VANISHING TRIBE

Shailesh Menon

Mumbai, Aug. 16

Pompously, he stands tall. He knows there are not many hotel doormen of his ilk. Stroking his jet-black beard and buttoning the white lapel of his impeccably cut suit (a `tailoring wonder', replete with regalia of the Raj), he waits nonchalantly in front of an imposing glass door that opens into the plush lobby of the hotel.

The doorkeeper is becoming more and more a vanishing tribe. Major hotel chains in the city are finding it increasingly hard to spot `the right man' to man their doors.

"Yes, there is difficulty in getting the right man for the job. One must realise that turnover is not high in this position. Consequently, we plan well in advance to spot a suitable candidate for the post," said Mr Mohit Nirula, General Manager, The Oberoi, Mumbai.

According to industry peers, there is no `perfect candidate' for this post, as the desired criteria for appointing a doorman cannot be adhered to the point.

Doormen should essentially be tall, well above 6 ft, and well built. They should have a very warm disposition (and that even includes a good `white' smile) and an impressive posture. Indian hotels such as Taj, Oberoi, Ambassdor and Leela prefer bearded doormen. This helps them to be very `Indian' at the first point of reception, they say.

"Beard-and-turban is linked very closely to Indianness. Foreign tourists are easily impressed seeing doorkeepers in ethnic attire, turbans and beards. But their being bearded is only `preferred', not essential, ," said a senior official of Taj Mahal Palace and Towers, Mumbai.

The job profile of doorkeepers is very ornamental in nature. It is one of those very few vocations where a chair is not offered.

A doorkeeper is expected to stand (and sometimes walk in small steps) throughout his working hours.

The starting pay of doormen ranges between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 17, 2006)
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