01 Jun 2015
In My Humble Opinion: Priya Paul (OPM 28, 1999)
Checking in with the head of India’s hottest hotel chainby Julia HannaTopics:
When Priya Paul (OPM 28, 1999) returned home to India after graduating from Wellesley College in 1988, her father suggested she try working at one of the family holding company’s three hotels. Two years later, when her father died unexpectedly, Paul, her mother, and her siblings “were thrown into things that were perhaps beyond our capabilities,” she recalls. “It was a period of about 7 to 10 years before any of us could take a breath because there was so much to do and so many challenges.” Today, as chairperson of the family’s Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, based in New Delhi, Paul oversees a growing portfolio of 19 properties across a fast-growing Indian market. “It’s a relentless, 365/24/7 kind of business,” says Paul, an enthusiastic art collector who also serves on a number of nonprofit and industry boards. “Having some downtime with friends, my husband, and my 10-year-old son is what recharges me the most.”
What the business traveler wants: A comfortable, WiFi-connected room. Also: “They want to be left alone.”
Her must-have travel accessories: An eye mask for catching up on sleep across multiple time zones; peppermint tea; an iPad.
In her home: Contemporary artwork by Bharti Kher, Avinash Veeraraghavan, and Sudarshan Shetty, among others; 19th- and 20th-century Indian ephemera.
Next vacation: On the beach in Goa.
What she’ll be reading: Stacks of magazines—business, design, fashion, travel, art, and food. Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, by Anita Anand; 2014: The Election That Changed India, by Rajdeep Sardesai.
Favorite US hotels: The NoMad and the Standard on the High Line in New York; the Delano in Miami. Any property owned by Aman Resorts.
Perk of the job: “I’m a little bit of a foodie, so I love trying new concepts, whether it’s street food or the hot, new restaurant wherever I travel.”
Industry trend: A commoditization of the boutique, design-based experience. “I see customers seeking hotel experiences that are less institutionalized and more authentic to the cities they’re visiting.”
Newest brand: Zone by The Park, targeting India’s younger, midmarket hotel consumers in the country’s fastest-growing cities.
Cultural norm: “In India, you don’t just socialize on Friday and Saturday. I would say we’re out three or four nights during the week. Restaurants, yes, but there are mostly lots of dinner parties at people’s homes. It could be for 15 to 50 people. That’s quite normal in a week.”
Class of OPM 28