In this issue we feature Mahadi Mathana, the General Manager of KSL Resort Hotel.
Brief background on previous experience as well as hotels/resorts worked in
I have been 42 years in the hotel industry and have worked with hotels of 5-star status throughout Malaysia, namely The Shangri-La, Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, Swiss Garden, Equatorial and finally in Johor Bahru with the pre-opening of the Eden Garden Hotel (now Berjaya Waterfront) and New York Hotel prior to joining KSL Resort Hotel.
What inspired you to enter the hotel industry?
I didn’t join the hospitality industry by choice, rather by chance. It came to a breaking point when I was waiting for my MCE results and I gave so much ‘problems’ at home that my father told me to get out and do something gainful! At a spur I traveled out of my kampung and went to the Shangri-La Golden Sands Resort in Batu Ferringhi, Penang to apply for a job – any job, and I got my first job as a kitchen steward.
I remembered so many deterrents entering the industry. My interview was eventful. So was my first day at work. I had to get through two bosses for the interview and it was intimidating. I acted the smart mouth which should have failed my interview, but instead one of them decided to give me the job out of the 10 applicants. For the first day of work, I got up at 5.15 am to take the 3 bus trips to Batu Ferringhi only to find out it was a Public Holiday!
Despite everything, there was no turning back for me. I was eventually promoted to Commis Waiter with the prestigious Ferringhi Grill, and spent my first 16 years in the industry there.
In what position did you get started?
In the kitchen washing dishes and needless to say, it was a tough job with long hours but it gave me the opportunity to grow within one of the core functions of the hotel industry i.e. in F&B. Having started from the bottom and moving upwards thereon, it is the foundation to what I am today.
Or perhaps I stuck at it because it gave me the ‘glamour’ of working with a 5-star hotel – ‘the Shang’ – which was a big deal that I could bring back to my kampung those days.
In what sections you have worked in within the hotel?
Like all my other colleagues who are GMs, you need to know every facet of the industry. The first 25 years was predominantly in F&B and the rest was spent with Sales, Rooms, Banqueting and Recreation.
What are your strengths?
I make friends easily. I enjoy meeting people and trying to fathom the various characters and what makes them tick. I am a worrier and that makes me a problem solver. I preempt, rather than react.
What made you feel that being a hotelier is the right job for you?
I love that sense of fulfillment that my job can give me. Especially after a tiring, high-profile event that is well done and when I get personally thanked by my Directors and Owners and receive verbal appreciation from the VVIPs such as dignitaries, royalties and foreign delegates I had served. I get to give myself that pat on the back that makes me do more, in order to get more.
My job and a well done one is my gauge of self-worth.
What do you see as the future for a career in hospitality and in Johor?
There is great potential to be sure. Johor with its strategic positioning between Singapore and the rest of Malaysia has brought on a bilateral vibrancy led on by Iskandar Malaysia’s development. I dare say so because it is the reason why KSL is built so big and yet so successful. There are volumes of visitors that ensure our sustainability as well as profitability.
There will be many more new hotels coming up. Although existing hotels may lament at the impending competition from new hotels but my view is that in every threat there is an opportunity. If we unite and strive to give exceptional hospitality service and products, we attract more visitors and at the end we all get a share of the pie.
In your current position, how can you ensure that there is a way forward for those wanting to venture into the industry?
I speak for KSL and I strongly believe that it is a good training ground. It is built as a resort in the city, with MICE facilities, many function rooms, golf-simulated facilities, dinosaur theme park and a total of 905 hotel rooms. Employees always have to deal with the rush and challenges of checking in and checking out of rooms, serving at banquets for thousands of guests, handle F&B orders of thousands of guests. They learn to cope with volumes in terms of guests and the diversity of the resort. They can work anywhere from here.
What are your personal words of encouragement for new entrants into the industry?
In everything you do, do not hope for compliments. Let your yardstick of success be your own sense of fulfilment.
Let every effort be from the heart. Do not be afraid to show your love for the job because one day, it will love you in return.