Jeff Brades, vice-president of marketing and communications for Sodexo India, shares his thoughts on working in an environment where costs are not the chief consideration
Describe your role for Sodexo India I look after marketing and communications for Sodexo in India. We feed some 300,000 people daily across 750 contracts. I'm here to help make sure we blend local expertise with global knowledge.
Who are your clients? They are split into four main segments. Corporate services cover call centres for the likes of HSBC and RBS, healthcare covers many of the booming private chains and education looks after prestigious international schools, while the remote sites division manages services both offshore [oilrigs and hotel barges] and inland at mines.
How has working abroad enhanced your career? The advantage of an emerging market is that it all moves much quicker. You face as many challenges in a week as you would in a month in a developed economy so you learn much more.
What do you like about working in India? In developed markets it is a huge challenge to move the discussion away from cost; in India it's primarily about how we work strategically with clients. When an economy is going north at 9% a year, clients need partners who do more than provide cheap lunches. For instance, we provide accommodation blocks to house employees, as well as offering health and wellbeing programmes such as yoga classes and blood cholesterol monitoring.
What do you dislike? You sometimes have little time to stop and think. This morning I planned to develop a buffet offer. Instead I was pulled into a sales tender that I then presented to a client this afternoon.
How does Indian hospitality differ from the UK's? Thirty- four per cent of Indians work in the service industry; customer care is deep-rooted in their culture and the politeness and willingness to please is something not always seen in the UK.
What could UK hospitality learn from India? All produce is fresh and seasonal. Even pizzas in Italian restaurants use fresh tomato sauce prepared that day. I really notice the difference in the flavours and variety of food.
What could India learn from the UK? Consistency. The service industry is keen to please but doesn't always get it right. Another thing would be that Brits aren't scared to tell it how it is. In India you are sometimes told what people think you want to hear. Finally, a few carefully placed health and safety manuals wouldn't go amiss.
What has surprised you most about Indian hospitality? The sheer scale. At one site we produce 60,000 meals daily. When you are talking about rice consumption in tonnes per day for a single site you know things are a bit different. On one site we have 16 people making chapattis full-time and we make our sambar in pots the size of cars. It is amazing the way logistics are implemented to get everything to the counter piping hot.
CV: JEFF BRADES
â- Worked for Mars in the UK, helped Coca Cola set up operations in the newly formed Russian Federation, and worked in emerging markets for Bass and Red Bull
â- MBA at Cranfield School of Management
â- Joined Sodexo in 2007, as marketing director, healthcare division, then moved to central marketing division before leaving for India