Vikram Reddy has spent decades building a career at one of the world’s most prestigious hotel groups, yet he’s no stranger to the art of hospitality. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say his career journey started at home with a mother who made everyone feel welcome.
Born on 2 January 1958 in Hyderabad, India, Reddy was the youngest of six. “I had a fantastic experience growing up; we were four brothers and two sisters. We had loving parents and grandparents,” he says of his home, always bustling with visiting relatives.
While his father worked for the government in the sales tax department, Reddy’s mother was a homemaker. “My mom was very friendly – she enjoyed having people around all the time. If anyone came around an hour before mealtime, she made sure they stayed to eat with us. That had a big influence on me and, even today, all my brothers and sisters follow in her footsteps.”
In elementary and secondary school Reddy was an “OK student”. It wasn’t until college that he started to apply himself. “That’s when I realised in life that, if you want to move forward, you need to get educated, you need to do a better job.”
In 1978 Reddy earned a degree in accounting from Osmania University in Hyderabad. And in 1980, he packed his bags for California, on a green card sponsored by his brother. He continued his education at California State University, Long Beach, where he pursued a bachelor’s in business. The topic leveraged Reddy’s natural organisational and problem-solving skills, not to mention his penchant for finance.
He worked at the Quality Inn Anaheim, near Disneyland Anaheim, as a night audit clerk. Reddy looked after the hotel’s accounting, while also checking guests in and out. This gave him the opportunity to meet new people, chat and connect. “It was supposed to be part-time, just to pay some bills during college,” he recalls. “But I started enjoying the business, so when I graduated from college, I decided to stick around in the industry.”
The original plan was to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) upon graduation. “However, after deep consideration, I thought I wouldn’t be able to sit in an office and work for 10 hours a day. I like to meet people all the time, and I thought the hotel business is the right one for me.”
After graduation, Reddy started working full-time at the hotel and, over the next 10 years, worked in the finance departments of a few hotel management companies that ran international names including Ibis, Days Inn and Ramada Hotels. On top of his day job, Reddy always seized every opportunity to help out with operations – a wide-ranging sector of the industry that encompasses the day-to-day running of a hotel, from customer relations to human resources, housekeeping, food service and sales.
During this period, Reddy’s personal life blossomed. In 1988 he married his wife, whom he met through friends and family, in California. And in 1990 they welcomed a son, followed by a daughter in 1992.
Reddy continued to stay open to new opportunities at work. “I knew someone working for Four Seasons and they invited me for Sunday brunch at Four Seasons Newport Beach,” he recalls.
“I was very impressed with how they treated me at the door, with the service in the restaurant, and the whole experience. That’s when I said, ‘I should work for a hotel like this.”
For the next three years, Reddy regularly sent applications to Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. Finally, after three years, they had an opening for him in 1993: the newly opened Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay in Bali needed an experienced director of finance.
Reddy was delighted and nervous in equal measure. On one hand, his dedication had paid off; however, Four Seasons wanted him on the ground in two weeks, and his children were still very young at the time.
Reddy’s wife, Madhura, encouraged him to take the job. “You have been waiting for three years for this – pack your bags and go. We’ll join you later,” he recalls her saying. Arriving in Bali, Reddy was blown away by the atmosphere and the staff. “It was very magical. The hotel was spread over 35 acres and felt like a Balinese village,” he recalls. “The Balinese are fantastic people – very hospitable, with big smiles.” The family joined him a few months later.
After four successful years in Bali, the company moved Reddy to Singapore in 1997 where he took up a regional role with more responsibility. As the area director of finance, Reddy oversaw three markets: Singapore, Bali and the Maldives.
“Singapore was great, a highly efficient city, and the transition was very smooth,” he says. “More importantly, it was safe for my children. My son was seven, and my daughter was five-and-a-half at the time, and we didn’t have to worry about safety issues.”
In Singapore, he felt ready to shift gears, and that’s where he made a move into operations – something he had always wanted to do. The customer-first approach and all-encompassing nature of hotel operations appealed to Reddy’s love of interacting with guests and other team members. “Deep in my heart, I always wanted to get into operations – it is very dynamic and every day is exciting”.
Two years into his Singapore role, Reddy left finance and became the director of rooms at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore in 1999. “The first couple of months were tough. In the finance department, you are used to working Monday to Friday. You get public holidays off and don’t have to worry outside of office hours,” he explains “But when you are in operations, you work whenever you have to.”
For his next position, Four Seasons sent him farther afield – to the US. In 2001, Reddy and his family moved to the East Coast, where he became the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia’s hotel manager.
“When I first went to Philadelphia the way the hotel was run, the efficiency, the number of people they had, compared to the number of roles – it was very different to what we are used to in Asia. You have to run a very tight ship, and take care of a lot of labour management.”
The family spent three years in Philadelphia and loved it. They had never lived in a colder climate and welcomed the new experience. But in 2004 it was time to return to Asia.
This time as the general manager at the Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta, where Reddy would spend the next 11 years. “I was active in the local communities, embassies, organisations, and also the local Indian community,” he says. “As the general manager, we hosted a lot of events in the hotel, so we used to deal with all the government agencies – many heads of state would stay with us.”
Reddy, who had left India in 1980, had always hoped to return. And in 2014, his wish came true when he accepted the role of general manager at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai. “After 24 years away from India, the country had changed so much – I wanted to experience that change,” he says. “Mumbai was a challenging and enjoyable experience. Though the team was highly motivated and hardworking, the market was tough.”
Reddy encountered several issues, from budgets to efficiency and staff retention. “India has a young, ambitious and dynamic workforce in the hospitality sector. They wanted to get promoted quickly, which led to higher employee turnover. But you learn how to persevere.”
In 2016 he was promoted to regional vice president and regional manager, overseeing three resorts in Thailand (Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai), as well as one in Jakarta, Indonesia in addition to the Mumbai property.
Three years later, the brand offered Reddy a chance to become the general manager of the largest property in the company’s portfolio: Four Seasons Hotel Macao Cotai, which is home to 649 rooms and suites. He continued to oversee the properties in Thailand, as well as Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru, while getting up to speed in Macao.
“I was always fascinated by the idea of working in a casino environment. Although we don’t run the casino, we are attached to it and shared owners,” says Reddy of his move to Macao. “It’s not the casino business itself [that interests me], but the scale of the business.”
The hotel has hundreds of rooms and can host thousands of guests at a time across stays, conferences, weddings, dining and more. Every element of operations and service must be designed for fast-pace, large-scale – an energising challenge for Reddy, who was used to overseeing more boutique properties. The hospitality veteran says he also welcomed the opportunity to flex his management muscles and focus on his local staff, cultivating high-calibre leaders across the team.
After decades of building his career, travelling, having a family and growing with the Four Seasons brand, Reddy says much of his success comes back to a few key factors: his supportive family, confidence in his decisions, and professional relationships.
“Build relationships and network,” he advises. “It’s always people who help you make the move, who help you make decisions. When you are in doubt, talk to someone you are close to and who you see as a mentor – mentorship is very important.”
And finally: “Have confidence. Things will always work out if you work hard.”