Living proof that success is rooted in dedication and a positive attitude.
By Ashima Sethi
One of Bangkok’s largest properties, the Amari Watergate Bangkok stands tall in the city’s bustling commercial and shopping district, just a stone’s throw from landmarks like Erawan Shrine, CentralWorld, and Ratchaprasong Intersection. A leading property for meetings and events, the hotel boasts over 500 rooms, spacious venues, and an array of drinking and dining outlets serving all kinds of global cuisine. Taking all of these elements into consideration, it is evident that it must take a special talent to helm operations at a hotel of this calibre.
The man behind it all is Sukamal Mondal, the charismatic Area General Manager of the ONYX Hospitality Group who oversees operations of Amari Watergate Bangkok as well as several properties that are part of Shama Properties Bangkok portfolio. Hailing from Kolkata, recognised as ‘The City of Joy’ in India, Sukamal’s journey into the multifaceted world of hospitality began years ago. “I was brought up in a family that had very strict rules and regulations, it was almost military!” he laughs.
“Initially, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I wanted to look good, feel good, and make others look good because I firmly believe that life is a fashion show and the world is your runway. After that, I had interests in pursuing becoming a chef, which was rooted in my love for simple but delicious food; I had thoughts of becoming a flight attendant so that I could travel the world and meet people from different countries and backgrounds. The world is truly such a beautiful place that I think we really have to cherish it.”
Sukamal attended La Maternelle School before moving to Jagabandhu Institution where he completed high school. He then pursued a diploma in Hospitality and Tourism at the Numero Uno Institute of Professional Studies (NIPS) where he focused on exploring his culinary skills. Sukamal details that it was during the first year of hotel school where his life changed as he fell in love with the world of food and beverage—bars, restaurants, weddings, and he decided he was never going to look back! “Today I am proud to say that I am living the life of my dreams,” he declares. “I am also blessed that my mother has been supportive of my pursuits. The biggest lesson I have learned from her is that ‘no matter what you do in life, keep striving for excellence and success will follow.’”
After his love for the world of hospitality was ignited, Sukamal has gone on to work in leading properties all around the world, gaining decades of experience that he brings to his current role. To better understand the intricacies of the industry, Masala sits down with the hospitality veteran to recap the highlights of his career, for insight into how young people can succeed in the business, and what Thailand might look like post-pandemic.
Can you walk us through your professional experiences? What do you consider your biggest achievements and challenges that you have managed to overcome?
After completing my Hospitality and Tourism diploma, I started my career as a Bartender at Jin Jiang Tower in Shanghai, China. After four years bartending, I was lucky enough to be selected by Robert Lohrmann, a very notable name in the hospitality industry, to become the Manager of Marriott Café at the Shanghai Marriott Hotel Hongqiao. It was there that I was really exposed to the complexities of working in food and beverage. I then moved on to work at the Sanya Marriott Yalong Bay Resort & Spa as part of their preopening team and then as a Café Manager and Restaurant Services Manager.
My next step then saw me move to the sunny shores of Phuket where I worked as the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa. In 2006, I began my career with ONYX Hospitality Group where I returned to Shanghai to become the Residence Manager of Shama Century Park by Shama Property Management. I have since been with the ONYX group for 16 years and have had to overcome many challenges. One that sticks out in my mind was becoming the pre-opening General Manager of Shama Sukhumvit Bangkok when I was 32 years old. It was a big challenge but I took it on and successfully opened the hotel in September 2006. Years later, I am currently an Area General Manager. I consider myself lucky to be able to run such a legendary property like the Amari Watergate Bangkok, as well as have such a breadth of responsibility within the group.
Can you go into detail about your current role? What do you hope to achieve in this role in the near future?
In my current role as an Area General Manager, I am running the Amari Watergate Bangkok and overseeing the Bangkok area with support from other General Manager Leadership teams. Helming such a property has been an honour, we just celebrated 28 years of operations in March!
Following months of refurbishments, the hotel is unveiling its latest collection of premier rooms and suites. Each of these are complete with contemporary interiors inspired by the life and culture that surrounds Khlong Saen Saep, the city’s central canal that has a vibrant interchange pier located just steps from our main entrance.
My goal is to build a young and dynamic team who are not afraid to think outside of the box to run this legendary property. We want to establish Amari Watergate Bangkok as a corporate and MICE hub, as well as a leading choice for domestic tourism.
Considering Thailand has always been a popular tourism destination, as someone who is working in the industry, what are some things that the Kingdom should focus on in order to maintain this?
Yes, Thailand continues to be a dream destination for many! I believe in order to represent the rich Thai culture and famous traditional Thai hospitality, we need to have well-trained people. I am a firm
believer in developing future talent and we should focus on developing hospitality schools where we can ensure our future professionals are trained extremely well.
What can we expect from Thailand’s hospitality industry post-pandemic?
I think I speak for many when I say that we have had enough of this current pandemic. We have seen a lot, heard a lot, and experienced a lot in the last few years. The pandemic has undeniably shaken the global economy. It has disrupted the way we live, work, and conduct business. We as leaders were truly suffering trying to manage the fallout.
However, history has proven that the tourism industry is set to recover faster than some other industries. Speaking as a leader, in my view, perseverance, passion, and being proactive will be the way to go forward, and the way to ensure that the Kingdom recovers. We must go forward to drive the tourism industry back to where it used to be so that it can support the country’s economic growth, so that it can ensure all of our teams are supported, and so that our stakeholders are looked after.
In your opinion, why is it advantageous for properties in Thailand to have Indian professionals in roles like GM or AGM?
From my perspective, talent has nothing to do with one’s nationality. I run my properties as a true hotelier, and a true hotelier will always prioritise the well-being and development of their team members, offer
their guests a memorable experience, and keep stakeholders happy.
Beyond your work, what do you enjoy doing outside of the office and why?
I really enjoy outdoor activities. I enjoy going to the gym, doing yoga, and playing squash. These activities give me the dose of dopamine I need to stay alert, to be creative, and most importantly, to think
outside of the box.
If you could offer advice to young professionals who want to join the industry, what would it be? What skills are required to succeed in hospitality?
I believe there are two things that are very important for young professionals to be successful in our industry and they are a passion for creativity and a passion to think outside of the box. Don’t be afraid