quiet. I could sit outside in the evenings, get some peace, and work.
After that, I always got that room, even without asking for it.
The hotel also really paid attention to my dietary requirements, and I have a few. I would order room service for dinner and every time they would remember what I cannot have. The attention to detail was incredible.
Tell us about the strangest or funniest day you’ve ever had at work.
Oh, there have been many. I like practical jokes.
One time I was working late in the office on a presentation. We had one of those big Ricoh printers and it sparked an idea. I made an official-looking document that said, ‘The printer has been upgraded to voice command.’ I pasted this above the printer and switched it off at the wall.
When I came in the next day, I got one of the analysts to pretend to print something with voice command, while I printed it from my desk.
We had 20-30 people in the office, and so I did a training session with them on how to use voice commands. I then switched the printer back off again.
And for the next hour, we had people going up with a printer, calling out their names and command, and nothing would happen.
Eventually, I told them it was a prank. It was good fun and a release from the pressure of work.
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