A career in the hospitality industry is not without its hurdles. Every industry professional has had to do a lot of learning on the job, and often some of the biggest career lessons have been borne out of the biggest setbacks or challenges. Industry leader shares his career insights with us.
TOPHOTELNEWS caught up with at the recent TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR event that was held in Berlin’s Pullman Schweizerhof on March 8, 2018. Bali studied engineering, business administration and investment management in both India and London before going on to work in the hospitality industry. He has been the chairman of Meininger Hotels since 2016, having previously held the position of CEO from 2013. Prior to joining Meininger, Bali worked as the CFO at ebookers, VP finance director at Taj International Hotels, and as the Chief Investment Officer at Duet India Hotels Limited. Bali has over 30 years of experience in many facets of the hotel industry, and so had a lot to share with us about how to succeed in hospitality when we met him in Berlin.
Biggest career challenge
Given his extensive career within the hospitality industry, it is perhaps no surprise that has come up against some tough situations that he had to find his way out of. While working with the Tata Group, owner of Taj Hotels, in India, he had to deal with a challenging economic situation in India, which at the time was under exchange control. The hotel chain was expanding internationally, and so the company borrowed significant sums of money from financial institutions to allow for the expansion to happen. Unfortunately, this borrowing took its toll on the organisation after the economic crash in 1991 following the Kuwaiti crisis, which left the company with crippling debt. Fortunately, however, Bali was able to restructure the debt over the course of four years and to get Taj back on track financially. The group launched a GDR issue led by Morgan Stanley which allowed them to raise capital, repay and structure some of the debt.
Bali says that this experience taught him a great lesson, in that it is best not to over leverage in hotel investment, to be conservative in financing. He says hotel investors would be wise to not put too much pressure on their investments by being too radical in their financial estimations, but rather to err on the side of caution so big dramas can be avoided if market conditions collapse. He says to look at financing as a long term strategy, not a short term fix.
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