6 lessons from the West End Hotel

The West End Hotel is a 1948 Art Deco masterpiece in Mumbai. It’s an institution. Some workers have been there for over 30 years. I interviewed them, and even got a private tour around the whole hotel! Here they are:

Years at West End: 16
Favourite thing about West End: good hours and he gets to go home on time

Years at West End: 32
Favourite thing about West End: the bar

Years at West End: 5
Favourite thing about West End: he gets to drive guests cars

Years at West End: 8
Favourite thing about West End: meeting new people

Years at West End: 2
Favourite thing about West End: learning guests languages (esp. French)

Sleeping in room 108, watching Mumbai night antics from the balcony, stretching my spine in yoga on the roof, eating a whole plate of watermelon for breakfast, riding assisted in the vault elevator, and observing the workers dedication to guests was moving – so I’ve complied my observations into 6 lessons:

Lesson one: Generosity

When you wanted to scoop ice cream, someone would run over and scoop it for you. If you wanted to ride in the elevator, someone would rush over and press the button for you. When you sat down at breakfast, someone would swiftly glide toward you with a freshly brewed pot of coffee. The king and queen cards above the service door (below) are reminders for the workers that “guests are king.” I asked Nair when the hotel was built, and he took twenty minutes to show me all the extra rooms, from ground floor to the roof! I experienced generosity through the detailed tiling, cuisine diversity, and returning to my room to a tightly made bed and folded clothes.

Lesson two: Take care of small details

Perfect personal presentation is integral to the workers, as illustrated through their colour co-ordinated uniforms, personalised with small differences. Attention to care in small details makes a big difference. Using wooden toaster tongs, arranging the spoons in a triangle, and keeping the the custom font and colour pallete consistent throughout the hotel gives a feeling of peace and rest to the guests.

Lesson three: Utilize the power of personal acknowledgement

Upon entering, you are greeted with Namaste (the God in me sees the God in you) and your bags are carried to the lobby. Your room key is slid across the counter, and from that point onwards you’re connected into a story that is special to many people around the world. The Indo Genius team have returned to the West End Hotel for over a decade –a laminated Indo Genius sign was pinned to a board in the lobby to mark our stay.

Lesson four: Art Deco buildings hold king status in the architectural era kingdom

I was naively confident that Napier held the world title for the most Art Deco buildings. So, I was honestly shocked that Mumbai not only had more (second in the world after Miami), but they were also more stylistically diverse (through incorporating Indian motifs into ironwork and facades). Art Deco is a style of Architecture from the 1920’s that aims for streamlined, symmetrical and sophisticated forms. The Indian Institute of Architects was founded in Bombay in 1929, which propelled the Art Deco movement. This followed the need to develop new public and residential buildings alongside land reclamation schemes reacting to swarms of people migrating to Bombay for the expanding port trade.  

Lesson five: We are born into families but find new ones along the way

The Indo Genius organisers say the hotel is a second home. Because they have stayed there so often, they have been invited into a family formed through years of dedication, to the guests and each other. This has cultivated an environment where everyone feels welcomed and respected. The people you interact with everyday don’t automatically become family – it takes time, sacrifice and love. It was beautiful to witness.

Lesson six: Orange is the best colour to tile your bathroom

Enough said.

4 thoughts on “6 lessons from the West End Hotel

  1. What a wonderful adventure Zoe. Your blog certainly gives a different insight to what we kind of imagine India is like. It wascinteresting to read how much the workers value their jobs but also sounds like they are valued. A lesson we could learn here in New Zealand.

  2. So great, Zoë. Great to read about your hotel adventures & contemplate an orange bathroom 🧡🧡🧡🧡🧡

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