Having started his career in the travel industry, Sanjay Bhatia, General Manager, Concordia, says his entry into the FM industry was ‘accidental’. However, in all these years, he has more than proved his mettle in the industry. Megha S Anthony talks to Sanjay Bhatia about his journey and his vision for the company…
What was your first job like?
Way back in 1985, I completed my graduation and was still exploring where my life would take me. To keep myself busy and start earning and contributing, I started working in a travel agency. From the outside one would think that travel related services would be great as you plan holiday itineraries to exotic locations, look for the best options to stay in glamorous hotels, fly from world capitals to another etc. The reality was far from it. Going through the drill of checking route codes, confirming ticketing instructions, struggling to get the cheapest fare and getting shouted at because a certain flight was not available, was mind numbing. In those days there was no internet. So you had to go through IATA directories to find the right coding to create the proper tickets. That required sustained level of focus to get all the details right and ability to connect the various dots. However, I did get to learn a lot from it.
Who was your mentor while growing up?
There have been many great managers and peers who have helped shape that way I think and work. I was fortunate that at almost every stage of my career, I had a great manager or a co-worker who forced me to think outside my comfort zone. However during my formative years in school and college, an uncle of mine, Mr. Shyam Parwani was a great mentor. He used to teach marketing at UC Berkeley and he gave me exposure to a broader view of the world. He is the one who encouraged and motivated me to read books covering a wide range of topics and introduced me to “In Search of Excellence”. To discover the secrets of the art of management, the authors, Peters and Waterman, studied more than 43 successful American companies. The companies specialised in a number of areas: consumer goods, high technology, and services. What they discovered was that regardless of how different each company was, they shared eight basic principles of management that anyone can use on their way to success. That had a lasting impact on me.
What triggered your interest in the FM industry?
Many in the industry, including myself, are accidental Facilities Managers. Imagine 20 years ago when FM was still in its infancy stage or not even known as a vocation. That is the time when I was approached by CBRE to join their team in India. Their philosophy was that they want to manage buildings and spaces like one manages five-star hotels. A lot of work gets done in the back-of-thehouse while the guest experience is non-intrusive services. That excited me and here I am.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Though each of my experience has been extremely rewarding, my most memorable one was my contribution in setting up Sodexo’s FM services in India. Taking it from 65 staff to over 6000 over a span of 3 years while I was there was truly satisfying. Most recently I was involved in the mobilization of services across 7 countries within the MENA region for one of the largest IT companies and another mobilization last year for multiple services across 19 sites with the UAE felt great.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career and how have you overcome it?
FM is a people business. From staff, clients, vendors, authorities to various other stakeholders. Managing people from such diverse backgrounds is the greatest challenge. Getting them all to understand the main objectives while each of them having different needs and wanting different outcomes can be daunting and getting them to work together to achieve common goals is a wonderful challenge. My experience working and managing in various markets and cultural environments have certainly helped me reach where I am.
If you weren't working in this field where would you be?
If I was not in FM, I would certainly be in some kind of service field – maybe hospitality or airlines where you have to connect various dots to reach a complete picture.
Do you get enough me time?
Time is a very valuable asset. Managing time in such a dynamic and the ever demanding environment is certainly a challenge which we all strive for. There are good days and then there are bad days. The trick is to try and balance it as much as you can.
Your advice to youngsters in this line of work?
Hard work and perseverance does not fail anybody. You have to pay your dues before getting any opportunities that could put you on a path of growth. I do have a favorite adage that I try to live by – If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it then change the way you think about it.
What is your vision for Concordia?
To be the leading integrated facilities management service provider within the UAE by using its portfolio of services to differentiate itself from others while managing communities and other developments and by making a difference with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company values