From bus boy to chief of operations at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi – Dhansukh Ramji Mazgaonkar's career in the UAE hospitality industry has spanned 40 years.
One-time bus boy now oversees VIP operations at Emirates Palace
Dhansukh Ramji Mazgaonkar – known as “Ramji” – came to the UAE 40 years ago to work as a bus boy at what was at that time Abu Dhabi’s only five-star hotel. Since then, he has worked his way up to chief of operations at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, where his main role is to manage VIP delegations.
Tell us more about your background.
I am from India. There I worked at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai but I left India to support the family abroad. I came to Abu Dhabi in 1974 and started working as a bus boy at the Hilton. I worked there from 1974 to 1983. From 1983 to 2004 I was at the InterContinental. After coming to the UAE, I brought all my brothers too. We are five brothers, I am the youngest. I brought them here by working hard and got them jobs in the same industry, as unskilled workers. They worked here for 20, 25 years. They helped their families from the UAE.
From bus boy to chief of operations — that’s quite a journey. How did you achieve that?
I had to prove myself to get promotions — and I got promoted every two years: to captain, to assistant head waiter, to head waiter. They sent me for training at the Nile Hilton. Tourists in Egypt came in thousands to breakfast, lunch, dinner. You learn a lot about how things are working. When breakfast is finished, you get lunch ready, then lunch is over and you get dinner ready. It’s like a factory. Cruise ships arrive with 2,000, 2,500 people. Then I jumped to the InterCon as banquet operations manager. There, room service, banqueting, offices and guests are all in one unit — the same staff have to take care of everything so you get lots of experience but have no spare time. At that time, there was not much casual [labour] in Abu Dhabi so you worked from 6pm to 6am. I received overtime but there was no additional staff.
In 40 years, you’ve only worked in three places. What made you jump to the Emirates Palace?
This is a very prestigious place to work. I was here from the time it was being constructed.
So what does your current job involve?
Every delegation that comes has a different set-up. The VIP always comes with a personal butler and we coordinate with him on the likes, dislikes or requirements of this sheikh, president or sheikha. We make sure our service is personal to him or her. At the palace, there is no typical time schedule. If a president comes tonight at 11pm, I will be there. The staff have my support, that way [if there is a problem] it doesn’t have to go to the general manager, I can solve it on the spot. We usually know roughly what time VIPs are scheduled to arrive and we coordinate with protocol and security. An hour before, security comes to check the rooms. Even though the rooms are all made up, they take up all the beds and check everything — they make the mess. They check the expiry date of the juices, the mayonnaise, the ketchup, the tabasco, everything. Then we have to redo the set-up. We coordinate with our security about what time to open the grand arch so that we are ready for service. The hotel manager or the general manager will stay for welcome drinks. Then my butler and the luggage comes and we unpack all the luggage. It’s all business — they have not come to sit around. So we always help them: do you want your shoes polished? Do you have any laundry? Do you want your shirts folded or hung up? We also help with packing when they are ready to go. If the VIP wants to go to Hakkasan, we make a booking, escort him down, wait for him, bring him back. We coordinate with all the Gulf sheikhs’ butlers. So it’s easy for them to call me and say: “Ramji, I’m coming”. We keep everything ready for each butler.
How many staff do you have?
At the moment we have 12 people and we have 43 butlers in the wing.
You seem to have a very busy schedule. Do you have time off?
An evening free is like a day off for me but I love to stay in the lobby to see my old people like ex ministers to welcome them. I am very loyal and love working in the hotel. I feel like it’s my business. I also love to go to other hotels to observe what they have. At night, I eat then go to sleep. My wife is very nice; she doesn’t complain.
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