Veteran Hotelier, Anil Bhandari, former CMD, ITDC and former MD, HCI passed on recently. In this blog, his contemporary, Virat Varma, recalls his association of over 45 years with Bhandari and how Indian industry has lost one of its prized assets.
The first time that I heard his name was in ITDC Head Quarters, in my boss Ms.Psyche Nigam’s office, where she was discussing with the GM Hotels and preparing a list of top ten ITDC Executives. His name was on the number one slot followed by other outstanding executives of ITDC of that time. My interest in this list was because my name was number ten and I was only an Assistant Manager. I asked Ms. Nigam who was this Anil Bhandari?
She said, “He is one of the finest Operations Managers developed by our management team and he is coming back from abroad after two years training.” Thereafter, for the next forty five years, I was exposed to his excellence and administrative capabilities, I guess I was fortunate. He was always helping his colleagues. He was technically most competent and a thorough professional, an inspiration to most of us. Starting his career as a management trainee, he not only became MD of Hotel Corporation owned by Air India, but also was the first Hotelier to become CMD, ITDC.
There is a long train of memories which safely rests in the innermost chamber of my heart, of the times I spent with him – I could write a book. Nonetheless, I would like to tell the world that the real Anil Bhandari was a charmingly great personality, most humble and caring. The first time I came in close contact with him was, when he took over as GM of the very prestigious Hyderabad House. He used to visit the Head Office quite often and would take time out for a little informal chat with all of us. I could make out that he developed some sort of affinity for me. Then one day he told my boss that he plans to take a holiday for a few weeks and that he would like me to look after the operation of Hyderabad House – mind you, I was only Assistant Manager then. I was fortunate to work in this tough location. He would visit often and spend long hours discussing his style of planning and other managerial approaches. As luck would have it, for months together I was there, extremely busy trying to match the level of his excellence and my hard work paid off – there was not a single complaint during that duration; for which he generously rewarded me with an outstanding appraisal. He remembered me and when he was planning to open The Kanishka Hotel, he wanted me as Director F&B, unfortunately by that time I was looking after Calcutta Airport Restaurant and the Flight Kitchen as Manager.
He followed my career and always gave me right and timely advice – he was always proud of my achievements. After I left Vijay Mallya’s Pizza King Chain, I approached him for a job; he was then MD, Hotel Corporation of India. He straight away offered me a job as GM Centaur – Juhu, Mumbai. I was spoiled by him so much that I turned down the offer and asked for posting to Centaur, Srinagar. He smiled and said OK and then he transferred the GM from there to accommodate me. But he also informed me that the hotel was in a really bad condition and that I will have to work very hard. I did work hard and did not give him a chance to regret his decision. On the contrary, I became his favourite GM. Then, after three years, he transferred me to Hotel Centaur, Delhi, although he was under pressure not to do so by the Minister. Thanks to his support, I became the most successful GM in the history of the company.
As a professional he had great regard for hard working staff and executives. He had great ability to carry his team with him, along with his bosses and at every step he established himself as a considerate boss, a perfect colleague and a real team player in every sense.
After leaving ITDC he Joined ITC as MD, Travel House and worked there for over ten years. Thereafter, he got involved in assisting and developing hotels and helping international chains to set up their businesses in India.
Anil Bhandari was always a family man. Married to Pamela in Income tax, she retired as Commissioner, he has two lovely kids, daughter and a son, both well qualified and well settled. He was indeed a proud father in every sense of the term.
Finally, I would like to put on record that from the 70s to the 90s, ITDC produced some of the finest hospitality professionals in the country. Despite limited opportunities – primarily on account of then Government restrictions – professionals like Anil Bhandari, Ms.Psyche Nigam, Pramod Mathur, K.B.Kachru, Cecil Samuel, Ram Gupta made it big and were outstanding.
Anil Bhandari was unique because he made it big while working with the government because of his meticulous planning skills and sheer hard work. He was always the ‘Complete Hotelier’. I am proud of the fact that I had the opportunity to know him and work with him for a good number of years.
My last salute to my dear friend – RIP God bless you Sir – Always…!