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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 15:13 GMT
Royal tips for Indian butlers
Stephen Hurst takes the butlers through their paces at dinner
The butlers learn to be unobtrusive but available

Guests of India's President Abdul Kalam can expect service fit for kings - his staff are being trained by a former butler to Britain's royal family.

The presidential butlers are like our ambassadors to the world. Who better to train them than someone who served British royalty

Captain Nair
Chairman, Leela hotels
For the presidential butlers their stint at a five-star hotel in Mumbai, also as known as Bombay, is like going back to finishing school.

And who better to take them through their paces than Stephen Hurst, a former member of the British royal household?

Butlering, after all, is a British tradition - but times are changing.

Mr Hurst trains his students to be as adept at sending e-mails as packing a suitcase.

He says it is an honour to be with the president's men.

"I am flattered," he told the BBC.

"During the training I learnt they handle banquet parties very well but they needed to speed up their service.

"This exercise will make them professionals rather than domestics."

Seeking perfection

He stressed the modern-day butler should be multi-functional, capable of carrying out his duties even before he is asked to do them.

Stephen Hurst tests bath temperature
Tips are given on the perfect bath
The packed training curriculum for the presidential butlers includes tips on serving tea, running a bath and tying the perfect Windsor knot.

They are also taught how to serve an 11-course meal to the world's high and mighty.

And advice is given on how to be unobtrusive - but still always available.

Even waking the president up in the right manner is on the agenda.

Each step is practised and rehearsed many times over to make sure it is perfect.

The idea is to make the presidential staff as good as the best anywhere in the world.

'Ambassadors'

The royal butler concept actually started as a business proposition.

Stephen Hurst takes the butlers through their paces at dinner
Each step is practised many times over
Mr Hurst was hired by Captain Nair, chairman of the five-star Leela group of hotels, to train their staff as part of a new skills programme called Butler Plus.

When President Kalam heard of it he asked the hotel tycoon to include his staff as well.

"He called me in Bahrain and said he would like to present the best face of Indian hospitality to visiting dignitaries," said Captain Nair.

"The Rashtrapati Bhavan is where most foreign VIPs visit and take back with them the image of Indian hospitality.

"The presidential butlers are like our ambassadors to the world. Who better to train them than someone who served British royalty?"

New look

As for the presidential butlers, these were lessons well learnt.

The head butler at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Noor Mohammed, said this would greatly help them in dealing with their daily chores as well as serving guests.

Another butler, Kundan Singh, believes the exercise will help them serve the president better than before.

He and his colleagues have learnt the art of speed and finesse from this latest import from the UK.

So hospitality may wear a more contemporary look when the red carpet rolls out next at the president's residence.

See also:

19 Jun 02 | South Asia
25 Jul 02 | South Asia
14 Jun 02 | South Asia
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