Priya Paul: Changing the Course of the Hospitality Industry in India

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Priya Paul

The interior of 5-star hotels in the 90s was associated with royal ambience but then a revolutionary woman came into the picture and redesigned interiors of luxury hotels in India! Priya Paul, an entrepreneur and chairperson of The Park Hotels introduced the concept of chic and boutique hotels in India and led her empire with a unique vision! Let’s discover her story to success in this blog!

Early Life and Education of Priya Paul

Coming back from the USA after completing her undergraduate studies, Priya Paul started working in her family’s business and became the first woman in her family to do so. She began her career as the Marketing Manager of The Park, New Delhi, at the age of 21 in 1988. She was later promoted to General Manager and named Director of the Apeejay Surrendra Company, as well as Chair of the Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, Limited. The Park Hotels was ready to undergo a full brand redesign under the leadership of newly named chairperson Priya Paul.

Priya Paul rose to popularity early in life and faced numerous hardships. Surrendra Paul, the Apeejay Surrendra Group’s chairman and Priya’s father, passed away, and she had to take over the entire hotel business. Despite her lack of experience at that time she was able to overcome the obstacle and take her family business to new heights. She followed her heart rather than a hotel guidebook, which resulted in a 400% rise in the hotel company her father had left her. 

“The biggest challenge for me was taking over the hotel company at a very young age; I had to forge a new way of looking at hospitality at a time when the industry was in its infancy in India.” 
said Priya, in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.

Credits – Chubby Jayaram Singh

Revolutionizing The Park

When the first hotel opened on Park Street in Kolkata in 1967, it was a watershed moment in the company’s history as the company’s name was also influenced by the name of that street. With Priya as the chairperson, The Park expanded to over 8 locations in some of the country’s most populous cities, including Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Visakhapatnam, and Chennai, Kolkata, Navi Mumbai, and Mumbai. In the beginning, the group had three hotels and now it has 17 hotels under 3 brands: The Park, The Park Collection, and Zone by The Park. The division was made to facilitate customers belonging to different economic groups. Zone by The Park is a mid-market design hotel concept that caters to the needs of the budget-conscious and design-conscious urban traveller. In addition to all of this, the business is continually expanding and seeking new markets in order to cater to a greater range of customers; by 2022, the company expects to have added 20 new properties to its portfolio.

Priya believes that innovative and creative ideas are very vital for surviving in the market, even in the period of recession. She believes that all their hotels are different in design, and very unique in their own ways and that’s what adds value to her entire hotel chain.

Impact of Priya Paul’s Leadership on The Park Hotels

Priya Paul Hotels
Image Source: Parkhotels.com

The Park Hotels are now renowned for exhibiting the contemporary concept of Indian culture mixed with a western touch. The brand focuses on fulfilling the needs and demands of both Indian and international tourists. With over a couple dozen boutique hotels in its fold, the company is standing head and shoulders with popular hotel chains like Oberoi and Taj. The Park outsmarts its competition with the fact that no two Park hotels are alike, each of them has a specific identity and character attached to it. For example, the staff of each hotel has a unique uniform designed by some of India’s top designers. 

Ours aren’t cookie-cutter hotels. Our mantra is ‘leadership by differentiation’; each of our properties has its own design and style
said Priya, in an interview with Forbes.

Priya claims that getting new and creative ideas is important for surviving in the market, particularly during a downturn. She claims that each of their hotels has its own design and philosophy, and that under Priya’s leadership, The Park Hotels have become sleek, edgy, wet, and fun– a true representation of her personality and her love for modern art and design.

Leadership requires different things at different times. I think I have a good “people instinct” and I enjoy working with people. But I’m also not afraid to make decisions and I think you have to be courageous as a leader, to make decisions whether they are bad or good. And you have to perform and stick by your decisions.
– said Priya, in an interview with LUX.

Achievements and Awards

Credits – Outlookindia.com

Priya Paul has been bestowed with several awards in her life for her hard work and diligence. Her achievements are a milestone not just for her but for the many other women of our country. The recognitions Priya Paul has got for her outstanding work are mentioned below:

  1. The Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association of India gave out the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award (1999–2000).
  2. She was nominated as the Businessperson of the Year (2002–2003) by The Economic Times Awards.
  3. Forbes put her on India’s top 100 most powerful businesswomen online in the year 2006.
  4. In the year 2008, She received the Zee Astitva Award in the Business category. 
  5. Fortune Magazine put her on India’s top 50 most powerful businesswomen in the year 2011.
  6. Priya Paul received the “Hall of Fame” award in 2011 from the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India.
  7. In the year 2012, she was given the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honours.
  8. Priya was the founding member of the World Travel and Tourism Council – India Initiative and was also appointed as the Chairperson for 2013.
  9. She was conferred with the insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit) in 2014 for her significant contribution to strengthening links between India and France.
  10. She received the Outstanding Contribution Award at AHEAD Asia 2018.
  11. She is the Chairperson for the South Asia Women’s Fund.
  12. She is a member of the Harvard Business Schools’ India Advisory Board.
  13. She is an Executive Committee Member and Ex-President of the Hotel Association of India.

Explore Famous Women Entrepreneurs in India

It’s undeniable that Priya belonged to a privileged family and had an empire to inherit, but the unfortunate and sudden demise of her dear ones would have set her back; instead, she chose to take up the family business and innovated her way through it. Two decades back, it was hard to believe that the country would embrace such a style of hotels, but Priya had a vision, and she put her complete faith in it, which proved to be fruitful and will continue to do so for years to come. We hope you enjoyed this blog, and it helped give you the dose of motivation you needed today. For more such interesting stories on inspirational women around the world, stay tuned to Leverage Edu. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Quora.

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