29 Oct 2018

Alumnus Girish Jhunjhnuwala Talks to Students About Business Survival

At a dinner for aspiring entrepreneurs, last month, host Girish Jhunjhnuwala (Class of 1982, Da Vinci) and CEO of Ovolo Group explained to students, Aayush Batwara (13N) and Vrinda Bindal (13E) how he successfully created a thriving business.

Girish, the CEO of the expanding hotel brand, hosted an informal dinner for recent graduates, under graduates and Island School students who have committed 10 hours or more of their time to serving and supporting others. The dinner was hosted in partnership with charity Time Auction – who advocates the importance of ‘giving back’. Aayush and Vrinda tells us what they learnt from their meeting with Girish.

Aayush explained, “I was interested to go because I want to be in business when I grow up. The only person I can talk to about business with is my dad… so I thought that talking with Girish would be a completely different experience and I might learn something new.”

While he personally wants to pursue business and technology rather than real estate or hotels, he said, “the dinner really reinforced my future goals.”

Aayush also enjoyed meeting new people at the dinner. Around 15 people involved in different fields attended, offering a “networking” opportunity as well as giving Aayush exposure to new ideas.  “Some people asked really deep and probing questions, to which Girish gave very insightful answers,” he said. In particular, he enjoyed hearing Girish’s answer to a question about how he passes on his business values to his employees. In Girish’s hotels the emphasis is on customer service. “[Passing on these values] is very difficult in the industry, Girish explained that a lot of people in the hospitality industry job-hop. But Girish tells his staff that their customer facing work is like being on-stage – they must give it their all.”

Aayush left the dinner with a newfound appreciation of how businesses succeed. “He cleared up a slight misconception I had, which was that when you start something new, you should be completely passionate about it – that’s what fuels business. He said that while that is true, what is also important is survival. When he started out, he focused on whether or not he would be able to make ends meet and feed his family. It was a good reality check and gave me a practical view of business.”

An interesting point for both students was hearing about the challenges that Girish faced when switching business markets. Originally, he was involved in a family watch business, but in the early 2000s he realised that, given rapid technological advances that came with the new millenium, the watch industry was no longer as lucrative. As a result, he decided to switch to real estate and hotels – this was a risk, as he had little experience with the industry.

Vrinda said, “It was interesting to hear how he remained competitive in the market, as there are many different hotel brands and also Airbnb. I enjoyed hearing about what he does to make his hotels stand out from the others.” Besides prioritising a friendly and social environment, Girish also ensures that his hotels are all unique by having different room designs in each one. “Everything he didn’t like about other hotels, he didn’t add to his own,” Vrinda explained.

Vrinda herself asked Girish what he had learnt during the market transition from watches to hotels. “He said that he’s always learning, but the main things he learnt could be summed up by 3 p’s – stay positive, be patient and do not procrastinate.”

Vrinda went on to say she appreciated having the opportunity to learn about the more practical side of business, and greatly enjoyed talking with Girish.

To students attending similar events, Vrinda advised, “researching the person or company first so that you know what to expect and you can come up with good questions to make the most of the experience.”

As an Island School alumnus, Girish spoke to Vrinda and Aayush briefly about his experience at Island School. “The first thing he asked us was what our student reference numbers were.” Aayush added, “He’s still quite attached to Island School and said he really liked his time here.”

Alumni are welcome to visit Island School and talk to students and share their knowledge. If you are considering giving up your time to support current Islanders please contact Vicky.hill@online.island.edu.hk

By, Julia Mulrooney, Communications and Information Officer