At first glance, Noeke Kusuma seems like a shy, light-hearted individual but once you start conversing with her, a new avatar appears. A bolder, more confident independent woman who has complete authority over what she is saying and doing. At least that’s how I felt once we engaged in a tete-a-tete over coffee on the 24th floor of Four Points by Sheraton. The restaurant known as The Eatery had the most peaceful, welcoming atmosphere; you are away from the hustle and bustle of Gulshan circle. An intriguing combination of contemporary furniture and vintage artefacts coupled with the mesmerising smell of a croissant set the stage for an enlightening conversation, to say the least. Sat opposite to me was a seasoned hotelier who was actually destined to conquer the realms of infrastructure thanks to her civil engineering degree. “I was expected to follow my parents’ footsteps, but I always dreamt of working at a hotel. So despite studying to become an engineer, I took a chance with Hyatt as a marketing analyst. From there, I moved to various positions across various departments which ultimately helped me. I tried quitting thrice and work in areas such as telecommunication, but I keep coming back to the hotel business as it enables me to travel across Asia,” she shares her career graph precisely.
So how does one adapt to moving about so frequently? Noeke elaborates that, “Conventional companies do not like people who jump from one place to another, but it is an enriching experience. The transition can be exciting, but it does bear a lot of challenges. You have to adapt to a new team and environment within a short notice. In addition to that, you have to be on your toes when it comes to solving problems immediately.”
Having worked in hospitality giants like Hyatt Regency, JW Mariott, Novotel and Le Meridien across countries like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and of course her native Indonesia, she’s very fond of this industry. From an analyst, which was more of a desk job, Noeke is now entrusted with tasks like strategic overview plus planning to maximise profits and upholding the brand value of the entire property. Daunting indeed, mainly due to the stiff competition that exists in her area of operation. A melting pot of domestic and international guests, Four Points in Dhaka has already turned heads and is emerging fast as one of the most sought-after hotels among the visitors.
For the much-travelled hotelier, Dhaka is one of her favoured cities. She is particularly impressed by the service sector, “From a physical standpoint, Dhaka’s hotels are as good as other countries and even better in some cases. For instance, I can vouch for the fact that the Four Points by Sheraton in Dhaka is better than the one in Bangkok. However, we still have a lot to work on. I divide hotels into three components: room, food, and people. The quality of rooms in Dhaka is as good as its international counterparts; there is no scope for improving it much further unless it involves following new trends. When it comes to food, there is no such thing as improving it, rather the challenge here is maintaining the same level of a quality week in and week out. Although we’re slightly short staffed regarding trained personnel, it’s something we can work on overtime,” she explains.
According to Noeke, managing a hotel is equivalent to maintaining a city; there are several components at play, and each compliments the other. In such situations, her in-depth knowledge about the elements that are interrelated comes as a saving grace. She terms it as an ‘24 hour responsibility’ which requires attention to details at all times, particularly mornings as that’s their busiest hours.
Quality control is critical for most hotels, so how does Noeke ensure this for Four Points by Sheraton? “Simple, through my five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. The hotel business is one which should take into account the things that make people happy. So to do that, I monitor it myself. From the cleanliness of the lobby to the smell in the coffee shop, I inspect everything myself as these nitty-gritty details are what allows an establishment to stand out. Moreover, I believe in a strong brand standard, which is what Four Points by Sheraton is trying to implement.”
In her concluding notes, Noeke sheds light on her leadership skills. She believes that any good practice, if not sustained, is of no use. She feels that excellent service counts for nothing if it lacks consistency. Whether it’s the croissant or the spa, it must be top-notch at all times.
As I was coming down, her effervescent smile and big joyful eyes coupled with words of conviction to attain excellence at everything kept peeping into my mind. It won’t be an overstatement if we claim that with her persistent attitude and experience of 20 years, Four Points by Sheraton will reach greater heights than it already has.