CARRYING OUT PATRIARCH’S MISSION
Whether it was in the 50’s when Dwarika Das Shrestha started collecting the woodwork or in the 70’s when The Dwarika’s Hotel started functioning as a small guest house, it was always about preserving the Nepali architecture and cultural heritage. Fast forward to third generation, René Vijay Shrestha Einhaus, the Owner, Executive Director and Developer of Dwarika’s Group of Hotels and Resorts, asserts that he inherited his grandfather’s fervour to retain the art and architecture as the heirloom.
For him and his family, this has been more than a business. Shrestha-Einhaus expressed that his decision to join this enterprise stemmed from the fascination he always had towards his grandfather’s and family’s work. “It is an employment born out of passion for restoration of the Nepali architecture. I lived in Germany for most of the time therefore this idea always kept me interested—this concept of safeguarding precious artworks and culture from being squandered through time and tragedy,” he shares.
Secondly, Shrestha-Einhaus believes that Nepal is a virgin country. He understands that there are a lot of possibilities to create an impact in the hospitality and tourism industry. A person can shape the direction of this industry simply by owning two small hotels. He found this appealing since he also wanted to be an entrepreneur himself. Following the path, he joined The Dwarika’s Group to continue building the brand as well as building products for the country of Nepal.
To take over the family business was both easy and tough for René Vijay. Not having to go through the initial struggle of setting up a business made it easy for him. The Dwarika’s was already an established, well operating hotel. He had a platform to work on, ready for him when arrived to take the reigns. However, he knew he would be expected to go the extra mile and work really hard. He may not have built it from scratch but it was not exactly a piece of cake for him too.
“You can imagine three different generations, three very different mentalities, and three different working methods.
And of course, the person who leads the team shapes the mentality of the organisation. To come in and find your own personal way is a challenge itself. Also, when you enter the company, you are the son of the owner. Therefore, you have to work twice as hard to earn the respect because people will not follow you simply because you are the son of the owner or merely hold the title. You need to prove yourself that you are worthy to lead this team as their leader,” shares René Vijay.
It is understandable to think that René Vijay had his fair share of backbreaking moments. It is definitely a laborious task for someone who has had a work experience of ten years with the organisation but with an entirely different setting. As mentioned earlier, Shrestha-Einhaus spent most of his time in Germany, hence his direct experience with working environment was unlike what he was to face here in Nepal. So to say, he has had an enriching familiarity with the tourism and hospitality industry. “I’ve got to understand the difference in working style and how to get the work done because at the end of the day, getting results is the important thing. This has been quite an interesting experience for me in tourism and hospitality sector,” he says.
Learning along the way has also been delightful for René Vijay. “In the past 10 years, I have discovered that there is so much potential for Nepal to grow in the luxury ‘high-end market’,” he shares. He further acknowledges that Nepal has the capability to expand, and now is the time to harness its potential. It is a satisfying experience to build a brand and to learn how to make that brand move forward.
As a new generation leader, whilst taking the brand forward, changes in it are anticipated from René Vijay. Au contraire, he affirms that he has no wishes to change what they are doing. “It is a certain family mission. We are here to make a difference in the industry, make a difference in the conservation work in Nepal, be it in architecture, culture or environment, now that we have expanded our brand to the Himalayan lifestyle as well, so I want to continue on that path. Of course, there has to be some reinterpretation. Things that were relevant 10 years ago are not as relevant now. Hence, there will be some reinvention and adaptation but by staying in the given framework. So this is a continuous process that needs to be followed,” he opines.
He further explicates that he plans on boosting the daily experience. On this, he shares, “I would like to enhance, improve and refine our products. By expanding, we can create new ones as well as those that cater towards the high-end luxury tourism segment. I see a lot of opportunity for upmarket local products that offer local experiences. So if we can focus ourselves in this part, maybe one day we can establish The Dwarika’s as an international brand to be able to sit at the tables internationally and be at par with the top brands of the world.” The goals are not just for The Dwarika’s—the aim is to set a new standard in the industry and hoping for other Nepali brands to follow so that Nepal’s tourism industry can move towards upgrading.
2020 has been declared as the Tourism Year for Nepal, so we discussed on that as well. Shrestha-Einhaus divulged how The Dwarika’s was catering to this.
“Enhancing our products, refining our experiences and then adding facilities, is how we are approaching the campaign. For example in our Resort in Dhulikhel, we built an indoor swimming pool. It was not there before, but we had it built especially for the Tourism Year 2020. It is a great add-on facility for tourists to enjoy,” he shares.
