Hi, this is #EverydayPeople. This week, I interview Ms. Nirmala Lilly. Podcast and transcript below.

History of this project rrrrrrrrrright at the bottom. Enjoy this chat!

1. For the readers, who are you, what do you do, and what is your current side project?

I am Nirmala Lilly. I am a hotelier, and I’ve worked with the Taj group of hotels for the past 18 years and other hotels for the rest of my 25 years in the hotel industry. The last 5 years, I was the general manager for a few hotels. My last assignment was that I was the senior general manager of Wonderla [Amusement Park].

When I finished my 25 years of work in the hospitality industry, I started my own company called Infinity Hospitality Services, wherein I do travel tourism, consultancy and training. I’ve also got a CSR initiative – a tailoring institute for poor people where we train them for free.

I’m a postgraduate (MBA) in Sales and Marketing, and I’m pursuing English Literature now. I love studying, and I’ve recently realized my interest is studying. I’m not a voracious reader but I love studying because it has purpose.

My passion is that I’m a PR person and my strength is people. I’m learning Carnatic music and I play Veena. When I get a chance, I love to play basketball and volleyball.

[Nirmala has worked with a LOT of organizations, including the Kerala Management Association, Indian Society for Training and Development, Skal International, and the ALL Ladies League.

She has also chartered several clubs in Toastmasters, and she was the first area director and the first division director in Kerala. Listen to the podcast to hear her incredible story!]

In a Glance: Where do I start?! Nirmala is a juggernaut of energy, primarily in the hotel and hospitality industry. She has worked with several related organizations, including the Taj group of hotels for 18 years. As a Toastmaster, she’s worn many hats and chartered several clubs.

2. Why did you choose to get into the hospitality industry, and what excites you about hospitality and taking care of other people?

I did not have any choice. I was born into a middle-class family, wherein my father believed that education is for boys and marriage is for girls. Therefore, I had to marry in my teenage years. After that, I had to do my studies and stand on my feet myself.

I reached a crossroads where I had no other choice but to work. That time, I was only a graduate and I needed some technical qualification. I did some technical courses and I got a job with the Taj group of hotels. In that first interview, they selected me and that’s how I got the job. I never wanted to come to the hotel industry at all. Those days, people would think that a woman working in the hotel industry was either a receptionist or a cabaret artist!

Even I was scared to work there, but I realized that it is a secure place for women employees and it is not easy to get a lady into a good hotel. Once you get into something, I feel you should be like a duck to water. So I did. 18 years of Taj moulded me. What I’m now, I owe everything to Taj group of hotels.

When I was a child, I actually wanted to be an advocate. I didn’t know why, but I did. I’d actually done 1 year in LL.B. But unfortunately I couldn’t transfer that to this [hoteliering] and couldn’t complete it. That is my unfulfilled wish! But it’s perhaps good that I didn’t become one. Maybe I was destined to be a people person, so I’m in the
right place as a hotelier!

[Nirmala goes on to talk about how she became an entrepreneur after 25 years of working and the thoughts and troubles she has with that title. Listen to her story in the podcast.]

3. You mentioned you’ve chartered many clubs and been a Toastmaster for a long time. Why are you still a Toastmaster today? Being so experienced, how do you feel when you meet enthusiastic young Toastmasters?

I believe, once a Toastmaster, always a Toastmaster. You should keep yourself updated – learn, unlearn, and relearn. I feel the past few years I’ve been a mentor. New people come in, and I mentor them, and I enjoy seeing them perform.

There are a lot of senior toastmasters and you can see we’re very passionate because we have really transformed over the years. Nowadays, I feel that new Toastmasters come in with a mission – they’re here for 6 months or a year so they decide how many projects they’re going to do, and then move on. Some even feel like they know better. They’re overconfident, but when they deliver their projects, they understand.

That sincerity or passion is not there in the younger generation. Those days, after being in Toastmasters for so many years, we used to think about leadership roles. But nowadays, young kids are becoming area directors, division directors and so on. I feel amazed.

I feel you should take your time and slowly learn and move forward. Never stop learning. Toastmasters is a platform where you can learn a lot on a daily basis. It is an investment in yourself.

4. What are the 3 pieces of advice you want to give to young Toastmasters?

Observe, and understand. Sometimes, when [young people] come to a club, they might think that the speakers are not very competent, and not listen. Develop your listening skills and understand the circumstances rather than jumping the gun.

Study the materials provided. Do your best preparation. Read the information you have and use that to deliver your best performance.

Identify whether communication or leadership is your forte. You will be able to understand yourself, and then set a goal accordingly. If you feel like you can become a world champion, and speak in a certain way, introspect and follow through.

In a Glance: Develop listening skills. Study your information. Choose one path and follow through.

5. Great. Finally, what can you leave the audience with? What should they explore next?

Never waste time. Life is so precious. Identify what is good for you [ and chase it].

Also, realize the power of giving. Most people don’t give. Everything is “for me, for me, for me.” Give to someone else and enjoy that. Being a mentor in Toastmasters, I enjoy it more when a mentee performs well than when I perform.

Cultivate this power of giving. Give to others and to the society, and take everyone along with you. That is my message.

Henlo fren. If you made it all the way here, THANK YOU for reading! Did you enjoy it?

#EverydayPeople is season 2 (and up) of Talkback Tuesday, a project I started in 2016 because I wanted something easy to do. Who knew it would become more complex?

This is a weekly interview with everyday people. I think it is inspirational to look into the life of another person and realize it is just as complex and large and confusing as your own. Hopefully you do too!

Next, check out the previous interview from last Tuesday with Marcie Gansler by clicking on the image below. Marcie is the district director of Toastmasters South Korea. She enjoys swing dancing and teaches English to adults.


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