Founder and managing director of Hind Hotels & Properties and the Ovolo Group, Girish Jhunjhnuwala knows a thing or two about taking chances. He moved out of the comfort zone of running a well-established family watch-manufacturing business less than 10 years ago and ventured into the unknown by starting up in the serviced apartment business. Since then, the 47-year-old entrepreneur has seen his hospitality empire grow from one block of serviced apartments to six apartment buildings and one serviced office block across Hong Kong. He attributes his success to his desire to follow his dreams and the daredevil inside him that wants to take chances. Now, Jhunjhnuwala has set his sights on another adventure, ready to expand into developing full-service hotels in Hong Kong and the region. He talks to Luisa Tam
Tell us about your career
I was exposed to business at a very young age. We were accustomed to helping out my father in our watch manufacturing businesses, be it working in the shipping department or on the factory floor. After completing high school in Hong Kong, I moved to the Marshall School of Business at USC [University of Southern California], where I graduated within two years. Upon completing that, I dived right back into my family business, creating brands from Japan to America.
How did you get started in the serviced apartment and hotel industry?
In 2002, I chanced upon this building at No2 Arbuthnot Road, an area where I lived for the first 18 years of my life. One thing led to another. I sold [my family's] watch business after eight months. I always thought watch manufacturing was a sunset industry; you can't increase the capacity of the business, you can't make watches go faster. They are mere accessories. I have no regrets leaving the watch business behind. I can't count my lucky stars enough.
What does your day-to-day work involve?
Overseeing the entire group itself, as well as to strategise for future growth.
What is the most exciting part of your work?
Seeing the end result. After working tirelessly on a project and seeing it finally complete in all its glory; it's a very proud feeling. Additionally, seeing how much we have grown from humble beginnings when we entered this industry back in 2002, it gives me great excitement to look towards the future.
What are the challenges at work?
The availability of good assets to purchase in the market. The current pricing of assets in Hong Kong and in the region is expensive.
What are the keys to being an effective leader?
Believing in what you do, especially when you are starting out in a new business. If you believe in yourself, people will believe in you. Clear communication in making your team understand things is equally important to achieve your goals and lead others. One must dare to take chances, be flexible in what you do and adapt to changes.
What books do you read?
I haven't read many books lately. However, I keep up with many magazines that target hoteliers and service providers, on top of the Newsweek and Conde Nast publications.
What is your advice for young people?
Find your passion and enjoy things you want to do. There is nothing wrong with failing. If you fall, just get up and walk again. Young people should network, and not just on platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn. The more people you meet, the more it helps you to understand what you want and gives you a clearer direction in life.
Secondly, I would tell them to have patience. If you believe in something, then do it, but be patient to see the results. Following your dream and passion is another crucial aspect.
Time to unwind
Jhunjhnuwala enjoys a glass of red wine in the evenings, which he says relaxes his mind and signals to all around him that it's his relaxation time