This week we catch up with MPS Puri, the founder of luxury hotel chain Nira Hotels and Resorts. The group’s portfolio includes a number of hotels including the luxurious Nira Caledonia in our hometown of Edinburgh.
Tell us how you became involved in the hotel and hospitality industry, and more specifically Nira Hotels and Shanti Hospitality Group?
I’ve been working in the hospitality industry for nearly 40 years and 2014 marks the fifth anniversary of Nira Hotels & Resorts. After studying Food & Beverage Management and Financial Management at Cornell University, and Business Management at Punjab University, I’ve been lucky to work at some of the finest hotels in the world including Peninsula Hotels (Hong Kong), Raffles Hotel, The Fullerton Hotel (Singapore), Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton, Halekulani (Hawaii) and the Fairmont Hotel (Chicago).
I was Head of the Americas for GHM Hotels from 2004 and until 2007 also served as General Manager of The Setai in South Beach Miami. I was then taken on as a consultant for Orient-Express before founding Nira Hotels & Resorts, a London-based boutique luxury hotel management company, in 2009. In 2010, Nira Hotels & Resorts opened Shanti Maurice, a boutique lifestyle resort with a world class spa in Mauritius.
The second property in the collection, Nira Alpina – a ski in ski out hotel in Surlej, near St. Moritz – opened in 2011. This was then followed in January 2012 with a third property, as the boutique townhouse hotel Nira Caledonia, opened in Edinburgh.
You’ve been associated with some of the most prestigious hotel names in the world. What is the most important element that would attract you to join a company?
For me it is largely about the people and how inspired they are about the brand or business they represent.
And the most important characteristics you look for in your team?
Creativity, but also genuine passion and enthusiasm to provide excellent service.
Sincerity and enthusiasm are the qualities that create a spirit of genuine hospitality. This is the philosophy Nira Hotels and Resorts live by. How do you deliver this with each of the properties, catering for the range of international guests you accommodate?
The Nira brand philosophy is in response to a growing demand for authentic, pared down luxury, and is very simple. It is based around four core principles: personalised service; more focus on the relationship between hotelier, staff and guest; a passion for culinary art and a clear recognition of the value proposition. These values translate positively in any language or culture so works effectively across all of our properties and for guests from every country.
What other qualities or attributes differentiate a Nira Hotel & Resort from any other?
Nira is based on the tenets of Asian-style hospitality, with an emphasis on personalised and heartfelt service. Through Nira we have created a hotel experience in which luxury is defined not by opulence and formality but by attentiveness and positive engagement. We also like to have fun and don’t take ourselves too seriously.
We are devoted to pleasure for our guests and achieve this by a simple philosophy: Guests arrive as residents, leave as friends and return as family. When they come back they are part of the Nira community.
Ultimately it’s all about service. You need to provide something that the guest doesn’t have at home. It’s not all about Bang & Olufsen TVs and high thread count sheets, it’s not about these material things but about the services you provide and the memories you help to create. I believe in being the host and making sure that every aspect of the guest experience is properly looked after. Every attention to detail shows respect to the guest that you’re in my home and all of us are here to look after you.
You have properties spanning the world; from Alpine retreats, to the sandy beaches of Mauritius, not to mention The Nira Caledonia in our own fair city of Edinburgh and new projects underway in La Thuile, Italy and on Pemba Island. How do you determine whether a location is right for the Nira touch?
There are currently three resorts in the Nira Hotels & Resorts group and they are all incredibly diverse. From Nira Caledonia, a Grade 1 listed building in the centre of Edinburgh city, to the beach resort of Shanti Maurice in Mauritius, to Nira Alpina, a ski-in ski-out hotel in the Swiss mountains.
We choose locations based on how best we can provide the experiences our guests are looking for. We want to be able to offer variety, so guests automatically think of staying with us wherever they want to go and whatever type of holiday they desire. Whether its skiing, relaxing on the beach, exploring a city, staying on a wine estate or going on safari, we want our guests to experience it with us. At each, it’s the core values of Nira that make the individual properties stand out. Those values are excellent service, relationships, value for money and our ongoing commitment to culinary art.
Obviously travel is a key part of your life, tell us a little about your favourite places in the world and why they captivate you?
Generally I would always choose to travel in the East rather than the West. In particular Japan is a wonderful place to visit thanks to its unsurpassed commitment to quality and service. For relaxation however I would choose to go home to the beautiful Engadin Valley in Switzerland.
Please share with us any top travel tips you always adopt?
Eat the local cuisine, try and speak a little of the language and understand something of the customs and practices which are valued in the place you are visiting.
The luxury travel market has evolved from having an inherent focus on the number of stars a hotel has been awarded to luxury being defined through unique experiences and escapism. How do you see this sector evolving in the next three years?
Over the past forty years the hotel industry has evolved hugely and I think we have seen a clear redefinition of ‘luxury’ with more focus on what guests need and want. Nira is very much about creating memorable experiences for our guests, and our clients increasingly want to make the most of their holiday time. They want to get away, but they also want to have fulfilling experiences.
If you weren’t involved in the hotel and hospitality industry what do you think you’d be doing instead?
It’s hard to imagine as I have been working in this industry for so long and genuinely enjoy it. This may be considered cheating the question, but I would probably seek to develop more of a restaurant portfolio, building on our existing offering of Moti Mahal in Covent Garden. In fact we are looking forward to working on more ethnic restaurants as well as developing a QSR in London.
What would be your key piece of advice to anyone wishing to follow in your career footsteps?
It’s a people’s business – it’s that simple. My colleagues are people. My guests are people. My suppliers are people. The business is all about relationships and you have to genuinely believe and understand that in order to do a good job in hospitality. If you’re a natural host, a warm and caring person then you’ll be a successful hotelier.
This business is about making money, and money is about customers, and customers only come when they are well treated. It’s all about people and when you understand that, then this business is a dream.