Success

One of India's leading businesswomen warns young people on the dangers of trying to get rich quick

Priya Paul

Young business people must carefully examine the risks of trying to "get rich quick" before rushing to launch a start-up, one of India's leading businesswomen told CNBC.

Priya Paul, ranked by Forbes as one of Asia's 50 most powerful businesswomen, warned would-be entrepreneurs there were "so many ways of losing money" that were not always taken into account by start-up founders.

Speaking to CNBC, she noted that in the modern business world, seeing people in their twenties lead a company was commonplace, which is "very different to the way business worked 30 years ago."

"People launching start-ups now are lucky – when I was in that part of my life, a lot of attention was focused on credence and experience, whereas now it's focused on ideas," she said. "You used to have to be in a company for 15 years, but now young people being in those leadership roles is normal."

But despite the new normal, Paul cautioned that there were still "so many ways of losing money."

"India's start-up landscape is vibrant – there's a lot of investment (going on), but the danger is young people want to get rich quick," she said, urging entrepreneurs to wait until the time is right and scrutinize their idea before launching a business.

"Not everyone is going to succeed, so some younger people should consider walking into a company in the old-fashioned way – everyone thinks they have (great) idea and they're going to make it, but not all of them do well. That's a problem for this generation."

Paul is chairperson and CEO of THE Park Hotels — an Indian chain of luxury boutique hotels — and alongside her mother and two siblings co-owns the Apeejay Surrendra Group, one of India's oldest and largest business conglomerates. The group, which employs more than 43,000 people, owns THE Park Hotels and Typhoo Tea, and has holdings in the shipping, real estate, retail and finance sectors.

During the early stages of her career, Paul worked as a marketing manager for one of her family's hotels — which she admits gave her a "leg-up in one sense." But when she was in her twenties, Paul's father passed away suddenly, and she took over the hotels business at the age of 24.

"More trust was placed in me at an earlier stage than normal. People would wonder why I was in a senior position so young — I worked hard to prove myself," she said. "(However), working in India I had acceptance and respect because I was the owner."

Keep yourself relevant

For those who remain confident their start-up had the potential to succeed, Paul said taking risks, being flexible and investing in a strong workforce were vital.

She credited much of her own business success to looking inward, urging start-up founders to constantly assess their own company's identity.

"One of the important things is recalibrating business as you go along. You have to listen to what's happening out there — whether that's with your customers or what's going on internally with the business — and adapt and change and go back again," she told CNBC.

THE Park Hotels is a 50-year-old company, and under Paul's leadership a spin-off chain was launched to appeal to India's growing middle class. The new brand, Zone by THE Park, accommodates for the rising number of domestic travelers in India's tier one and two cities, and the new portfolio will grow to 17 properties within the next three years. The flagship chain has also undergone rebrands to keep up with customer expectations.

"As you get more established remember that you started something several years ago," Paul added. "Ask yourself what you are doing, why you're doing it (and) keep on examining where the business is. Ask if you're still relevant and keep moving."

Diverse voices

Paul also told CNBC that much of her company's strength is derived from "listening to diverse voices" and genuinely taking employees' opinions into account.

"We listen to people's ideas and thoughts and respect their individuality," she said. "We ask what ideas our employees have because they've usually got great insights into not just how their department is run, but some great ideas (for the business) in general."

Having those conversations also allows the hotels to gauge where individual workers fit into the business long-term, helping employees build a stable career.

"The team is working on how to make hiring much more inclusive," Paul added. "In India, homosexuality has only just been legalized, so we're trying to create a workplace where people can come out and be themselves. It's also a big struggle in India to get more women into the workforce, which is something we keep an eye on."

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