Patu Keswani, How a wedding invite changed Lemontree’s hiring? at IIS 2015

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Thought leader and Chairman of Lemontree hotels, Mr. Patu Keswani recounts on how a wedding invite of an employee changed the way Lemontree hotels hired employees.

It was the year 2007. It might have been another usual day making some executive decisions at Lemontree hotels for its Chairman & MD, Mr. Patu Keswani. What Patu was unaware of was that an employee’s mother walking in to his office, inviting him to her son’s wedding and getting all emotional about it would change the course of Lemontree. The employee was a person with speech and hearing impairment whom Patu had hired for the kitchen stewarding department in one of Lemontree hotels. That the employee had a stable job at Lemontree resulted in prospects of his marriage. Patu had an epiphany. Why not hire more of people with disability and people deprived of opportunity. Estimates say that India has 7 crore people who are disabled and another 7 crores who are illiterate and both the segments are opportunity deprived. Patu decided that Lemontree would hire 100 of them by 2011 and went on to hire 400 by 2015. In this talk, Patu also highlights how his team went about reviewing the job description of every jobs in Lemontree, identifying 30 such roles where people who are opportunity deprived could work and contribute to grow the business. Not only were all the employees sensitized but the entire training content had to be made accessible to everyone. Today Lemontree has about 350 employees with speech and hearing impairment, 30 with orthopaedic impairment, 12 with visual impairment, 15 with down’s syndrome and 2 with Autism. Lemontree has also become the first hotel in India to hire people who have passed only 3rd grade. This has reflected in them being voted as one of India’s Great Place to Work for four years in a row with only 15% attrition compared to industry wide churn rate of 40%. Also Lemontree guests have been very supportive which is shown in the 40% return rate of guests. Patu has set his sight even higher. In 2016, to open a hotel in Gurgaon which will be fully operated by people with disability, to employ 4000 such people by 2020 (i.e., 40% of his workforce) and probably become the only Employer in the world to hire people with zero formal education skills by 2020. We wish Patu Keswani and everyone at LemonTree that the ‘Law of unintended positive consequences’ propel them to achieve their vision faster.

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About Patu Keswani
Patu is a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Delhi and an MBA from IIM Kolkata. He was presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award by IIT Delhi in 2011 and by IIM Kolkata in 2012. Patu worked for over 15 years in the Tata Administrative Services, where his last role was as Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Taj Business Hotels. Subsequently Patu has also worked with A.T. Kearney Inc., as Director in their India Office.
Patu promoted Lemon Tree Hotels in 2002.
The Lemontree chain currently owns/operates 27 hotels in 16 cities aggregating 3000 rooms with 3500 direct employees. This speedy growth has currently made the group the 3rd largest by owned rooms.

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