"Good Luck Comes To Those Who Dare To Act"

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Next generation entrepreneurs don't always believe in carrying forward the legacy and the brand name of the family business; rather, they create their own venture with passion while sensing new opportunities of business.

Entrepreneur India

Setting such a unique example is Amruda Nair, Joint MD & CEO, Aiana Hotels & Resorts, and the granddaughter of late Captain C P Krishnan Nair, Founder of The Leela Group, whohas decided to launch her own set of Indian inspired hotels in Doha and the Middle-East to cater to the Indians travelling to the GCC region and looking for an affordable luxury segment.

Thus, on the verge of expanding her hotels and resorts in India, Amruda Nair spoke to Entrepreneur India about key entrepreneurial qualities that she learnt from her grandfather.

While The Leela is an established name, why did you decide to launch your own set hotels and resorts?

Primarily there are two reasons;one, it was completely opportunity-led. With the new venture, we were looking to focus on the upper upscale base - what we call accessible luxury - which is very different in every aspect, be it design or service. All of it is catering to a much younger generation, so it is very Hospitality 2.0 and there was a need to create something that fits in that space, while creating a niche in the hotel market.

Second, I was fortunate to find a partner who shares that passion for Indian hospitality. The focus really is to create properties outside of India frequented by Indian travellers.

Why didn’t you carry forward The Leela name?

I think The Leela has always been associated with the upper end of the luxury spectre. Aiana is more accessible in terms of luxury, so it was important to keep that distinction clear, even from a customer’s perspective, as it is a completely different niche and segment.

Tell us about your tie-up venture in the Middle East?

Aiana was created as a joint venture between a Middle-East investor based out of Qatarand me. It’s been 18 months since we have signed the JV. The idea essentially was to create an Indian inspired brand that would be based out of Doha. Essentially we are based out of Doha, but the intention was to expand the brand from Qatar to Saudi, where we havea 611 room property, called theAiana Makkah, under construction and we want to grow the brand across theGCC.

The basic premise behind the partnership was to create a brand that resonated with the young Indian traveller. In India, every year, 5 million travellers are coming in and around 18 million are leaving the country. The number is supposed to extend to 30 million by 2020. Aiana wants to be where the Indian traveller is. 

Presently, how many properties do you have in theMiddle-East and India?

We currently have 8 hotels under management,out of which three hotels, with 1000 rooms in all, are under construction

In India, we have six properties across Kerala and Karnataka. In Kerala, we have tied up with the Moonriver Resort which is a 33 villa project in Munnar. Under an MoU with Ferns Developers in Karnataka, we have got four resorts and we are starting with one that is a 75 villa project in Hasan, a scoffee plantation region. Everything is under the brand name Aiana, so the Munnarproperty will be called Aiana Munnar – a Moonriver Resort. Similarly,the one with Ferns in Karnataka will be called Aiana Hasan Ferns Resorts.   

How many properties areyou looking at expanding further?

We want to extend the brand in India, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Our focus currently is on South Indiaand specifically on Kerala and Karnataka. Eventually, we would like to go and cover the primary leisure destinations in other parts of the country andthe Middle East. Starting with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, we are also looking at UAE and Oman because of the number of Indians that travel to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Dubai received over 950,000 Indians last year and that is supposed to cross the million mark in 2016.

What are your key learnings from your grandfather?

The one thing that I have learnt from him is totake risks. He didn’t believe in good luck. He used to very famously say that good luck comes to those who dare to act and I think, in that sense I do believe that I have got that entrepreneurial spirit, because at the end of the day, everything you do is a risk, as long as you havethe vision and the belief in what you are doing. To create something from scratch, having a clear vision of where you want to be is important, as is realizing that there are multiple paths to get to the same goal. So you have to be prepared to get delayed and face severalchanges on the road to get there.

You need tohave clarity inyour vision, theability to take risks and the quality of accepting the fact that change will come eventuallyand you canuse that to your advantage.