Vibhas Prasad’s EO Story!

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There was a time when I debated between becoming a professional or an entrepreneur. Eventually, it took me less than 2 years working with a large finance company to realize that my love lay elsewhere. Hailing from a business family that has been operating a Sugar Mill in Pilibhit for the last century, it was not difficult to see why. My family background coupled with professional experience enabled me to naturally evaluate and analyze diverse risk-return issues and to instinctively identify potential business opportunities. My limited role working with an Asset Management Co. could only provide me with so much. With this thought, I joined my Family Business in Hospitality in early 2003. It was around this time, that I started looking for a mentor, someone whom I could turn to for business advice. While my father & uncle had started the company and were always there to help me every step of the way, it was not always possible to turn to family for unbiased help.

It was around 2006, that my cousin recommended me the name of EO (Entrepreneurs Organization). After talking to him at length, I discovered that EO is a dynamic, global network of more than 8,000 business owners in 40 countries. Founded in 1987 by a group of young entrepreneurs, EO is a catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life. Membership in one of EO’s 118 global chapters is by invitation only; the average member is 40 years old with annual revenues of US$18.4 million. Besides a membership fee, aspiring EO members have to go through a rigorous selection procedure.

On a lark, I decided to apply for membership and simply forgot about it. A couple of weeks later, I got a call from the local chapter for a friendly Board Interaction. Sure enough, I was accepted as a member and life has never been the same since then. Amongst the many benefits, EO has to offer, The Forum perhaps adds the greatest value. A Forum is a unique communication model that provides unparalleled access to the wisdom of your peers during confidential monthly meetings. My new ‘best friends’ and my new ‘board of directors’ have for the last 4 years have added immense value to my personal & professional life of which, I put below just one particular instance.

Over the last many years, I have seen the Indian Hospitality Industry up close and personal and our company, Leisure Hotels Ltd., runs the largest hotel chain in Uttarakhand with more than 20 properties across 15 locations. There are another 10 in the pipeline across the state & elsewhere. We tweaked the old model of running only owned properties to include properties on Management as well as short duration camps with a short gestation period.

While initially, human resources & brand visibility was an issue, we realized soon enough, that “if you build, they will come”. We were not able to fund new projects from internal accruals. We decided to adopt an aggressive stance and took on debt to build some new large properties. Sure enough, we were saddled with interest & principal payments that were not freely funded by existing cash flows. While we were aggressive with our expansion plans, and plenty of debt was available, The Forum warned me of adequate ‘capital gearing norms’.

After my initial presentation on the cash flow crisis, I had two members from the Forum with whom I had carried on individual conversations continue to ‘coach’ me on the finer nuances of ‘debt financing’. Their individual inputs and the collective wisdom from the Forum, shaped the financial strategy for the organization. On the Forum’s advice, we hired a Financial Consultant, who comes in once a week to give finishing touches to our short & long term financial planning. Cash flow planning became an important weekly activity from being just another exercise relegated to our accountants.

Backed, with the support of my Forum, we ventured towards taking our hotel company into the next orbit. We needed deep pockets and courage of conviction in our chosen path. The Forum also supported us by suggesting ways for us to raise funds to stay ahead of our expansion plans, lest we need to defer them. Various options are being considered; divest non-core assets, private equity, joint venture and even bringing in investors on a project basis rather than on an enterprise level.

The Forum’s input in financial planning helped me separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’. The Forum Members have held my hand every step of the way and I am proud to have Forum Members as ‘friends for life’.

A recap of EO, New Delhi’s Jodhpur mini retreat – By Prarthna Kanoi

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With the backdrop of the beautiful yet harsh landscape of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur in Rajasthan, also known as the Sun City, was the destination of choice for EO New Delhi’s mini retreat in March of 2012. This was to be my third retreat, having been to Langkawi and Tokyo in the past; and I was rather excited!

 

We arrived at our hotel, RAAS, an old haveli converted into a hotel, situated in Jodhpur’s walled city. The area has an aura rather similar to Chandni Chowk in Delhi, though the hotel was equipped with all modern amenities to make our stay comfortable. The highlight of course was the view from our terrace, which showcased the beautiful Mehrangarh Fort which towers 400 feet above the city. After a great lunch on the terrace, we headed to the imposing fort from where we could view the entire panorama of Jodhpur, ancient and blue. The many shops in the area were quite a lure for most of us and the juttis especially were beautiful and comfortable. In the evening, we put up our tired feet and lazed at the poolside. The party at night however, was by far the best experience according to me. We were once again back at the Mehrangarh fort and the night-time views were spectacular. While on one side we could see the glittering lights of the city below, on the other was the beautiful and grand fort itself. In true EO style, we were treated to an experience we would never have been able to have as regular tourists to the fort! The entertainment of folk Rajasthani music and dance was great but better yet was DJ Gaurav, who was flown down especially from Delhi, making sure that the whole gang was rocking it till pretty late. I also want to make a special mention for the delicious Rajasthani food that we were served that night.

 

The next morning Anant woke up with a fever so we missed out on the experience of Umaid Bhawan Palace, which is where the rest of the group headed. They returned with fantastic reviews saying that it was amongst the best hotels they’d ever seen. In fact, some fellow EOs have decided to book the destination for their 25th Anniversaries! In the evening, we went for flying fox wearing our personalized shirts and the experience was thrilling to say the least. Dinner was at the poolside and at night, the whole group was on the terrace dancing the night away. The most fun parts of the evening was the “all boys” dance contest in which the winner was awarded shots from our “Vodka Devi Shot Mata” also known as Aanchal Bhatia!

The next morning, we came back home, reluctant to end the fun. True to its spirit, the retreat was a convenient and fun way to not only spend time with your old friends from EO but also get better acquainted with new members. Who knows, maybe it’s the start to some of the most amazing friendships!  All in all, the whole retreat was very well planned and very all executed. Many thanks to Ashna and Suja!

 

 

 

EO New Delhi’s Day at the Buddh International Circuit

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One of the many perks of being a member of EO is that it opens up opportunities to enjoy extraordinarily exciting experiences which are difficult to come by elsewhere. For example, on the 27th of March, 2012, EO New Delhi in association with Mercedes-Benz and Sahara Force India took its members to the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida to closely experience India’s first motor racing circuit, the venue of the annual Formula One Indian Grand Prix.

Recently inaugurated in 2011, the track cost approximately 10 billion Rupees to build, has an approximate length of 5.14 km and is spread over 874 acres of land. Currently it can accommodate about 1,10,000 people with the potential of increasing it to 2,00,000 later. In 2010, it was announced that the circuit was to be one of the most challenging for drivers as it was to rise fourteen metres within the first three corners alone and to have banked double-apex bend on the far of the circuit. After the Indian Grand Prix in 2011, the track received a favourable reception from drivers as they praised its high speed layout and challenging corner combinations.

   

On track day, members of EO New Delhi spent their mornings truly experiencing the track in select models of Mercedes-Benz cars whilst the afternoon was spent interacting with Sahara Force India F1 Drivers. The event was a complete success judging by the enthusiastic member response on Facebook. Many thanks to Ashna Singh for organizing it!