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Friday, 30 November, 2018, 16 : 30 PM [IST]

The Trendsetter - Nirupa Shankar

Nirupa is a Director of Brigade Group and oversees its hospitality, office, and retail portfolio. This includes convention centres, serviced apartments, lifestyle membership clubs, banquets, and event management. She manages the group’s hospitality ventures such as the Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway and Grand Mercure Bangalore.

With more than 10 years of experience in hospitality industry and business development, she witnessed important changes from the developer’s ear to food and beverage, entry of brands, digital age, etc.

Talking about hotels, she says that the number of brands entering the market has significantly increased. “Some have come in strong and some have entered weak. Operators are more open to tweaking brand standards to suit local market requirements. Entrants like OYO and AirBnB are also changing the nature of the game by enveloping a large section of the unorganised market and converting it into the organised sector,” she said.

Apart from her role, in hospitality she is involved with the group’s overall business development and strategy. She is part of new initiatives related to human resources, IT and innovation. She is the brain child behind the Brigade Real Estate Accelerator Program, the first-of-its-kind in India. Prior to joining Brigade she worked as a Senior Business Analyst with Ernst & Young LLP, based out of the New York, Washington DC and North Carolina offices. She holds a Bachelors in Economics from the University of Virginia and a Masters of Management in Hospitality from Cornell University. She is also a Six Sigma Black Belt.

She studied Economics at the University of Virginia and every summer, she used to visit to India and undertake internships, be it in advertising, research or a hotel internship at The Leela Palace Hotel, Bengaluru. Shankar ended up taking a consulting job with Ernst & Young in the US after her graduation but she was clear that she is not going to do something like this for the rest of her life. So Nirupa started taking evening classes in hotel operations at New York University. After that she applied to Cornell University’s Hotel Management School, where she pursued her Master’s and had the incredible opportunity to intern at Four Seasons, Singapore.

Shankar completed her Degree in Hotel Management in 2009 and subsequently got couple of job offers. By this time Brigade Group had already started the first Mercure hotel in India (eventually rebranded as the Grand Mercure). That was the time when her parents tersely told her that the opportunity in the hotel business was right there with their company. At that point, Brigade Group had eight to 10 hotels planned for the future. Shankar wasted no time to join the business and she also knew that her parents wanted her to come back and help support the business. She wanted to be a part of hectic phase of their business and believed that there was no point of joining elsewhere after all the hard work had been done. This shows her tenacity, passion and dream to take the group forward. Today, Brigade Hospitality Group is one of the most reputed groups in the hospitality industry in India.

Talking about her career milestones she says that growth is the main milestone for her. “We would like to create a portfolio of high quality and high-performing hotels, malls and office buildings across the country,” she says. Shankar strongly believes that employee happiness and customer delight are the cornerstones of growth for any business.

For Shankar, her father M R Jaishankar, Managing Director, Brigade Hospitality Group, has been her role model. She learnt most during her interaction with him. Interestingly, her father doesn’t have a hoteliering background despite that he is able to have the vision and determination to create hotels and other products such as malls, office buildings and residential townships that are way ahead of their time.

According to her “challenge” can either be external – something not in one’s control or internal – something within one’s control. “The problems within one’s control are easy to resolve with hard work and the “will” to get it done. External issues are the “challenging” ones like macroeconomic policies, changes in customer sentiments, approval time for various licenses etc. For these, we have to do our best to keep the situation under control but if not, we need to keep a positive mind set and take things in our stride,” she exhorts.

Shankar initiated a unique initiative called the Brigade Real Estate Accelerator Program (REAP) which is first real estate accelerator in Asia and perhaps in the world. REAP works with startups with a technology focus whose end product or service can be applied to the real estate space by providing solutions to the need/objectives of high performing hotels, malls and office buildings across the country.
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