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Ennismore

26 September 2016

Words: David Leck

If you’ve ever felt a little bit cynical hearing yet another CEO tell you how “invested” they are in being a “people business”, then time spent in the company of Sharan Pasricha is refreshing.

The Indian-born, London-based businessman subscribes to an ethos of excellence in every part of his business, but he appears to have taken any management book he could lay his hands on and given them a hefty shove out the nearest window.

Take, for instance, a recent train journey during which he was so impressed by the conductor and her way with people he gave her his business card and suggested she call him personally should she ever want a career change. “She was exactly the sort of person I want in our company. I love recruiting people from unexpected places,” he says.

The 35-year-old Pasricha is CEO of Ennismore, the company he founded in 2012 to develop a portfolio of unique hospitality properties around the world. It’s an unusual hybrid – part developer, part hotel operator and part design agency.

Its first venture was the unpretentiously stylish The Hoxton (named after the emerging district in the east end of London). Hotels in Amsterdam and Holborn (also in London) followed with Paris and Brooklyn in development. Chicago, Los Angeles and Southwark (another burgeoning London area) are at the planning stages.

After university in the UK he set up and sold a student marketing agency before returning to India at just 24 to take over his uncle’s failing garment factory, complete with 300 employees who were, let’s just say, set in their ways.

He took some tough decisions to turn the business around, including letting several people go as part of restructuring efforts that eventually saw the company return to profit. He admits to being young and foolish back then but acknowledges he learned much of what he knows from that “brutal” experience.

From Ennismore’s trendy but homely London base on a sweltering summer’s afternoon, Pasricha is the epitome of cool – focused yet attentive, clearly driven but charmingly down to earth, much like that expanding chain of hotels and other hospitality interests.

“We look for developments where we can add value and make every neighbourhood a better place. The Hoxton Paris is in a 17th century residence that’s so ‘listed’ even the smallest change requires consulting multiple parties, whereas Williamsburg in Brooklyn is our first new build on the site of a historic water tower factory.

“We don’t have a corporate manual. That’s just not what The Hoxton brand is about and is one of the reasons we do all our creative and interior design in-house.

“People over-complicate business. We’re about offering great sleep with intuitive service delivered in an innovative way,” he says during a day sandwiched between Los Angeles and a weekly visit to his newest project, the venerable Gleneagles, in Scotland.

It was acquired last year complete with 900 staff, a 90-year history and – to be honest – a reputation in danger of losing its relevance as the expectations of the traveller shift. Phase one is complete and, as he puts it, “brand Gleneagles 2.0” is well on its way.

“It’s all about people and we retain and develop the best. You can’t teach someone to be hospitable but if they’re smart and have instinctive natural qualities you can really develop that. We don’t do things by the book; we’re far from a corporate organisation. If anything we’re more like a dysfunctional family.”

If what Sharan Pasricha and his team have achieved in just four years is “dysfunctional” then maybe it’s a management style that a few more should embrace.

ennismore.com

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

To escape in the city go to…
Hyde Park. It’s beautiful at any time of year.

For a lasting London memory…
Eat your way around the city. There’s such an exciting food scene right now.

When choosing a hotel look for…
Independents that are inspired by the buildings they’re in and neighbourhoods of which they’re a part.

The best neighbourhood to explore in the city is…
Shoreditch – it’s dynamic, creative and full of character.

The best words of advice I can give are…
Don’t get caught up in hiring experts. Find people with passion and raw smarts and, in my experience, they’ll figure it out.

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