In conversation with Lakshmish Gangadhar,
Lawyer and Angel Investor
Lakshmish Gangadhar is an advocate and senior legal consultant in Bangalore. In the year 1999 he founded L.G. Associates, where he is currently the senior partner. He is also an angel investor, and is behind several new-horizon startup ventures and projects that are on that curve from product discovery to launch.
Lakshmish comes into the picture here, based on his profile and special interests. He is an adventure seeker, trekker, traveler, camper, and loves the great outdoors. He always has a travel kit in his car, and is ready to go at a moment’s notice.
For the first time in our Message of the Month series, we feature a legal professional to obtain his feedback on customer interactions, and his views on timeshare as a vacation format.
Here’s our first question – what do you think of timeshare as a vacation format?
I am familiar with timeshare – I think it is also called vacation rental if I am not mistaken. From my own understanding, timeshare is a good option for busy corporate employees and business professionals – those who need to take that one week off for their annual vacation.
At the moment, timeshare may not be suitable for me because in my profession I cannot make holiday plans well in advance to take my breaks - especially during seasonal vacations. My plans happen on the spur of the moment when there is lean work and I usually head out within 30 minutes of making up my mind. (Some of my friends and associates find it difficult to keep pace with that.)
As a practicing legal professional, what is your exposure to the timeshare vacation format?
Based on my experience as an advocate, I have had several cases referred to me, where customers have experienced serious deficiencies in terms of service, billing, or facility neglect. In some cases there have been complaints that are far more serious in nature.
I cannot discuss individual cases because of breach-of-confidence restrictions related to the cases we handle. What I can say though is that there are two categories of hospitality professionals – those who are guided by ethics and believe in fairness and transparency, and those who are probably not.
What advice do you offer when clients come to you with a problem?
As a first step, I advise them to approach the resort managers/senior personnel directly and seek a resolution in a constructive manner. Next, I ask them to post their grievances on web-based complaint redressal portals to seek remedial measures. If all these fail, and the nature of the complaint is really serious and still unresolved, I come into the picture. Consumer courts within the jurisdiction too are useful remedial measures to explore. Especially after the enactment of the new Consumer Protection Act 2019.
What should industry players do to improve the equation with the customer?
I think resort managers and business owners should make fair-play the platform for customer interaction. Because customer satisfaction and high standards of service will eventually help them remain viable and successful in their operations.
Having said that, I have also come across customers who don’t have a strong case in their favor on a complaint or a grievance. Quite often, because they have not understood how timeshare works - and more importantly, have not read the fine print in the sales agreement or contract. It is also possible that they have got carried away by exaggerated claims made during the sales presentation.
The logic here is simple – if someone has signed on the dotted line without reading the fine print, they start off with a disadvantage. It is difficult to take it on from there.
Are you happy to hear that AIRDA was set up to ensure fair play and transparency in the industry?
First of all, thank you for giving me background information on the All India Resort Development Association. I have also spent some time on your website, and can see that AIRDA is a wonderful support platform for the timeshare industry.
What makes this even more meaningful is the fact that members of AIRDA are promoters of resorts and resort chains in the country. Good to hear that resort members have voluntarily formed the association to raise the bar on standards, and to bring in a level of ethics and transparency in the interest of the customer.
Is there something resorts can do in terms of facilities, quality of support and service?
From my point of view, hotels and resorts in India (many of them) are truly international in terms of facility design, F&B offerings, quality of service and operating standards.
But to answer your question, resort management could look at satisfying the most difficult customers. If you have done that you have pretty much minimized the probability of customer dissatisfaction in the first place.
In our line of work, we too have difficult customers coming to us with complaints. And to strike a balance, I often end up giving them the other side of the story. I advise them against exaggerating small incidents that can be ignored, or overlooked – because hospitality is a difficult business to operate in, especially during this pandemic. (There could be small issues in the best of service environments.)
Has the pandemic situation crippled your own plans to make those frequent and impulsive getaways?
The pandemic situation has certainly put the brakes on all my travel plans – the initial five or six months were depressing to say the least. But each one of us has to find a safe and sensible way to move forward – we cannot remain tied down for long.
That’s why I have chosen to do short road trips to destinations that are less than 300 kilometers away. I usually drive down in my own vehicle and stay at a resort that has been checked out for safety and Covid-related precautionary measures.
These are my plans at the moment – maybe 2021 will usher in better times for all of us.
One last question before we wrap up - do you like to travel alone or with a friend?
Having someone come along with you is a good idea - it takes the boredom out of long drives. But I have not come across many people who can make up their minds quickly to join me on my trips. Besides, I am better off as a solivagant. Being alone on my getaways gives me a lot of time to think, strategize and reorganize my life and work – it also helps me take stock of many situations that need the benefit of a quiet, unhurried mind.
In other words, I enjoy my own company.
All images, courtesy of Lakshmish Gangadhar. Pictures from my 12-day trek to the Everest Base Camp in the Nepal region. We had to trek along the Khumbu Glacier to reach the Everest Base Camp. The sights here are heavenly, as you can see in these pictures.
What does an AIRDA membership mean to resort owners and developers? AIRDA comes in as your industry partner, conscience keeper and business catalyst - with a wide portfolio of support services.
What does AIRDA mean to holiday seekers and prospective customers? AIRDA comes in to provide information and offer guidelines on making the right timeshare decisions.