Hong Kong born Girish Jhunjhuwala or 'Girish J', started in the family watch-making business in Hong Kong. As portable tech devices that could potentially reduce the popularity and need for wrist-watches started to gain more and more popularity, Girish realized that their business model needed to pivot.
Today Girish is the creative force behind the extremely popular Ovolo hotel group, renowned for their retro, quirky and fun boutique hotels that provide amazing service to a demographic that they understand to the core. Hotelintel.co was lucky enough to catch up with Girish as he shared with us for this month's Hotelier of the Month.
What's the most challenging aspect of running a 'Hotel business'?
It's challenging to be able to grow your business and expand internationally while still retaining that sense of being a boutique brand, ensuring that there is a personal connection between your team and your guests.
How do you feel about your brand ideas being 'copied' by a lot of hotels?
As they say, "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery". I don't worry too much about brands who come onto the scene and try to do the same thing as we're doing – in fact, the more people that copy us, the better! At Ovolo, our greatest asset is our people, our culture, and the personal connections that we build with our guests.
You can copy our art, our design, but you can't copy a feeling, and it's that feeling that keeps our guests coming back time and time again.
What do you think the next revolution for the hotel industry will be?
Technology is changing the way hotels do business, for sure. Almost every day we have people contacting us telling us they have a new tech product that will change the way we do business. But as I mentioned, we're all about people, so I'm always careful to make sure that any technological advancement we bring in will enhance our guest experience and make their lives more effortless, not the other way around!
How do you feel about expanding into Southeast Asia - a market that already has lot of 'quirky' or 'edgy' hotels and hostels?
There's always room for more – in fact, I don't see enough quirky hotels throughout Southeast Asia. After launching in Hong Kong, we expanded to Australia because we realized that almost 25% of our guests were Australian – so something about our brand resonates with the Aussies. With that in mind, we've got our eye on anywhere that Aussies love to travel – so that includes LA, London, and certainly Southeast Asia!
What does 'service' mean to you?
To me, 'service' when it comes to hospitality means making your guests lives effortless. There are things we all think of, like not having to wait in a long queue to check in or check out, ensuring a guest's room is impeccably clean and making sure that phone lines are being answered.
Then there are the small things which actually make the biggest difference – smiling at a guest the second they walk in the doors, leaving a treat in the room of your guests who are celebrating their anniversary or knowing a regular's coffee order. Those small things are the difference between good service and amazing service.
What do you think the challenges are for foreign investors / hotel operators looking to run hotels in Melbourne?
While Melbourne has so many vibrant and exciting pockets all over the city, it is relatively spread out and although there is a great public transport system, guests often look just to stay in the CBD, so finding a good location can be an issue. For foreign investors I would say the challenge is knowing the market – Melbourne is certainly a cool city and it has a very distinct culture, so any brand that enters needs to understand this culture. Even a concept that worked in Sydney or in Brisbane may not work as well in Melbourne.