Luxepitality meets with Rajni Hasija, the woman behind the meteoric success of the Maharaja’s Express, the worlds premier Luxury Train, the challenges she faced and what makes this palatial experience so memorable.
Tell us about your background and how you came to be the Group GM of Maharajas’ Express.
I am an officer of the All India Civil Services working with the Ministry of Railways currently on deputation to Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd. (IRCTC), which is an extended arm of the Ministry of Railways, Govt. Of India.
Maharajas’ Express is fully owned and operated by IRCTC.
Senior Management of IRCTC is drawn from the Railways. This is my second stint with IRCTC, the first being as Group General Manager (Information Technology) where I was responsible for development, maintenance and upgradation of the e-ticketing website for booking of train tickets on Indian Railways. During my earlier tenure, IRCTC also developed & managed the e-ticketing platform for the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi in 2010.
When did your first Luxury train launch?
Maharajas’ Express was launched in January 2010 as a Joint Venture Company. Subsequently, IRCTC took over the complete operations of the train in January 2012.
Maharajas’ Express offers a unique experience tell us how you keep up such high standards that reflect the opulence of the name.
All members of the Maharajas’ Team contribute in creating this unique experience for our guests. This is a result of meticulous planning & execution, excellent infrastructure and a desire to exceed guest expectations at every level. We also focus very strongly on training of our team members in different aspects ranging from operations, body language, personal demeanour etc.
Tell us about any obstacles that you have had to deal with as a female leader in your industry?
I have never felt that being a female has ever been a hindrance in my work. In fact, being a female, I garner all the more support from my co-workers. I also strongly feel that females are better communicators which helps me in my day to day functioning.
Who are the Maharajas’ Express guest today?
Maharajas’ Express guests come from different countries and backgrounds. We have had groups of female friends, university alumni groups, honeymooners, second and third generation Indians settled abroad on the train.
What makes a Luxury Train work, and how challenging is it to be successful?
The vastness of our country and the extensive rail network are a big boon to Luxury trains. The idea of having a moving hotel with sight seeing activities during the day and moving during the night to another destination is all the more important when people are really pressed for leisure time.
It is quite a challenge as it involves a lot of time management in planning the train movement, planning supplies like linen, F&B, beverages, groceries & perishables on the train.
What makes a stay on the Maharajas’ Express memorable and unforgettable?
I would say that the warmth with which Maharajas’ Express embraces all its guests is its USP.
We go the extra mile to take care of even the minutest requirements of our guests.
What is your approach in leading the Maharajas’ Express,is it like running a hotel?
It is a hotel cum tour on the move. The train is a fully functional luxury hotel and at every destination we have a surprise thrown in for our guests in addition to the sight seeing activity.
Tell us about some of the VIPs that have boarded the Maharajas’ Express
For us, all our guests are VIPs. I would not want to name anyone for the sake of privacy. We have had Hollywood stars, prominent doctors, leading investment bankers, politicians on the train.