A candid chat with Keshav Suri
Shreyanka Mazumdar meets the 29-year-old executive director of the Lalit Group of Hotels who loves to travel, try out new cuisines and enjoy the good things in life
Keshav Suri, Executive Director, Lalit Group of Hotels
Keshav Suri is a man of many moods. He is philosophical, is an actor at heart and is passionate about his work. The 29-year-old is the youngest director of the Lalit Group of Hotels and wants to make it the best hotel chain in the country. However, he says that despite growing up in a hotelier family, he wanted to become an actor.
In his school days, he excelled in theatre and wanted to pursue films. “I always wanted to be in theatre, but I love the hospitality industry too. There is no opportunity to get bored as it runs 24/7, 365 days a year,” he says. Growing up in a family that owns one of the biggest hotel properties in the country was quite an adventure for him. “I used to run around the hotel as if it was Disneyland. And with time it was a rather natural tendency to join the business that my father (the late Lalit Suri) had worked so hard to set up,” he smiles.
Lalit Suri recently forayed into the international market with the group’s first hotel scheduled to open in 2016 in London
After Keshav graduated in Law and Business from the University of Warwick, he followed it up with a Master’s Degree in International Management from King’s College, London and a law degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Ask him what prompted the decision and he quips, “I like to play it safe. I did a Masters in Law knowing that I’ll never be a lawyer. But I wanted to keep the option open in case the family business didn’t turn out favourable for me.”
After his father’s demise in 2006, Keshav’s mother, Dr Jyotsna, had to shoulder the entire responsibility of the business along with her son and two daughters — Divya and Deeksha. “My parents made sure that my siblings and I had a great education and were exposed to different kinds of culture. So when the need arose, after the sudden demise of my father, we were able to take charge as a family,” the young business czar says.
With his mother as his mentor, Keshav learnt the tricks of the trade. Today, he is happy with the current state of the company. “Adversity often throws up champions. Eight years later, the company has only grown further with 11 luxury hotels and two mid-scale hotels in operation and several more under various stages of development,” he beams with pride.
Though all the siblings are quite close to each other, when it comes to work, their responsibilities are clearly demarcated. Along with Keshav, his siblings Divya and Deeksha assist their mother, who is the chairperson and managing director of the group, in running the company. While Divya, a lawyer by profession, handles the corporate purchase and legal affairs of the group, Deeksha is in charge of human resources and sales. Keshav heads the food and beverage, marketing and other operational aspects of the group.
The entrepreneur’s first independent venture was the renovation of the 200-year-old heritage property, The Great Eastern, Kolkata. The hotel was acquired by his father in 2005 and has been operational since February 2014. “Remodelling The Great Eastern Kolkata (Now, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata) took almost a decade. It was the last property acquired by my late father and the first project I worked on when I joined the group. I put my heart and soul into the project and I’m happy with the way it has turned out,” he says.
Pleased with the way the Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata had shaped up, Keshav decided to set up Kitty Su, a posh, multi-level nightclub in the capital, two years ago to cater to a younger clientele. The nightclub has four huge rooms spread across two levels that play four different kinds of music. Resident DJs play electronic, progressive house and trance while guest DJs hold regular gigs playing their signature music. “We had a place at the Lalit Delhi and I wanted to make optimum use of it. I was given complete creative and operational freedom to do what I wanted and that’s how Kitty Su came up. The crowd has warmly accepted it and I am planning to open branches in Mumbai, Chandigarh and Kolkata,” Keshav says excitedly.
After establishing themselves in the luxury segment, the family has also forayed into the mid-scale segment with their brand ‘The Lalit Traveller’. The idea clearly is to tap diverse classes of people. “Currently we have two hotels in Jaipur and Khajuraho with 25 more planned in the next five years,” he adds.
The debonair businessman has recently forayed into the international market with the group’s first hotel scheduled to open in 2016 in London. “Our focus right now is to launch the London property besides opening the Heritage Block I in our iconic Hotel in Kolkata — The Lalit Great Eastern,” he explains.
Though Keshav is in the business of providing all things grand and luxurious to patrons, his personal favourite among the chain of hotels is the one at Bekal in Kerala. “Surrounded by untouched scenic beauty in North Kerala, the resort transports one into another world. I love it,” he says.
When the diligent entrepreneur is off from work, he likes to visit new restaurants and try out their food to gauge new trends. “Work is usually the order of the day through the week. Back-to-back meetings and reviews leave me with hardly any time for myself. Whenever I manage to find time I like to unwind with my family or at my nightclub, Kitty Su. This helps me in planning and working on food and beverage offerings in our own hotels. Also, I love travelling, be it for work or pleasure,” he elaborates. Keshav Suri clearly loves to enjoy the good things in life.
Born: April 13, 1985
Education: Graduated in Law and Business from the University of Warwick, Master’s Degree in International Management from King’s College, London and LLM from University of SOAS, London
First job: Standard Chartered Bank in New Delhi
Best advice you ever got: Glamour is an expensive commodity. You will have to work for it till the day you die. The number of times you fail is not important
Destination: France, especially Paris, Reims, Epernay
Restaurant: L’arpege in Paris and Mr & Mrs Bund in Shanghai