Indonesia Expat sat down with Subin Dharman, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place to talk about how he ended up in Indonesia and fell in love with the country.
Hello, Subin! How are you today? Please tell us how long you have lived in Indonesia and what brought you here in the first place!
I am very well, thank you! I’ve lived in Jakarta for 20 months now. I was working at the Ritz-Carlton Kuningan before relocating to the Ritz-Carlton SCBD (Sudirman Central Business District) just one week ago! My passion and loyalty to the Ritz-Carlton brand brought me here. I’ve been with the company for some time now, and I’m at the point where I can never imagine a world without them. To me, it’s more than just a company, it’s a way of life and a culture. I was delighted to have been offered a role in Asia, as the company is very much growing here. I immediately said yes to this opportunity in Indonesia. I mean, why not?
Please tell us about your origins! Where have you lived so far, before finally relocating to Jakarta?
I am originally from India, born and raised in Qatar. I finished my studies and worked for a short while in Holland, before relocating to India for a short period. Then, my journey took me to Bahrain, Kuwait, the UK, and the USA. I love travelling as I always get to learn something new. I think travel always humbles you.
Wow, sounds like a journey! So why have you settled for a career in the hotel world? Is your passion to be a hotelier?
Well, the honest answer is no, it is not my passion. My best friend decided to pursue a hotel management degree and I too, decided to go down the same line. The funny thing is, a lot of students in hotel management schools will drop out, despite having an initial interest in the subject. For me, it was the other way around. My best friend is now the General Manager of St. Regis in Doha.
So, both you and your best friend ended up doing really well, we guess! So, what do you like most about Indonesia?
I guess so. What I love most about Indonesia is the people! I think they are very genuine. Each time I go out of Indonesia, I feel it even more. The day before yesterday I was in Singapore, and I thought to myself “Okay, I must have been really spoiled in Indonesia, with all the hospitality and culture!” As someone who has travelled around the world, I really mean this. Their smiles seem to always come straight from the heart. Aside from the people, I must say I really love the food! I think Indonesia has the most underrated cuisine in the world! I really love rendang and fried rice.
Wow, that is so lovely to hear! How do you find the hotel industry in Jakarta? Is it different from the rest of the world?
Jakarta has some of the world’s most modern buildings that really stand out – a pleasant surprise when I first arrived here. The hotel industry is mostly the same as the rest of the world. At the Ritz-Carlton we are one big family: we are like the innkeepers. Before hotels came into existence, there were inns. They were mostly run by families, with no housekeepers, engineers, or room service. The innkeepers looked after the guests to make sure their needs were met, so there were no boundaries between them. For example, if you see an engineer at the Ritz-Carlton climbing up the ladder to fix the bulb, and a guest walking towards the hotel door whilst the door girl is busy with somebody else, the engineer would automatically know to walk down to open the door for the guest. Here, we are simply taught that we are working for a purpose, not a function. The engineering part constitutes only 10 percent of what an engineer does in the hotel, whilst looking after guests would be the other 90 percent of his job. In the hotel industry, when you work for a Ritz-Carlton, we have a very solid philosophy. It is the same here, in the USA, Europe, and anywhere else in the world.
How does your typical day go?
I try to spend most of my time with the ladies and gentlemen here at the hotel. I make sure that I chat with the staff or at least say “hello.” I believe in the power of listening to others, forming relationships, and having a bond with people. This makes it easier for us to communicate, removing the hefty task of conducting multiple formal meetings to know what people are thinking. I try to do the same with the guests as well. I just love interacting with and listening to them.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to keep fit. I work out a lot, and I love spending time with my wife and two children. There are a few routines I’ve developed together with my family. I used to particularly enjoy martial arts, but now it’s a combination of various activities with them.
Any advice for other expats and for anyone new to Indonesia?
Just be yourself! I think the locals here are the most amazing people! You have nothing to worry about, simply be open, just like they are.