When asked what he thinks is lacking in the tourism sector in Nepal, he feels that the people have not managed to position Nepal in global tourism market so that it is attractive and globally competitive. The inadequacy of defining the experience Nepal wants to offer to its tourists and the lack of awareness of how to offer, package and manage these experiences leaves a lot of room for improvement in this sector. “For example, when a tourist goes trekking, how do we want him to experience our mountains? Is this more of a solitude product or a mass product? Do we set the right framework and apply the right measures so we all, high-end and budget, work towards a common goal, which is environmentally and socially sustainable? That denotation of the experience should be made beforehand and measures should be taken accordingly. It has to be clear and a framework has to be created appropriately to keep our tourism products pristine. It doesn’t mean that everyone has to cater towards the luxury market but we really need to understand what we as Nepal have to offer and how we package it to make Nepal itself a unique and attractive brand,” he says.
The scenic beauty of Nepal is very hard to beat and to know its worth is a real deal here. What we have failed to do is rule out the possibility of this all; to specify what we want our tourists to perceive. This is one deficiency in the tourism sector, whereas the other one is the development of new areas. “Most of the tourists who have visited Nepal go to the same areas. There is no innovativeness,” he shares.
“A proper policy and infrastructure should be made so that new places can be developed as tourist destinations. Now, going back to the previous point about how we should define the experience, what should also be kept in mind while devising framework is that it has to be environmentally and ecologically sustainable. The tourists come to the country for the scenic beauty, the wildlife and the rich culture and to sustain this is our obligation for us and our future generations, we need to think 10 years down the line, 20 or even 50 years ahead. Therefore, these are the unquestioned and distinct areas where we will need to improve,” he further says.
The Dwarika’s Hotel and Resorts are one of the best in the country. One can feel the crisp and the change in the air once you enter the property. I took the liberty of asking what made The Dwarika’s experience special. Shrestha-Einhaus credited the exquisiteness to the fact that the complete holdings are a tribute to the locations. “Here in Kathmandu, The Dwarika’s is about art, culture, and architecture. At Dhulikhel, the property is focused on the natural beauty and environment, combined with the spirituality and wellness found in the Himalayas,” he shares.
The first generation who managed The Dwarika’s previously and the third generation, who is currently managing the company, both vary in their styles. In his time, René Vijay has witnessed much flatter hierarchy than it was during this grandfather’s leadership. “Sure, it has become more flat but like in my grandfather’s time it is built upon mutual respect,” he shares. He also adds that that is important to him. Reciprocal respect between him and his staff is his management style and that itself speaks a volume about René Vijay as a person. He tries to be in contact with every level of staff whether an entry level or the senior manager, so that he can get the pulse of the scenario in the organisation. He says, “It is also important to make everyone feel that each position in this institution is essential, there is no job which is irrelevant because only if the smallest job is done properly, we are able to develop a perfect experience. Each position and job has to be respected and has to be has to be given equal importance.
Shrestha-Einhaus is unquestionably a solution-oriented person. He prefers to set very clear expectations for his team and each team member; what does he expect from the person in the concerned position? Once he gives a certain framework, he gives the privilege to operate freely and let them find solutions. And then he and his staff come together to a conclusion. “I think I follow an inclusive kind of management style where I listen to what they have to say and then I make a decision. The people who do the work on a daily basis are well versed with what works and what does not so they always can give great input on how we can improve our procedures,” he says. He hopes that his leadership style is transformational—by sharing his vision for the Dwarika’s Group of Hotels and resorts and taking the people along with him so they share the same goal and work in the same direction as one big family. He has faith that if he and his staff work together, success is earned faster and sweeter, where everyone in the organisation will grow and benefits in the upward scale.
René Vijay personally deems financial success as a second in priority. The first thing one need to create is a great product. Once a good product is introduced to the market, financial success automatically follows. “This is why our focus is always more on enhancing again, the experiences, improving our product, upgrading our services. It goes without saying that great product ensures a long term success whereas unsatisfactory product slowly diminishes the definition of success,” he shares.
When he is not working, he mostly gets busy with his family—his grandmother, his mother and his recently wed wife. He also plays golf and football. He grew up embracing both his German as well as Nepali roots which gave him just as much admonition that he required in a professional setting and the difference between the two working cultures. His German upbringing trained him into routine, whereas his
Nepali workplace plucked him out from his run-of the- mill context to quick response mode. René Vijay is an ambitious man and there is no denying that he is always doing his best to upgrade The Dwarika’s Hotel and Resort from an internationally known yet small name to one of an international stature and try to make a difference for Nepal.
Text by Abhigya Subedi
Photos by Hritik Shrestha