Vikram Puri, a man of simple tastes

Jul 13, 2014, 06:00 IST | Shreyanka Mazumdar

He is credited with setting up Plush Lounge & Bar, a posh night spot, and heading the popular Astor Hotel, in Kolkata. But Vikram Puri insists that rather than partying hard, he likes to spend time with his six dogs and guitar after a long day at work

Vikram Puri, director, Astor Hotel , owner, Plush Lounge & Bar

Vikram Puri’s journey from being a stockbroker at Wall Street to a hotelier in India has been thrilling, to say the least. Founder of the Plush Lounge & Bar and director of the popular Astor Hotel in Kolkata, the Delhiite is now heading Doubletree by Hilton, a five-star project in Agra, which will start operations this October.

Vikram Puri set up Plush Lounge & Bar, a posh night spot in Kolkata, in 2008
Vikram Puri set up Plush Lounge & Bar, a posh night spot in Kolkata, in 2008

As someone who swears by Allama Iqbal’s inspirational couplet, “Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle Khuda bande se khud pooche, bata teri raza kya hai,” the 32-year-old believes in neither giving up nor giving in. One expects him to be an introverted entrepreneur who only likes to talk business, but in a candid chat, we find out that this suave hotelier is anything but reserved.

When the 32-year-old is not busy, he likes to sing and play the guitar and chill out with his six dogs
When the 32-year-old is not busy, he likes to sing and play the guitar and chill out with his six dogs (below)

Treading new grounds
“My dad bought The Astor back in 1999 purely for sentimental reasons,” he says. “I fell in love with the hospitality business soon after I left my job at a structured finance company in Gurgaon in 2007.”

Puri intends to grow in the hospitality industry and establish his footprint in India and abroad. Not that he doesn’t want to explore other businesses; but at present, he is focussing on establishing a management and hotel consulting company of his own.

His first entrepreneurial venture, Plush Lounge & Bar, which he set up in 2008, is a posh night spot in Kolkata. “I had a vision but no idea whether I was on the right track. Everyone around me thought I was mad and they continue to think so; but I’ve always believed that if others around me knew better they would have already practised what they preach,” reminisces Puri.

The problem with most nightclubs, he believes, is that they don’t have a strict gate policy. “We make sure that it’s only the crème de la crème crowd that is granted access to Plush. We also pay special attention to the kind of music that is played,” he explains.

Humble beginnings
He might be a business biggie now but Puri insists he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “I grew up in Delhi in a middle-class family and saw my father work six days a week, 12 hours a day.

He has been my biggest inspiration. He is a self-made man. He started his life with nothing and went on to establish one of India’s top IT companies, HCL. He is amongst the five founders of HCL. His hard work and discipline have inspired me.

He always instilled a sense of discipline in me. I had a balanced childhood and actively took part in sports and extra-curricular activities at school. I remember playing cricket and tennis at the community hall every day,” he recalls fondly.

Looking back, he says, he wouldn’t change a thing about his formative years. However, when it comes to success, he believes that hard work and destiny go hand in hand and swears by the saying, ‘Destiny is in one’s own hand.’

“I must be able to stand up and embrace my destiny. Luck is also very important, but then again we make our own luck,” he emphasises.

When he is not being a diligent entrepreneur, he is usually with his six dogs and guitar both of which are very dear to him. “I have been a musician since I was 12. I sing and play the guitar. If I have free time, I either listen to music or play the chords.

My dogs are my favourite audience. They tend to gather around me the moment I pick up my guitar. They are forgiving,” he smiles. So, does all work and no play make Puri a dull man? “I take occasional breaks.

An ideal day off for me would be at a beach town, with a guitar, well-made Mai Tai and good friends. If you can throw in a live concert, you’ve got me!” he signs off.

My favourites
Film: Sholay, 3 Idiots, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Scent of a Woman, Rocky, The Usual Suspects, Scarface
night club: Aer Lounge in Mumbai and Shalom in Delhi
Book: The Bhagavad Gita
Actor: Aamir Khan for his perfection and Al Pacino for his unmatchable style
Sport: Tennis
Destination: San Francisco, Barcelona and Istanbul

Inside Track
Born: December 12, 1981
Education: Bachelor of Science, Finance and Economics from Santa Clara University, California 
Mantra: To be the best, you’ve got to beat the rest
Best advice I ever got: My college professor once advised me, “When you look back at a situation, it doesn’t matter if you failed or succeeded. All that matters is that you tried your best.”

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