It's Difficult But Important To Strike A Balance
By Ms. Aashica Khanna- IHHR Hospitality
Beautiful minds - 'Wings Of Inspiration"
Give us an insight into your business and how it all began?
I have been brought up in a family of hoteliers. My great Grandfather was the founder of Oberoi Hotels. Both my grandfather and my father were involved in the Oberoi hotel business for many years. In 1990 my father branched out on his own with a vision to start India’s first luxury health and wellness retreat known as Ananda-in the himalayas. It was a visionary step and a big risk at a time in India when ‘health’ was synonymous with hospitals and the term “wellness” was totally unknown. Earlier we relied heavily on inbound tourism and international guests but today it’s a different story. Indians have embraced personal health in all forms and are investing in their own well being.
I studied at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, NY and graduated in the year 2008. Ironically my career commenced along with the global financial meltdown, but at the time there was still a spotlight on India. So, I thought the best place to learn would be back home in the family's hotel business and 10 days later I found myself sitting at work at IHHR Hospitality headquarters, learning the ropes.
What motivated you to join the business?
I am a 4th generation hotelier and have grown up hearing dinner table conversations between hoteliers about nothing other than hotels, these must have had an impact on the way I thought and conducted myself. Eventually it was the only way of life I understood. I was always inclined towards hospitality however I wanted to know if I could make a career of it, so, I took a year between school and college and worked in a hotel to be sure. Hotels seem glamourous from the outside but it’s a tough line of work, working in a hotel for a single day will make you realize if you can do it or if you can’t, it’s definitely not for everyone.
What are the key aspects for an Indian Woman to achieve Business Success ?
I feel that things required to succeed are the same irrespective of you are a man or a woman. Today I’m lucky enough to be working in a society and an industry which has progressed far enough to show some examples of this being true. India still has a long way to go for women in the workplace but we are getting there. Everyone has different ingredients for success, here are mine :
1) Determination – Every business has ups and downs but you should have courage and will to see it through irrespective of what is happening in your life or your business, just have patience.
2) Look at everything in a very logical manner. Think with 30% heart and 70% head. Always go in with a deliberate and planned approach so that you can inspire confidence in others- Haste makes waste.
What advice can you give to women entrepreneurs who have just started up ?
1) Don't be afraid to fail but surround yourself with the right mentors who can guide you and give yourself a better chance to succeed.
2) Don't be uncomfortable if you are surrounded by men. I am always surrounded by men. In India this will still be the case for most women leaders, but remember that merit always warrants respect.
Do you think women should handle their finances ? Do you manage your finances on your own ? How have you learnt it over a period of time ?
Yes, it is very important for every women to handle their finances and yes, I manage my finances on my own.
I started small and learnt along the way. I still don't know a lot about equity market investments so, I don't invest in stocks. I do what I know and I invest in businesses that I can understand. I am a fairly risk averse investor and I invest for the long term – I don't believe in timing the market, playing the market. I rely on advisors to learn and grow, even with my investments.
What all obstacles have you faced and are currently facing ?
2010-2016 was a difficult period for many businesses and industries in India. However, It has laid the foundation for how I want to run the business in the future. For us it was a period of consolidation, realignment and restructuring which required a shift in mindset as well. Hospitality is a cyclical business however, the last cycle really tested everyone’s mettle and has changed the industry dynamics for the medium term. This was a huge learning for me as I learnt how to run a business lean. The luxury hospitality industry struggles continue with expensive capital, expensive land and, more often than not, being at the receiving end of impractical or retrograde legislation.
If you want to do something with your life and if you have the will to see it through, then do it even if it is hard or stressful work and indirectly you will be a better person for it.
Secondly, personal/career goals are as important as family goals. If your personal goals are not fulfilled, your family life will be disrupted and vice versa. It’s difficult but important to strike a balance. The end goal, even if you might think that its success, is actually always happiness.