Deepak Ohri, CEO, Lebua Hotels and Resorts
Alma mater: IIMB
After graduating in hotel management and gaining some work experience, I joined IIMB. In my life, many things became easy because of IIMB. IIMs teach you to do a clinical cut. They help you put things in perspective, stressing on the importance of focus. When you get into the practical world, the theories may not be applicable for everyone’s situation, but the ability to focus will be valuable.
During good times, everyone does well, and it is difficult to distinguish between right and wrong. Covid-19 was a very different experience from what we knew. I recall our finance professor always saying that people are our investment. However, when it comes to the balance sheet, people are always in the expense column. Almost every company in the hospitality segment let go of employees during the pandemic. However, at Lebua, we did not fire even a single person.
As IIMB brought together students from different backgrounds, the discussions comprised very different points of view. The company of people you keep changes your thought process and your perspective. The training also prepares you to deal with tough deadlines. For example, at 2am, a professor would say that a project had to be submitted at 6am. So, we all rushed to the library for research. This kind of deadlines were given so that we would get used to responding fast during crises.
In the hospitality world, I have tried to do things differently. This is a result of the learning at b-school. I took chances, but I always assessed the risks and had a game plan. The million-baht dinner (a black-tie dinner costing one million Thai baht) was a highlight of my career. I also started emotional experiences to redefine the concept of luxury in India and Southeast Asia.
We created rooftop restaurants. Initially, rooftops were just air conditioning plants or the service area. We converted that space into prime real estate and transformed them into fine dining restaurants. We are the only hotel in the world that has two champagne bars and two French restaurants. People thought that we were cannibalising our own business, but we were not. In fact, we did not cannibalise any business, but added more. I learned all this wisdom from the strategy course at IIMB. At institutions such as IIMB, you learn that if there is a problem, there is a solution.
—As told to Abhinav Singh